Supreme Court orders sentence review of 2 Alberta murder convicts

In a decision released in February 2021, the Alberta Court of Appeal varied the sentence of life in prison without parole for 25 years imposed on the two men by the trial court. The Court of Appeal decided that the minimum detention periods of 25 years had to be served consecutively. As a result of this ruling, defendants had to serve a total of 50 years before they could apply for parole. Jason Klaus and Joshua Frank would then have been 92 and 82 respectively.

“Jurisprudence” Alexandre Bissonnette

The Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decision in this case follows its May 2022 decision in the case of Alexandre Bissonnette, the perpetrator of the 2017 attack on a Quebec City mosque that cost the lives of six people.

The highest court in the country has decided that the latter can apply for parole after 25 years instead of the 40 years initially planned.

The Supreme Court of Canada thus invalidated the provision of the Criminal Code, adopted by the Harper government in 2011, allowing the addition of minimum detention periods in the case of multiple murders.

It is on the basis of this precedent that the Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday ordered the Alberta Court of Appeal to deal with the convictions of Jason Klaus and Joshua Frank. in accordance to its recent decision on the Alexandre Bissonnette case.

A triple murder

In 2018 Jason Klaus and Joshua Frank were convicted of the first degree murder of Jason Klaus’ father, mother and sister. Gordon, Sandra and Monica Klaus were shot and killed while they slept at their residence on a farm in Castor, Alberta. The two men then set the farm on fire to destroy anything that might constitute evidence.

Reacting in Calgary to the Supreme Court’s decision, Andrea Urquhart, Joshua Frank’s lawyer, noted that it means the original sentence should be restored to 25 years before possible parole rather than 50. year.

The mother, Sandra Klaus (in red on the left), the father, Gordon Klaus (in gray in the center) and their daughter Monica Klaus (on the right) were killed in their sleep. The murderers then set fire to their home to remove any evidence (archives).

Picture: Facebook

Similar cases pending

Two other cases where convicts received consecutive minimum detention periods have been highly publicized in Alberta: those of Derek Saretzky and Edward Downey. The two men are appealing their sentence and the hearings of their cases have been suspended pending the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of Alexandre Bissonnette.

In 2015, Derek Saretzky was convicted of the first degree murders of Terry Blanchette, his two-year-old daughter, Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, and her neighbor, Hanne Meketech, in Blairmore, Alberta. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for 75 years. Sentenced to 22 years old, he cannot apply for parole until he is 97 years old.

His sentence appeal is scheduled for June 21, his lawyer said.

As for Edward Downey, he was convicted of the first-degree murders of Sara Baillie and her five-year-old daughter, Taliyah Marsman, in 2016. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole before 50 years.

University of Calgary law professor Lisa Silver, however, said the Supreme Court’s decision does not automatically apply to all cases because, she explains, some court decisions may be found unconstitutional in some cases and not in others. The highest court in the country has indicated that inmates who have received a sentence under the law allowing for the addition of minimum periods of detention can make a request under the Charter.

It’s not automatic, she says. They [les défendeurs] have to make demands and argue.

With information from The Canadian Press

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