Sam Van Schie: Murder hearing mercifully short

Like most people watching the court proceedings for Kimberly Proctor’s young murderers, it was my first time in a sentencing hearing for such a serious crime.

Extensive court reporting is usually beyond the scope of a community newspaper such as the one you’re reading. Our reporters take turns covering crimes that rarely pull us into the courthouse.

Personally, I can count on my fingers the number of times my journalism career has brought me into a courtroom. At my previous newspaper job, I covered a brief sentencing on a case where a guy stole a cop car and had to serve weekends in jail for it, as well as some of the pre-trial dates for a schizophrenic woman who killed a 12-year-old autistic boy. She was eventually deemed mentally unfit to stand trial.

Neither case made me feel confident walking into the courthouse to begin covering what I expected to be a two-week sentencing hearing for Proctor’s killers.

I could hardly sleep the night before and didn’t eat anything the morning of. I can only imagine how much worse the people in that room, especially those who knew the victim personally, must have felt.

Proctor’s family – her mother, father, grandparents and aunts – filled the front row. I squeezed between one of the victim’s high school friends and a television reporter. The benches were packed to capacity.

I knew from a co-worker who covered the case until the teens’ guilty pleas that there would be a lot of details too graphic to print in the newspaper. Indeed, what the court heard with regard to what the teens did to Proctor’s body post-mortem turned my nervous insomnia into terrible nightmares.

It was truly a relief that the hearing lasted only two days.

The Crown’s case for sentencing the youth as adults relied on multiple experts finding that the two are of significant risk to reoffend.

The defence had no evidence to the contrary and didn’t oppose the adult sentence for either teen. When given a chance to speak for themselves, the older said nothing, while the younger offered a three-page letter written the night before, in which he claimed to feel remorse and a willingness to change.

It’s now up to a judge to decide their fate on Monday.

Based on previous case law and what the court heard from Crown prosecutors, it’s unlikely the judge would have any reason to give the teens youth sentences.

But even being sentenced as adults to life in prison, the fact they’re still teenagers means they’d be eligible for parole after 10 years rather than 25.

In either case, the killers, if we believe in the philosophy of our correctional system, could seek parole while they’re still in their 20s. A life sentence doesn’t guarantee a lifetime spent behind bars.

But as Proctor’s father pointed out in his victim impact statement to the court, it’s the victim and her family who will pay the harshest punishment for the crime. Kimberly received the death penalty. Her loved ones will serve a true life sentence without her.

No matter how long her killers spend in prison, perhaps getting free education and learning to understand the gravity of their crimes, it won’t bring the 18-year-old back.

Hearing the family read their statements one by one was the hardest thing I’ve done in the course of my career thus far. The ink in my note pad is smeared with tears. But writing is my therapy and after my stories are published I can rip out those pages and let the details drift from my mind.

I know the Proctors, however, will never forget. And I can only hope that this newspaper will never again need to carry reports of such horrific and senseless crimes.

Sam Van Schie is a reporter at the Goldstream News Gazette.

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