HALIFAX – A judge has agreed to postpone a Halifax murderer’s sentencing pending an assessment of whether his African-Nova Scotian background “played a role” in the crime.
Kale Leonard Gabriel’s defence team told a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge Tuesday it is preparing a “cultural assessment” on his racial background.
The 27-year-old Gabriel was convicted in February of second-degree murder for the 2010 shooting of Ryan White, who was himself black, in the Mulgrave Park housing project.
Defence lawyers say the assessment will examine whether Gabriel’s racial and cultural heritage had a role.
“We do hope it will address the appropriate rehabilitation for him,” defence lawyer Geoff Newton said Tuesday. “We hope it’s something that’s considered especially if the historical roots … (are a) factor.”
Brandon Rolle of Nova Scotia Legal Aid, who devised the legal strategy, said he believes cultural assessments are the way of the future for sentencing African-Nova Scotians.
Rolle said such assessments are similar to a Gladue report, which aboriginals facing sentencing have been able to request for more than a decade.
But Theresa White, mother of Gabriel’s victim, said she doesn’t believe race should be a considered in his sentencing.
“I think that a crime is a crime, and colour shouldn’t matter whatsoever,” White told CTV.
“It’s very difficult to try to forward your life when you’re being called back to the same sadness over and over.”
The defence team says social worker Lana MacLean will write the report, which should be prepared by mid-June.
At least one Nova Scotia judge has previously considered a cultural assessment.
In November, 2014, provincial court judge Anne Derrick decided not to sentence an African-Nova Scotian youth as an adult for attempted murder, citing his social context as “significant.”
Derrick wrote that a cultural assessment entered by the defence provided, “a more textured, multi-dimensional framework for understanding (the defendant), his background and his behaviours.”
She found that he was “an immature, dependent 16 year old caught up in the dysfunctional dynamics of his community, dynamics that are relevant to my understanding of his context, background, and choices.”
“(The defendant) has been both a perpetrator and a victim of violence in the context of his criminally impacted community.”
The author of the assessment in that case, social worker Robert Wright, said he believes his report was the first of its kind.
“We know that black and aboriginal people have had a systemically impoverished and discriminated experience,” Wright said in an interview. “As we see their paths into crime and violence, we can better understand how they got there if we understand that history.”
Second-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence. The court will hear arguments on August 16 to determine when Gabriel should be eligible for parole.
Looking for more?
Get the best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.