How Not To Run A Justice System

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Every now and then an otherwise mundane news item on page eight or nine has so many twists and turns it literally cries out for further attention.  Such is the case with a minor news story out of Winnipeg that has more sub-plots than a rejected crime novel.

It starts with a young store clerk, Edwin Yue, who was fatally shot during a robbery.  Tragic, but nothing new here.  Convenience store clerks, especially when they work alone, are always at high risk. 

Things start to get interesting when we take a look at the robber.  David Edward Cote, who has been charged with second-degree murder, had recently been released from prison and was staying at a half way house.  All told, he had fourteen convictions going back to 1993. 

Cote was on statutory release after serving a fifty-two month sentence for assault using force, forcible confinement, assault with a weapon, and assault to commit robbery.  Hardly the ideal candidate for a half way house.

But it turns out the victim was quite the work himself.  Court documents show that Edwin Yue, 19, was accused of robbing seven different convenience stores; including one of them on two occasions, and a couple of jewelry stores in a three-week period. 

Apparently, he used knives, machetes, baseball bats and other weapons to steal cash, cigarettes, lottery tickets, a watch and a diamond ring. Part of his bail requirements stipulated he must live with his parents, who owned the convenience store he was working at when shot. 

So here we have the story of a punk thug who hits up convenience stores like they were neighborhood ATM machines.  Then he tries to confront and stop a like-minded dirt bag attempting to rob his parents’ store.  Can you imagine these two guys struggling for the gun?  It would sort of be like Svend “Bling Bling” Robinson and “Burning Crosses” Hedy Fry contesting Vancouver Centre in the last election.  Too bad they couldn’t both lose.

Then we have the robber, Cote, who was considered too dangerous to be set free, so he was ordered to serve out his sentence in the half way house.  Half way houses are supposed to be “half way” houses.  They give inmates who have taken and responded to treatment, and have demonstrated responsibility, an opportunity to integrate half way back into the community.  These facilities are supposed to be the last step before a reformed inmate returns as a complete citizen. 

But now they’re dumping grounds for even the most dangerous inmates who have served two thirds of their sentence and are eligible for statutory release.  Half way houses have no security and their staff typically includes volunteers and practicum students. 

If meat inspectors, brake mechanics and pharmacists screwed up one quarter as often as corrections officials, they’d be canned in a heartbeat.  But atrocious misjudgments, even when they result in a loss of life, don’t seem to faze the powers that be.  Despite promises, nothing has changed since Eric Fish walked away from a Vernon half way house and killed a senior citizen during a home invasion a couple years ago.

There may be some poetic justice in a person who terrorized store clerks having the tables turned on him. 

But otherwise, these types of stories are becoming a little too common.

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