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Monday, July 20, 2009

Parole appeal denied for Alberta woman who helped kill suspected child molester

7-20-2009 Canada:

EDMONTON - The appeal division of the National Parole Board has upheld a decision to deny extended parole to a woman who helped rape, torture and strangle a central Alberta man.

Yvonne Johnson appealed the board's decision that she must return to a halfway house every night.

She argued they should not have ordered a psychological assessment and said she wished to visit her ailing mother, according to the decision.

But the appeal division ruled the board was right to consider the violence of the crime, alcohol abuse and the short length of time Johnson has been on day parole.

"The board was appropriately concerned with the potential risks associated with your successful reintegration into the community and the safety of the public," reads the decision.

Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder for her part in the death of Leonard (Chuck) Skwarok in a basement in Wetaskiwin, Alta., in 1989.

She and three others had been drinking when they killed Skwarok, who they mistakenly believed was a child molester.

Johnson was initially sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years, but was granted day parole in January 2008 after getting permission to apply early under the Criminal Code's faint-hope clause.

While in prison, she co-wrote the best-selling novel "Stolen Life" with Edmonton author Rudy Wiebe about her abusive childhood, the murder and her time behind bars. ..Source.. by THE CANADIAN PRESS

Convicted killer Thatcher can profit from memoir

4-20-2009 Canada:

SASKATOON — Convicted killer Colin Thatcher is in luck he lives in Saskatchewan.

If he had moved to Alberta or Manitoba, he likely wouldn’t be able to make money from the sale of his new book.

The neighbouring provinces have laws in place preventing convicted criminals from pocketing profits on the sale of their crime stories.

Victims’ rights advocate Shelley Marshall says there needs to be a law that applies across the country.

Thatcher “should not get a dime,” says Marshall, president of the Manitoba Organization for Victim Assistance.

“He was found guilty of murdering the mother of his children.”

Marshall’s son was slain in Winnipeg in 2001. Although she agrees with freedom of speech, it pains her to think his two killers could earn money if they were to write a book about the crime.

“For people who have lost a loved one to homicide, they would find what (Thatcher) wishes to do at the least disappointing and at the worst reprehensible.”

Word leaked last week that Thatcher has penned a 440-page memoir titled “Final Appeal: Anatomy of a Frame.” The book argues his innocence and details the 22 years he spent behind bars.

ECW Press, an independent publishing company in Toronto, plans to have the book on store shelves Sept. 1.

Publisher Jack David says Thatcher researched the issue of whether a law prevents him from accepting royalties on the book and found none exists in Saskatchewan.

Laur’Lei Silzer, a spokeswoman for Saskatchewan Justice, confirms the province doesn’t have a law in place.

Thatcher, now 70, lives on his family ranch near Moose Jaw.

He has maintained his innocence since his ex-wife, JoAnn Wilson, was bludgeoned and shot to death in the garage of her Regina home in 1983. A year later, Thatcher was convicted of first-degree murder.

Ontario became the first province to pass its Victim’s Right to Proceeds of Crime Act in 1994.

It was modelled on “Son of Sam” laws in the United States. New York led the movement after rumours circulated that publishers were offering large amounts of money to serial killer David Berkowitz for his story. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, struck down the New York law in 1991.

The same statute was also struck down in California, spurring O.J. Simpson to write the book “If I Did It,” a hypothetical account of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman — crimes of which Simpson was acquitted. A Florida bankruptcy court later awarded rights to the book to Goldman’s family to satisfy an unpaid civil judgment against Simpson.

An attempt at a Canada-wide law preventing criminals from profiting from the commercialization of their crimes through books, movies and other media was first made in 1995. Supported by victims’ organizations but criticized by writers’ groups, the bill died in the Senate three years later.

In the past few years, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Alberta have each passed their own criminal notoriety legislation.

Each law is somewhat different, but they generally allow governments to seize profits and forward them to either the victims of the crimes in question or general victims’ support funds. The laws also allow for fines of up to $50,000 to be imposed on offenders, publishers and movie makers.

The laws only apply to people who live in those provinces, although Manitoba’s law goes one step further. In an attempt to cover convicts transferred to prisons outside the province, the law also applies to people whose crimes took place in Manitoba.

The Manitoba law has dissuaded at least one killer there from inking a book. A jury heard evidence last year that Sydney Teerhuis-Moar planned to write a book with a freelance writer detailing how he stabbed and dismembered Robin Greene at a Winnipeg hotel.

When Teerhuis-Moar learned there was a law preventing him from earning money, he changed his mind.

Before Alberta passed its law, convicted killer Yvonne Johnson co-wrote the book “Stolen Life: that Journey of a Cree Woman” with author Rudy Wiebe. Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder for the brutal, drunken killing of Leonard Skwarok in 1989. Johnson mistakenly believed the man was a child molester.

The book was nominated for a Governor General’s Award, but Skwarok’s family has publicly expressed their anger over the fame and profits Johnson gained from telling her story.

In 2005, when Karla Homolka was released from prison in Quebec, justice officials in Ontario worried they would no longer be able to enforce the parts of her infamous plea-bargain that banned her from telling her story through a book or movie.

Homolka served a 12-year manslaughter sentence for her part in the sex-slayings of teens Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French.

Lawyer and author Garrett Wilson of Regina says he’s sure Thatcher isn’t writing the book to make money.

“He’s doing this for the publicity and the personal satisfaction,” says Wilson.

Wilson, who wrote the 1985 best-seller “Deny, Deny, Deny” about the rise and fall of Thatcher, is surprised a respected publishing company like ECW Press would take on his memoir.

Wilson says Western Producer Prairie Books was criticized by the publishing industry after it put out Thatcher’s first book, “Backrooms: A Story of Politics,” that he wrote while he was in prison.

Still behind bars, Thatcher claimed to have written a sequel focusing on his ex-wife’s murder, says Wilson.

“Because of the criticism of the first book, Western Producer wouldn’t touch it and no one else would.” ..Source.. by Chris Purdy, THE CANADIAN PRESS

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