Man denied faint hope by jury in Penticton

Keremeos man who murdered two men almost 18 years ago denied early release during faint-hope hearing at Penticton provincial courthouse.

Robert Nicholson was denied his application for an early parole for two murders he committed almost 18 years ago.

The Keremeos man applied under the faint-hope clause and was put before a jury at the Penticton provincial courthouse. After two weeks of listening to the hearing evidence, the jury deliberating on Friday decided to not allow an early parole for the man. Nicholson can apply again in two years.

In 1994, Nicholson pleaded guilty to the murder of Alfred Vass and Paul Dugus, who he beat to death with a baseball bat. He was sentenced to 25 years in jail.

During the two-week hearing, the court heard victim impact statements from some of the family of the murdered men.

Defense lawyer Donna Turko admitted to the court that Nicholson had not been an ideal inmate when he first entered jail, getting in trouble for smoking marijuana.

Turko claimed the longer a person stays in prison the harder it is for them to become a productive crime-free person when they are let out. She said Nicholson had “come a long way from the violent 20-year-old he was.” Turko described the teenage Nicholson as a person who was depressed, abused drugs and alcohol and suffered from paranoia and trauma.

It was explained that Nicholson took programming in jail to reduce his dependence on drugs, started volunteer work and embraced religion. Turko said this led to Nicholson being reduced to minimum security from medium around 2007. She also argued lifers are the least likely to re-offend.

Crown counsel Rob Bruneau said there is no question Nicholson benefitted from programming offered in jail, but the extent of that is difficult to answer. He said from his perspective it is “not justified to give parole eligibility reduced from the 25 years.”

Bruneau reminded the court that Nicholson had served time for an assault with a weapon charge just one year prior to the two murders. And, while Crown agreed Nicholson was young at the time, he was by “no means an innocent offender.” Crown also argued that Nicholson showed no immediate remorse for the two men he murdered and took undercover RCMP posing as members of a criminal organization to the grave sites, sharing details of the murder. Bruneau called the murders “vicious” and “brutal.”

“Something you want to think about carefully when you think if Mr. Nicholson should get the benefit of reduced eligibility,” said Bruneau.