Judge orders new pre-sentence report for convicted murderer

The Globe and Mail

RCMP cordon off a crime scene using police tape (JOHN LEHMANN/The GLOBE AND MAI)

A convicted murderer anxious to learn how long he must spend behind bars before seeking parole will have to wait another month to find out after the sentencing judge described his pre-sentence report as “skeletal,” and ordered another one.

Lavare Williams, 21, is one of two Toronto men found guilty in the May, 2010, slaying of 17-year-old Mitchell Celise, shot in the back as he fled down a sidewalk with his killers in pursuit.

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Mr. Celise died on Winona Drive, near Vaughan Road and Oakwood Avenue, a midtown area of the city that has long had an entrenched gang presence.

Mr. Williams and co-defendant Chael Mills, who fired the fatal bullet, were both alleged members of the M.O.B. Klick, an affiliate of the Vaughan Road Bloods gang.

Mr. Celise belonged to the rival Eglinton West Crips.

The defendants were convicted by a Superior Court jury in March – Mr. Mills of first-degree murder and Mr. Williams of second-degree murder.

Life imprisonment is automatic for both men, but while Mr. Mills’s sentence translates into a minimum 25-year life term before parole eligibility applies (the so-called “faint hope” clause permitting parole at the 15-year mark was repealed by the Harper government) Mr. Williams’s fate is less certain.

By law he must spend at least 10 years in prison, including the three years he has already spent in custody. Prosecutor Patrick Clement told Justice Robert Clark he wants Mr. Williams to serve at least 14 years before he has any prospect of parole.

Sentence was to have been passed Thursday.

But defence counsel Rutu Gadhia told the judge the “lazy” four-page pre-sentence report crafted by a probation officer omits crucial information about Mr. Williams – his school records, his criminal record as a juvenile, input from his family – and is so thin it is worthless.

“The probation officer did not make the effort to contact available sources,” she said, and she asked Justice Clark to disregard it, save for basic biographical information.

Justice Clark concurred the findings are inadequate and ordered that a new assessment be done and presented in court June 14.

“I’m not happy at all with this report, so I think it should be done again with fresh eyes by someone else,” he said.

A tall, bespectacled figure dressed in a check shirt and jeans, his hair neatly braided, Mr. Williams listened attentively from the prisoner’s box as a handful of supporters, including his mother, looked on.

Prosecutors have said Mr. Celise died in a revenge killing, sparked by the death of another M.O.B. Klick member a few weeks earlier, and that he was gunned down when the two murderers spotted him in Bloods territory, wearing a blue baseball hat and blue shoes – the Crips’ trademark colour.

The three-month trial closely examined the gang culture that spawned the murder.

Prosecutors presented voluminous evidence of gang-related material – rap videos, tattoos, graffiti, intercepted jailhouse communications – to support their thesis that Mr. Celise’s death was a direct consequence of the animosity between the two street groups.

Victim-impact statements were filed with the court Thursday, along with a report from the Maplehurst detention centre in Milton, west of Toronto, where Mr. Williams has spent much of the time in solitary confinement because of numerous lockdowns.

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