Princeton double murder sentence could be precedent setting

A legal precedent could be set in the sentencing recommendations of the man found guilty of double murder in Princeton.

A legal precedent could be set in the sentencing recommendations of the man found guilty of double murder in Princeton.

The sentencing of John Ike Koopmans, 52, who was convicted in April for the murders of  Robert Keith Wharton and Rosemary Fox as well as the attempted murder of Bradley Martin, will conclude on Oct. 6.

There was a 15-year disparity between the sentencing recommendations that Crown prosecutor Frank Dubenski and defence counsel Don Skogstad put before Justice Miriam Maisonville on Sept. 25. Dubenski said his suggested sentence of life without the eligibility of parole for 30 years is backed by recent legislation, Bill C-48, making it the first recommendation of this nature in B.C. according to Dubenski.

The act, also known as the Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murderers Act, amended the Criminal Code when it was passed by the House of Commons on February 2011. It aims to enable judges to use parole ineligibility periods as instruments off denunciation, allowing them to keep multiple murderers in custody for longer periods of time serving sentences consecutively and lengthening parole eligibility periods.

The sentencing recommendations in the bill were first used in 2013 in the case of Travis Baumgartner, who pleaded guilty to the murders of his fellow armoured car guards in a 2012 Edmonton robbery.

However, unlike prior cases that have used this legislation, Koopmans has not pleaded guilty and maintains his innocence.

“The majority of the cases up to this point have involved guilty pleas and some joint submissions after guilty pleas so there’s been some negotiation in the resolution of the matters,” Dubenski said. “This seems to be the first case, at least here in B.C., where there’s been no joint submission. The judge told us the case that she’s doing in the lower mainland is a joint submission, so we’ll see.”

Koopmans’ defence counsel put forward a recommendation for a 17.5-year sentence, less time served.

“We do not deal with it because we’re angry and we want vengeance. We want to exact punishment, but we want to do so in the framework of the law,” Skogstad said.

Koopmans’ application for a mistrial on the count of attempted murder was denied on Sept. 24. The application was submitted due to the fact that the jury in the eight-week trial was not given options to convict Koopmans for lesser charges on that count. Justice Maisonville ruled she did not have the jurisdiction post-verdict to call for a mistrial.

Skogstad previously told the Western News that his client is considering filling an appeal.


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