Douglas Garland found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder
A Calgary jury has found Douglas Garland guilty of first-degree murder in the deaths of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and Nathan O’Brien in 2014.
The 12 person jury returned the verdict just after 2:00 p.m. Thursday after 8.5 hours of deliberation.
The packed courtroom was silent as the accused was brought in to hear his fate and family and friends of the victims sobbed as the verdict was read.
Prosecutor Shane Parker says the Crown worked hard to seek justice as they didn’t want to let the community or family down.
“We wanted to seek justice. We wanted to make sure we were able to do this the right way and we feel that that was the case,” said Parker. “The verdicts were just and like everyone, you want to put your best work forward and I think we did that.”
The conviction comes with an automatic life sentence, with no chance of parole for 25 years.
The jury was asked to decide whether they wanted to make a parole recommendation and ten jurors recommended consecutive periods of parole ineligibility.
Parker says the jury’s recommendation was clear, based on the facts.
“I think it speaks to the facts of the case and we’ll see what happens tomorrow with Justice Gates. It is only a recommendation and we’ll go from there,” he said. “Mr. Garland will spend his life in jail. Now the question is, what will the Parole Board do and when can he fill out his application to get before a Parole Board, that’s really what it’s down too, when can he hand in paper work? The options for Justice Gates tomorrow will be 25, will be 50, will be 75 given the first-degree murder charges. So it’s a question of whether those sentence will run together, as he explained to the jury, portions of them will run concurrently or all of them will run concurrently.”
Parker says the family is still dealing with the loss and that Thursday’s decision doesn’t change that.
“They’re numb, they’re still processing but at the end of the day they’ve lost Kathy, they’ve lost Alvin and they’ve lost Nathan,” he said. “They still have to grieve.”
Police spent countless hours on the investigation and Parker says that level of dedication and also public input were the difference in this case.
“People cooperating. People doing anything they could possibly do to help solve this crime, they did. We had witnesses flying all over the place to try and get here, no questions asked. At the beginning you had people volunteering to search, you had people giving up CCTV footage. You had neighbours doing inquiries, you had people bringing the police food. Anything people could do, this really touched the community.”
Defence lawyers Kim Ross and Jim Lutz say it was a complex case.
“It's been a long process, like I say, it's been one of the more complex cases that we've dealt with and so yeah, it's a long process and we've put a lot of work into it. It’s a lot more than just the five weeks that we've been dealing with in January , we've been dealing with pretrial applications and preparation, you know, preliminary inquiries, so you know, it's been a, been a long process,” said Ross.
“I must say that I thought there’s a lot more evidence to consider and it’s always a hard case for the jury to think about when you're dealing with a young child and a family, always, everybody appreciates that. But, you know, it’s a, it’s a question of weighing the evidence, deciding what does and doesn't prove the offences so that's, I guess, I’m disappointed they didn't turn it that way, that they looked at the evidence to say, look these are issues that are really raised for them to think about, showing that this, perhaps, is a cause where reasonable doubt should have applied,” said Lutz.
Lutz says there are no winners in a case like this.
“It's a long trial and, you know, you can certainly appreciate how any of the people, any members of the family, both sides of the families are thinking about this and, like I say, the problem is there's just no winners in any of this. No good way to come out of this and have a positive spin on it,” he said.
Garland, 57, will be sentenced on Friday morning at 10:00 a.m. and his lawyers say they spoke to him briefly after the verdict about the sentencing procedure.
The jury had 89 exhibits and 48 witnesses to consider in making their decision and Justice Gates took the entire day Wednesday informing them about their responsibility, saying they had to look at the situation objectively and not let their emotions enter into it.
Jurors considered four verdicts for each victim; first or second-degree murder, manslaughter or not guilty but came back with guilty verdicts on the original charges.
More details in the case were released after the jury was sequestered, including testimony from Rod O'Brien, Nathan's father, about the public release of one of the court exhibits.
The pictures are a key piece of evidence for the Crown because lawyers said it showed the bodies of Alvin, Kathy and Nathan lying in the grass.
O’Brien told the court that he didn’t want the photo released because it would cause harm to his other two boys and even wind up on the Internet.
He said that the photo was 'going to harm' his boys, Max, 4, and Luke, 14.
O'Brien further said that his son doesn't want to talk about what happened and often seems depressed as a result of the incident.
Prosecutors also opposed to the release of the image compared it to autopsy photos that have also been withheld from public release.
Justice David Gates agreed with his testimony and ruled that the photo would not be released.
A number of details from the original investigation in 2014, including information on Garland's criminal past was not mentioned during the trial.
At that time, CTV Calgary obtained records that showed Garland was given parole just months after he had been arrested in 2000 on drug and identity theft charges.
The identity theft charges stem from an incident in 1992 where he assumed the identity of Matthew Hartley, a teenager from Cardston who was killed in a 1980 car crash.
Garland took the teen's identity in order to hide from authorities seeking his arrest on drug charges. He managed to hide for seven years in Vancouver, working as a chemist.
When he was arrested following the Liknes and O'Brien murders, he possessed a bank card bearing Hartley's name.
The documents also detailed other criminal charges against Garland including possessing a prohibited weapon and assault but those charges were thrown out.
The parole board said in its report:
"While the weapons and assault charges are indicative that you may commit a violent offence, given that you are 40 years of age and have never incurred a conviction for violence and in the absence of documented indicators of a propensity for violence, there are no reasonable grounds to believe release is likely to result in a violent crime prior to warrant expiry date."
The board also noted that Garland's mental health issues appeared to have contributed to his criminal activities, but that:
"Your mental health is assessed as having stabilized and with close monitoring in the community residential facility and by mental health professionals, you are assessed as a manageable risk. The charges you incurred were for alleged behavior prior to the current convictions."
The documents did not go into detail about the mental issues Garland suffered from.