Jorrell Simpson-Rowe gets second-degree murder in Creba shooting
Shannon Kari, National Post: Friday, April 24, 2009
TORONTO — An Ontario Superior Court judge has imposed an adult sentence against a young man convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Jane Creba, allowing the man’s name to be made public for the first time since the Toronto teen was shot to death more than three years ago.
Jorrell Simpson-Rowe can now be identified as a result of the ruling handed down Friday morning by Justice Ian Nordheimer.
The 21-year-old man was six weeks shy of his 18th birthday when he participated in the Dec. 26, 2005 gunfight that claimed the life of Creba, who was caught in the crossfire while out shopping with her sister in downtown Toronto.
His lawyers had argued that Simpson-Rowe should receive a youth sentence, which was rejected by Nordheimer.
“A youth sentence would fail to address the seriousness of the offence. It would fail to hold Mr. Simpson-Rowe accountable for his actions,” said the judge. “The use of guns to settle disputes is conduct that our society has the right to say will not be excused.”
In deciding whether Simpson-Rowe should receive an adult or youth sentence, the judge said he had some sympathy for what he called the “depressing” upbringing of the young man. His father was a drug dealer who was deported when Simpson-Rowe was nine and his mother has had problems with alcohol, the court heard.
“The legitimate frustration that any outside observer would feel at this often-repeating scenario of parental omission giving rise to adolescent criminal activity does not change the fact that the court must deal with Mr. Simpson-Rowe as he is, not as we would have wished him to be. The realities of Mr. Simpson-Rowe’s background may explain his current situation but they do not absolve him of all personal responsibility for his acts,” said Nordheimer, who noted that at the time of the shootout, the defendant was capable of “deciding right from wrong.”
The adult sentence means that Simpson-Rowe must serve at least seven years in prison before he can apply for parole. He received one-for-one credit for the more than three years he has been in pre-trial custody, which is standard for a murder conviction, so he will be eligible to apply for parole in December 2012.
Even if released, he will be subject to parole conditions for the rest of his life.
Defence lawyers Gary Grill and Mara Greene indicated that Simpson-Rowe will appeal his conviction and sentence.
Lead prosecutor Kerry Hughes, who successfully argued for the adult sentence, declined to comment Friday.
Outside court, a police officer close to the case told reporters Creba’s family is pleased with the decision.
Lead investigator Det.-Sgt. Savas Kyriacou said the sentence sends a message: “Obviously, it’s clear society in general will not stand for this type of indiscriminate violence. Hopefully, some good will come out of this.”
Simpson-Rowe was one of a more than a dozen young men accused of taking part in the gun battle outside a store on Yonge Street.
He was not accused of firing the fatal shot that killed Creba as she attempted to cross the street. Instead, he was found by the jury to have fired a 9mm handgun several times during the shootout and of wounding two people. Simpson-Rowe was arrested less than 30 minutes later in possession of the spent 9mm weapon, after police received a tip from a cab driver.
Simpson-Rowe told police that because he was a youth at the time (and presumably, wouldn’t be tried as an adult if caught), the gun was given to him by Louis Raphael Woodcock after the shootout ended.
Simpson-Rowe did not testify at his trial, but the defence argued that it was Woodcock who fired the gun.
The guilty verdict on the murder charge by the jury surprised many trial observers because of an agreed statement of facts presented to the jury. It said that when the shooting started, Woodcock had the 9mm weapon. DNA evidence also linked Woodcock to the gun.
Hughes suggested to the jury that Woodcock pulled out his weapon and either fired one shot or froze. At some point during the brief, frenzied shootout, she said, Simpson-Rowe grabbed the gun from his friend and fired it several times at two young men standing a few metres south on Yonge St.
The jury never heard that Simpson-Rowe gave many statements to police that led to charges against six men who are alleged to have been present during the shootout.
They are among the eight adults scheduled to go on trial this fall. The adult defendants include Jeremiah Valentine, who is alleged to have fired the shot that killed Creba.
With files from Canwest News Service
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