Kevin Mantla has secured a legal aid lawyer to appeal his sentence of life in prison for the murder of Elvis Lafferty and an attempt to kill his former girlfriend.
Mantla also intends to appeal the conviction itself, though he does not have legal aid for that process. He will ask the court to provide a lawyer instead.
He was convicted of second-degree murder, with no chance of parole for 20 years, over a night-time knife attack on his ex-girlfriend and her partner in Yellowknife five years ago.
“So Mr Mantla, you are aware that you have been approved for a sentence appeal by legal aid, but they have not approved a conviction appeal?” Justice Shannon Smallwood asked in Court of Appeal in Yellowknife on Monday.
“Yes,” replied Mantla, originally from Gamètì, via video link from the Edmonton Institution, a maximum security federal prison.
His new legal aid-funded lawyer is Robin Parker, a Toronto lawyer who specializes in complex criminal trials and appeals. She has argued cases across Ontario, Iqaluit, and the NWT.
“I’ve actually had numerous discussions with Mr Mantla and met with him in person at the Edmonton Institution earlier this year, for quite a lengthy meeting,” Parker told the judge.
Parker said she will offer Mantla help in preparing an application to have a court-ordered lawyer assist him with his conviction appeal. An application can be made when a person has been refused legal aid support but can’t afford their own attorney.
Mantla stabbed both people repeatedly when he broke into his former girlfriend’s Yellowknife apartment late at night, having spent several hours at a friend’s apartment drinking vodka and smoking crack cocaine.
One of the slashes to the woman’s wrist had such force that it almost amputated her hand, a court heard.
The life sentence for murdering Lafferty was handed to Mantla, then 39, in the fall of 2018.
Supreme Court Justice Louise Charbonneau also imposed a 15-year sentence for the attempted murder to be served concurrently (at the same time).
Mantla unhappy with earlier lawyers
In his original appeal notice, Mantla expressed displeasure with his lawyers. He fired those lawyers between his conviction and his sentencing.
He has claimed he was “set up” by his lawyers, reportedly even accusing them of colluding with the Crown.
Two children present during the incident identified Mantla as the killer. Trial judge Charbonneau also pointed to what she considered conclusive circumstantial evidence in her decision following the month-long trial.
In her decision, Charbonneau noted the theory advanced by the Crown was that Mantla – who had been in a lengthy common-law relationship with the woman he attempted to kill – was jealous and angry about the woman’s relationship with Lafferty.
He had learned about this relationship during a telephone conversation with the woman. He then went to the Gamètì Airport and purchased a one-way ticket for that day’s flight to Yellowknife.
“I am easily able to find that Mr Mantla was jealous and angry,” stated Charbonneau, noting the pair had separated in the summer of 2015.
Mantla discovered his ex-girlfriend in bed with Lafferty. Lafferty’s parents were also sleeping in the room, while the woman’s three children were sleeping in the living room.
Lafferty and the woman were stabbed a number of times. Lafferty died from his injuries. The woman, while seriously injured, survived.
After the attack, Mantla disposed of incriminating evidence and eventually went to an RCMP detachment to try to get himself booked into the drunk tank, perhaps in an effort to create a false alibi.
He was later arrested there.