He doesn’t want to be a convicted murderer.
Almost four years after the teen was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of York Regional Police Const. Garrett Styles, the joyriding driver known only as S.K. was in the Ontario Court of Appeal asking that the verdict be overturned.
It was June 28, 2011 — and the first day of summer holidays — when 15-year-old S.K. snuck out of his house and took his family’s minivan for the second time in five months. “He hadn’t learned his lesson,” acknowledged his lawyer James Lockyer.
He was driving three friends along Hwy. 48 when he was pulled over by Styles for going 147 km/h in an 80 km/h zone. It should have just been a routine traffic stop.
When the unlicensed teen refused to get out of the vehicle so it could be impounded, continually begging Styles to let him go because his parents were going to “kill” him, the officer finally opened the driver’s door and reached in to undo his seatbelt.
What ensued was a tragedy on all sides: The van accelerated across the highway, entered a field, became airborne and rolled before coming to a stop. Styles, who’d been dragged by the careening vehicle, was ejected from the van and pinned under the driver’s side tire, where he soon died of his injuries.
Just 32, the officer left behind a wife and two small children.
As for the driver, the crash broke S.K.’s neck in three places and rendered him a quadriplegic who requires around-the-clock care. The jury found the youth intentionally accelerated to get away and should have known it would “likely” lead to the death of the police officer.
But lucky for him, Justice Alex Sosna spared him any prison time, sentencing S.K. instead to a conditional supervision order for nine years.
“S.K. is already serving a life sentence,” Sosna said in his controversial November, 2015 decision. “He is a prisoner in his own body.”
The Crown, however, is appealing that decision, arguing S.K. should have been sent to an open custody facility. Meanwhile, the defence wants the appeal court to overturn his first-degree murder conviction as “unreasonable” and order a retrial on manslaughter alone.
Now 23, S.K. — heavy set and wearing glasses — was in the small courtroom in his wheelchair, his parents at his side. Behind them, sat Styles’ widow, Melissa, and other family members.
S.K.’s lawyer contended S.K. was startled when Styles suddenly “launched himself into the vehicle,” and panicking, the teen accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake. American collision reconstruction expert Dr. Chris Van Ee had testified during the trial that “pedal misapplication” or “unintentional acceleration” could have played a role in the crash.
But Lockyer complained the judge didn’t allow the jury to hear that S.K. told his father what happened about a month after the incident and that his version — that he froze, that he was trying to brake and that he was pretty sure he didn’t do anything to make the van move forward — was “textbook unintentional acceleration.”
While S.K.’s recollection meshed with Ee’s expert testimony that would come years later, S.K.’s conversation with his father was ruled inadmissible. Instead, Lockyer said, the Crown was unfairly allowed to insinuate S.K. was fabricating his panic and confusion to match the defence expert.
“He was a kid when all this happened,” Lockyer insisted.
The Crown argues its sentence appeal next Tuesday.