Conviction for one upheld, other overturned

Canada’s top court has ruled against two men tried in the appalling rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl by upholding the conviction of one and sending another back for a new trial.

Nina Courtepatte

Nina Courtepatte

EDMONTON — Canada’s top court has ruled against two men tried in the appalling rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl by upholding the conviction of one and sending another back for a new trial.

But the mother of Nina Courtepatte, the teen who was lured from a mall five years ago this month by the promise of a bush party, says the rulings bring her little joy.

“I have mixed emotions,” Peacha Atkinson said in Edmonton on Thursday. “Nina’s still gone.

“I’m happy with the decision, but because she’s not here to celebrate, it’s not overly joyous.”

Nina was raped and brutally beaten to death on a golf course west of the city on April 3, 2005.

She was hit with a wrench, struck several times in the head with a sledgehammer and left to die.

Her battered body was found the next day on a fairway.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously against the appeals of Joseph (Snowman) Laboucan, 23 and Michael Briscoe, 38. The two men were originally tried jointly.

It restored first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault convictions against Laboucan.

The Alberta Court of Appeal had overturned them because of comments the trial judge made.

It was that decision that the Crown challenged before the Supreme Court.

The high court also dismissed an appeal by Briscoe, who was originally acquitted on the same charges, but was challenging the provincial Appeal Court’s ruling that he face a second trial because of questions about his intent.

The original trial revealed that Nina and a friend were at West Edmonton Mall when they were invited to what they were told was a bush party.

Instead, Briscoe, Laboucan and three youths took the two girls to a secluded golf course where Nina was slain.

Nina’s murder resulted in five people being charged.

Stephanie Bird, who was 17, was convicted as a young offender, but sentenced as an adult.

She is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder with no chance of parole for 10 years.

Another woman, who was 16 at the time, was given the maximum youth sentence of four years in custody followed by three years of community supervision.

Michael (Pyro) Williams, who was also 17, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced as an adult to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.

Atkinson has attended almost all the court proceedings — including the many appeals along the way.

Now, she’s gearing up for Briscoe’s retrial.

“A lot of us are not healing from (the murder),” she said. “We have to do something — myself, my whole family. We are having a tough time. We have to get on track and get on the road of healing.”

This Easter, which fell a day after the fifth anniversary of Nina’s death, was particularly tough.

“Going out and being the Easter bunny and bringing home the goodies, it’s just hard. (I remember) how excited she would be, how good the supper is, getting in the way and making her point of what should be done ….

“I wonder to this day if she would have succeeded at what she was going to be doing.”

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