An Alberta man who fought his 2018 conviction for second-degree murder up to the Supreme Court has been sentenced after pleading guilty to manslaughter in Fort McMurray Court of Queen's Bench.
Nigel Lafrance of Fort McMurray had been in custody since 2015.
On Tuesday, Justice Douglas Mah sentenced Lafrance to seven years but gave him 1½ years credit for each year served before his conviction.
Under that formula, he has already served the equivalent of 11¼ years and will not spend any more time behind bars.
Lafrance was initially charged with first-degree murder for the 2015 stabbing death of 27-year-old Anthony Yasinski, who had sold him cocaine. In 2018 Lafrance was found guilty of second-degree murder, but appealed the decision.
The case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada. The top court ruled that Lafrance's right to counsel had been violated twice and his confession was inadmissible in court. A new trial was ordered.
On Tuesday, Lafrance pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
The Crown and defence gave a joint submission on sentence, recommending seven years, with a 10-year weapons prohibition and DNA order. Mah accepted the submission.
Victim stabbed in neck
According to an agreed statement of facts, Lafrance twice bought cocaine from Yasinski in the early hours of March 17, 2015.
The second time, Lafrance didn't have enough money to pay for the cocaine, and gave Yasinski jewelry as collateral. A few hours later, Lafrance wanted more cocaine and decided to rob Yasinski of money and cocaine.
Lafrance tucked his hunting knife into his pocket, planning to threaten Yasinski.
When Yasinski arrived at Lafrance's house, Lafrance got into the passenger seat of his car. They drove away from the house and then stopped at an intersection.
Lafrance pulled his knife, and a struggle ensued. Lafrance stabbed Yasinski in the neck.
Bleeding profusely, Yasinski got out of the car and flagged down a motorist for help. He later died in hospital.
Crown notes aggravating, mitigating factors
Crown prosecutor Anna Gillespie noted aggravating factors: Lafrance didn't call emergency services for Yasinski, and he brought a weapon with him.
"There were elements of planning involved," Gillespie said.
She also listed mitigating factors, including Lafrance's age — 19 at the time of the crime.
Lafrance's personal circumstances were detailed in a Gladue report. Gladue reports explain an Indigenous offender's family and community history to the judge who is deciding on the sentence.
Lafrance's lawyer, Gregory Lazin, said Lafrance had always accepted responsibility for his actions, including attempting to plead guilty to manslaughter at the original murder trial. The Crown rejected that plea at the time.
Lazin also said Lafrance used his time in custody to better himself by taking anger management courses and public and private law classes.
Lafrance apologized in court Tuesday.
"I truly am sorry with all my heart. I wish that I could go back and change it all," he said. "I can't forgive myself."
He wiped away tears and said he will pray for Yasinski and his family for the rest of his days.
Mah said Lafrance is still young and has a chance to make something of himself.
"You're getting a chance that Mr. Yasinski never had," the judge said.