Crown counsel wants Janice Nielsen sent to prison for two to three years for the fatal stabbing of her common-law partner while her defence lawyer maintains that the Merritt mother does not belong behind bars.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ronald McKinnon is expected to sentence Nielsen today.
Nielsen has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the May 2010 death of her husband, Tracy (Two Feathers) Charters. Her lawyer, Victoria Desroches, repeated on Tuesday that a suspended sentence is appropriate for the circumstances of the offence as well as for Nielsen’s deeply troubled aboriginal background.
The couple had a history of drinking-related domestic disputes. Crown counsel submitted on Monday that Nielsen was angry after learning that Charters was involved with another woman. Crown prosecutor Neal Flanagan said it was this anger that triggered her provocative behaviour and led to a violent altercation between the couple.
But Desroches told the court on Tuesday that both Charters and Nielsen shared responsibility for the circumstances, since both drank and engaged with one another.
Nielsen was immobile at the time of the offence due to a hip and knee injury. She had to be assisted in and out of the room, Desroches said.
The defence lawyer further contended, based on blood patterns in the living room where the fatal stabbing took place, that Nielsen was physically threatened when she picked up a knife and plunged it into Charters’ chest and head.
“Clearly, Ms. Nielsen was in a position where she was cornered by that table, and Two Feathers grabbed her by her hair and started punching her head,” Desroches said.
There is an infinite range of sentences for manslaughter, she noted. Nielsen should not be derailed from a rehabilitative track that has had some success, she added.
“There is no public interest in incarcerating Janice Nielsen,” she said. “She should stay on the rehabilitative track she’s been on for the last 29 months.”
Nielsen is a resident of housing provided by the Vision Quest Recovery Society, which provides a full spectrum of rehabilitative programs for offenders.
Desroches outlined Nielsen’s background, which included years of dislocation as a foster child, low income, unemployment, a lack of opportunity and education, substance abuse and community fragmentation.
“Ms. Nielsen was touched by each and every one of them. I seek a sentence outside of an institution. Something other than a jail sentence is appropriate in these circumstances.”