Family frustrated with publication ban on name of teen killed outside Edmonton high school

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Two family members of a teen slain outside an Edmonton high school say they’re frustrated with a publication ban that prevents reporting of his name.

SM began a Court of King’s Bench trial this week on a count of manslaughter for his alleged role in an attack that fatally injured a Grade 10 student in 2022.

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SM’s name is protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act because he was a minor at the time of the deadly assault. The name of the victim and the school he attended are covered by a separate publication ban granted by the court on the first day of trial.

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PG, the victim’s cousin, told reporters outside court she understands the purpose of the ban on their loved one’s name pending the other trials. Seven youth were charged in the youth’s death, two of whom are scheduled to face jury trials later this year.

“For this trial we’ll accept it, but going forward we want to restart the discussion about that,” she said.

MB, another cousin, worries “he’ll be forgotten.”

“And then he would have died for nothing,” she said. “I just cannot let that happen.”

The seven youth were initially charged with second-degree murder. The Crown later downgraded those charges to manslaughter in all but one of the cases.

Two accused have pleaded guilty. BJ, a youth set to go to trial alongside SM, instead admitted to a count of manslaughter. A girl who drove one of the vehicles the day of the assault pleaded guilty last year to an accessory offence and was sentenced to probation.

Court sees video of deadly attack

Over four days of testimony, court has heard how SM spent the day of the assault skipping school with friends, aimlessly driving around Edmonton before returning to the school where the assault happened.

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Two girls who were in the car with SM said he and another boy got out of the vehicle after the victim crossed the street in front of their car. Several other boys exited another vehicle and began following him. One of the attackers carried a field hockey stick and another fired an Airsoft gun, another witness said.

The victim was stabbed at least twice and died in hospital a week later. There has been no evidence so far suggesting SM touched the victim.

MB and PG said their family is learning many of the details of their loved one’s death as the trial progresses. Particularly difficult was a video of his final moments captured by a security camera on an ETS bus.

PG was upset to learn her cousin was able to stand and walk after the attack, before falling to the ground unresponsive.

“I had hoped that when the attack first started, he lost consciousness right away, so he wouldn’t have to feel pain,” she said. “It was really hard to learn that he actually didn’t lose consciousness.”

The victim’s mother has been in court and on two occasions was so overcome with grief court was forced to take a break.

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SM’s defence lawyer, Brian Beresh, has cross-examined both girls in the car, who said there was no talk of violence that day or any evidence either boy they were travelling with was carrying a weapon. He noted both witnesses said they were going to the school to pick up a family member at that the victim just happened to pass by.

Calls for change to youth criminal justice

MB and PG are campaigning for changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act to revise the rules around sentencing. The maximum youth sentence for manslaughter is three years in custody, followed by a period of supervision in the community.

“It should be calibrated to the severity of the crime,” MB said, adding they are arranging a letter-writing campaign to elected officials.

PG also supports “more case-by-case assessment” when it comes to protecting the names of youth accused of homicide.

Both said they hope the ban on their cousin’s name is lifted when all trials are finished.

“It kind of feels like it’s our story to tell, but we’re not allowed to tell it any more,” PG said.

SM’s trial is scheduled to continue next week.

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