CALGARY — A lawyer for a man who killed a Calgary couple and their young grandson says the trial judge imposed a “vengeful sentence,” since his client will be 129 years old before he is eligible for parole.
Douglas Garland was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 75 years after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder in the slayings of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and five-year-old Nathan O’Brien.
The trial judge had ruled the automatic life sentence with a minimum 25 years before parole eligibility needed to be increased because of aggravating factors, including Nathan’s young age and Garland not expressing remorse.
Garland’s lawyers argued before the Alberta Court of Appeal on Tuesday that three consecutive parole ineligibilities is “excessive and harsh.”
“The primary sentencing rules here are denunciation, deterrence, moral blameworthiness and things of that nature. But just because this is a heinous crime doesn’t mean that all these other principles don’t get their due weight also,” said Kim Ross.
“(The trial judge) says, ‘Look, it’s not going to make any difference if Mr. Garland is 79 years of age at year 25, whether he’s 104 at 50, or whether he’s at 129 at 75 years.’
“At the end of the day, in my respectful submission, what the learned sentencing judge did was essentially impose a vengeful sentence and basically said, ‘It doesn’t matter.’”
The Appeal Court reserved its decision.
Last year, it rejected Garland’s appeal of his conviction.
Prosecutor Christine Rideout said Tuesday that the trial judge examined all issues of the case before imposing the sentence.
“The issue becomes was it excessive and harsh in the circumstances of this case?” she asked.
“This offender committed not just one first-degree murder. He committed three of them. And even within each of those first-degree murders, there was aggravating factors that even elevated the seriousness of those offences.”
The grandparents and the boy vanished after an estate sale at the couple’s home on June 29, 2014. Nathan had been there for a sleepover.
Prosecutors believe the three were attacked at the home before they were taken to the Garland farm, north of Calgary, where they were killed. Their bodies were never recovered, but bone fragments, burned flesh and teeth were found in ash from a burning barrel on the property.
The Crown had argued that Garland’s anger over a dispute about a patent for an oilfield pump that he and Alvin Liknes had worked on together had built up to the point where he meticulously plotted the killings.
This report by the Canadian Press was first published June 16, 2020
Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press