Fort Res man guilty of manslaughterSteven Sayine to be sentenced in early 2015 killing his common-law wife
Northern News Services
Published Monday, November 3, 2014
A Fort Resolution man has been found guilty of manslaughter in the 2012 death of his common-law wife.
Steven Sayine, left, converses with his lawyer Charles Davison outside the Hay River courthouse, Sept. 8. The Fort Resolution man was convicted of manslaughter in the death of his common-law partner Mary Laboucan on Oct. 29. - NNSL file photo
The verdict against 40-year-old Steven Sayine was delivered in NWT Supreme Court in Hay River on Oct. 29.
The case involved the death of 48-year-old Mary Laboucan, who was injured in Fort Resolution on June 16, 2012, and died in an Edmonton hospital three days later from acute subdural hematoma - bleeding inside the skull which caused irreparable damage to the brain.
The verdict was delivered by Justice Louise Charbonneau, who presided at a five-day trial in September but reserved her decision until last week.
"I will say at the outset that Mr. Sayine is guilty of this charge," said the judge, noting she did not want to leave people hanging while she explained her decision.
As the verdict was announced, there was no visible reaction by Sayine, who has been in custody since June 20, 2012.
It is expected the sentencing will take place in Hay River sometime in early 2015.
Charbonneau took about an hour-and-a-half to explain her decision.
She said there were some inconsistencies in the testimony of witnesses.
"But on the whole, a fairly clear scenario emerged of what happened that day," she noted, referring to June 16, 2012.
During trial, Sayine testified Laboucan had fallen backwards and hit her head while they struggled for a bottle of alcohol. The accused testified he was worried the bottle might contain paint thinner and he wanted to smell the contents.
However, a couple who visited the home after Laboucan was injured testified that an upset and remorseful Sayine told them he had kicked her in the head and caused her to fall after she threw an ashtray at him.
"What this case really boils down to is the admission to his friends," stated Charbonneau.
At trial, Sayine admitted telling the friends he had kicked Laboucan, but testified he had not done that or struck her in any way. The accused said he did not tell the friends that Laboucan hit her head after struggling over a bottle because he thought it would embarrass her.
The judge methodically picked apart Sayine's testimony insisting Laboucan was injured in an accidental fall.
"I conclude that there are significant problems with that testimony," said Charbonneau.
She noted Sayine's precision about innocuous facts and timelines sounded rehearsed; she doubted the plausibility of his statement that he was concerned about what was in a bottle carried by Laboucan, since bottles with paint thinner were stored at the back of a shed; and she also questioned his testimony that Laboucan got up immediately after falling.
In particular, the judge pointed to Sayine's testimony that he saw blood coming out of the back of Laboucan's head.
"This is completely inconsistent with medical and forensic evidence," said Charbonneau, noting there were no lacerations or cuts on the victim's head.
She did accept the friends' testimony that he told them he had kicked Laboucan after she threw an ashtray at him, and that he had told them he had screwed up.
The judge said there was no reason for Sayine to make up such a story, and it appeared he was sorry and upset when he confided to friends.
"They certainly believed him," Charbonneau noted.
The judge accepted that Sayine did not mean for the very serious consequences of his actions to occur. She also noted Sayine did not realize for many hours afterwards how serious Laboucan had been hurt and, when he did, he called for medical help for her.
Crown attorney Marc Lecorre said the judge was "very, very thorough" in explaining her assessment of the evidence and the credibility of witnesses.
"She clearly disbelieved Mr. Sayine's account that this was an accident and she was sure that the case was proven beyond a reasonable doubt, believed the Crown witnesses' account and believed that he did in fact kick his common-law wife in the head resulting in her death," said the Crown attorney.
Lecorre declined to comment on what the Crown may recommend for a sentence.
Charles Davison, the lawyer for Sayine, declined to comment to the media.
The defence requested a pre-sentence report prior to sentencing, and Charbonneau ordered it to be prepared no later than Dec. 15. There may also be victim impact statements.
For a manslaughter conviction, the Crown doesn't have to prove an accused intended to kill a victim, but has to prove that an accused committed an unlawful act that resulted in death.
- with files from