After more than four years in custody awaiting trial, Levi Cayen should be sentenced to time served plus probation for the 2017 manslaughter of Alexander Norwegian, his lawyer says.
Defence lawyer Alan Regel on Wednesday argued the Crown’s proposed sentence – 10 years for robbery, 15 years for manslaughter – was “unduly harsh.”
Regel told NWT Supreme Court the Crown’s proposal did not “take into account any of the substantial mitigating factors,” nor Cayen’s years-long wait for his trial.
“Levi has already served more time than would be in order for the offence before the court,” said Regel. “The best protection for the public would be a sentence now directed to rehabilitation.”
Cayen was initially charged with first-degree murder in the death of 25-year-old Norwegian. In March, a jury found him guilty instead of manslaughter, a lesser charge. He also pleaded guilty to robbery at the start of the trial in February.
On Tuesday, Crown prosecutor Duane Praught argued deterrence and denunciation are key to determining a fit sentence for Cayen.
A day later, Regel countered with a call for a sentence of two years less a day followed by 18 months of supervised probation.
Given Cayen has already been in custody for years, for which time will be deducted from his eventual sentence, Regel’s suggestion equates to a sentence of time served.
If Cayen ends up in a federal penitentiary, he would be “exposed to the negative influence of some hardened prisoners,” said Regel, jeopardizing any progress he has made in the past four and a half years.
Regel argued that if it were not for the Crown’s insistence on proceeding with a murder trial, his client would have already pleaded guilty to manslaughter and robbery and would be serving his sentence.
Instead, said Regel, Cayen was unable to get bail because of the murder charge, his Hay River-area family were forced to make long and expensive drives for visits, and he was attacked while working in the North Slave Correctional Complex’s kitchen.
“He has a large horseshoe-shaped scar on the side of his head that will likely be permanent,” said Regel.
Regel told Justice Shannon Smallwood that if she felt a longer sentence was required, she should keep the final number – the sentence minus credit for time served – under two years, to allow Cayen a chance to serve his time in a territorial facility.
One of the two charges should be dropped, said Regel, as the manslaughter took place in the context of the robbery, so they are “in effect one transaction.”
Cayen was the last of four cousins charged over Norwegian’s death to be convicted.
Sasha Cayen, 26, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 43 months; Tyler Cayen, 33, admitted being an accessory after the fact to manslaughter and was sentenced to two years less a day; James Thomas was convicted of second-degree murder and robbery and received a 10-year sentence last year.
“By all accounts, it appears as though it started out as Jamie Thomas’s idea,” said Regel. “The planning was certainly not very extensive, and I suggest is at the low end of the scale, as far as planning goes.
“Based on the evidence that was let at trial as well, it appears as though the plan was in place – at least, the will to do the offence was in place – before Levi was even invited to join his older cousins and drink with them.”
Justice Smallwood reserved her decision until Thursday at 3pm.