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Justice
South Slave

Hay River man appealing murder conviction, robbery sentence


One of the men convicted in the 2017 death of Alex Norwegian is appealing his conviction for second-degree murder and 10-year sentence for robbery.

James George Thomas, 30, had pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder and robbery of 25-year-old Norwegian outside Hay River in April 2021.

Thomas was charged in connection with the Boxing Day 2017 beating of Norwegian, who was robbed and left in the cold in a badly damaged vehicle on an isolated Kátł’odeeche First Nation road.

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Following a trial, NWT Supreme Court Justice Andrew Mahar convicted Thomas of a lesser offence, second-degree murder, and robbery in November 2021. 

The following month, Thomas was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder charge with eligibility for parole after 10 years, to be served in tandem with a 10-year sentence for robbery. He is currently serving his sentence at the Edmonton Institution, a maximum-security facility.

As first reported by CBC, Thomas is now appealing his conviction for second-degree murder on the grounds that Mahar found he did not intend to kill Norwegian nor cause him bodily harm.

Thomas is also appealing his 10-year sentence for robbery, arguing the judge erred in rejecting, without rationale, a joint submission from Crown and defence lawyers that recommended six years’ imprisonment. Thomas further argues that Mahar did not take into account the nearly four years he had served in pre-sentence custody. 

Thomas is currently self-represented. According to court documents he is seeking a lawyer. 

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The prosecution is counter-appealing Thomas’ conviction and sentence. In court documents, the Crown argues Mahar erred in his application of the law regarding first-degree murder and that Thomas’ parole ineligibility period of 10 years is “demonstrably unfit.”

Many details about Thomas’ case, including his appeal, were protected by a publication ban until the trial of co-accused Levi Cayen concluded, a move designed to avoid bias among jurors.

That jury found Cayen guilty of manslaughter in Norwegian’s death on Saturday. He had pleaded guilty to a charge of robbery at the start of trial. 

Two other co-accused were sentenced in January 2019 for their role in the crime. 

Tyler Cayen, 33, was sentenced to two years less a day after pleading guilty to being an accessory after the fact to manslaughter.

Sasha Cayen, 26, was sentenced to three years and seven months imprisonment after she pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

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