Killer seeks faint hope clause

Former Keremeos resident seeks an early release from life sentence for murders committed nearly 18 years ago

A former Keremeos resident is hoping a jury will permit him an early release from his life sentence for two first-degree murders he committed almost 18 years ago.

An application was made by convicted murderer Robert Nicholson under the faint-hope clause which allows prisoners to apply for an early parole after serving 15 years.

Nicholson pled guilty to the 1994 murder of two of his friends, Alfred Vass and Paul Dugas. He was sentenced to 25 years in 1995. He had beaten the two Keremeos men with a baseball bat and later confessed to undercover RCMP officers. Nicholson had believed the officers were recruiting him for a criminal organization.

Defence lawyer Donna Turko told the court on Thursday in Penticton that it was unlikely Nicholson would be allowed back to live in Keremeos for a long time should the jury decide to grant him the early release.

The defence told the court how Nicholson had started his prison sentence out by getting in trouble for smoking marijuana, but turned a corner and found religion. Turko said Nicholson became an exemplary prisoner conducting volunteer kitchen duties and completing programs.

The defence also noted that Nicholson put in an early guilty plea and doctors testified he is considered a moderate to low risk to re-offend.

Crown counsel Rob Bruneau disregarded the early guilty pleas as remorse. He told the court because Nicholson had taken the two undercover officers to the shallow grave sites in a remote area of Keremeos eight to 10 months after the incident and admitted to the act it would be hard for Nicholson to “really have any chance at a successful trial.”

Bruneau said the jury should factor Nicholson’s conduct, character, the nature of the offence and the information given by the victim’s family during the trial and earlier this week.

Vass’s family read an impact statement earlier in the week explaining how their family is still in pain. Bruneau said the jury must take into account that one year prior to the murders Nicholson was serving an assault with weapons charge and was on probation at the time of the killings.

“The circumstances surrounding this offence and the character of Mr. Nicholson are so horrendous it is not in the public’s interest to allow him to have his parole reduced,” said Bruneau.

The application hearing is expected to continue on Friday when the jury will receive instructions from Justice Gail Dickson to deliberate.