News
3 min

Aaron Webster: the trials

Nov 17, 2001
Aaron Webster is severely beaten and left to die in Stanley Park.

Nov 18, 2001
About 2,000 mourners march down Davie St to remember Webster and to demand an end to gaybashings.

Feb 12, 2003
More than a year after Webster’s murder, police make an arrest in the case. The Crown charges a youth, who can’t be named because he was under 18 at the time of the incident, with manslaughter.

July 30, 2003
The first youth pleads guilty.

Oct 9, 2003
Danny Rao, Ryan Cran and a second teen who can’t be named are arrested and charged with manslaughter.

Oct 15, 2003
Cran is granted bail. He soon returns to custody because his family can’t raise the money required to post his bail bond. Rao remains in jail.

Nov 28, 2003
Sentencing submissions are presented for the first youth. Crown counsel Sandra Dworkin asks for a 20-32 month sentence. She says she cannot prove the killing was a gaybashing but says the attack seemed to target peeping toms.

Dec 12, 2003
Ryan Cran is released on bail.

Dec 22, 2003
Danny Rao is released on bail.

Dec 18, 2003
Youth court judge Valmond Romilly rules the attack was motivated by hatred, calls it a gaybashing and designates it a hate crime. He sentences the first youth to three years, the maximum sentence a youth can get for manslaughter. The youth is to spend two of those years in a youth detention centre and the last year at home, under strict conditions.

Jan 22, 2004
The second youth pleads guilty.

March 31, 2004
Sentencing submissions are presented in court for the second youth. Crown counsel Greg Weber seeks the maximum sentence but does not describe the killing as a hate crime.

April 13, 2004
The preliminary hearing into the adults? case begins in Provincial Court. Cran and Rao are to be tried together as co-accused.

April 21, 2004
Youth court judge Jodie Werier sentences the second youth to three years. Though she hands him the maximum sentence as well, she does not designate the killing a hate crime. She notes that the youth was already on probation for possession of stolen property and operating a stolen vehicle at the time of Webster?s death.

May 28, 2004
Judge Jane Godfrey convicts Rao of obstructing justice after he attempts to interfere with a witness for his upcoming trial.

July 9, 2004
Rao appeals his obstruction conviction.

Nov 15, 2004
Rao and Cran’s trial begins in BC Supreme Court. Both adults plead not guilty.

Dec 10, 2004
Justice Mary Humphries convicts Cran of manslaughter but acquits Rao because, she says, there is too much reasonable doubt to find him guilty. Though the youths’ testimony clearly placed Rao as an active participant at the scene of the killing, Humphries rules their testimony is too fraught with inconsistencies, guesses and lies to be trusted ? and no one else testified conclusively against Rao at trial. Cran, however, boasted to at least one other person that “we lynched a guy.” Rao exchanges angry words with gay spectators in the courtroom before being led away for release by a sheriff.

Jan 23, 2005
About 1,000 gay protesters gather on the steps of the BC Supreme Court to demand a hate-crime designation on the eve of Cran?s sentencing.

Jan 27, 2005
Cran sentencing submissions are heard in court. Crown counsel Greg Weber asks for a six-to-nine-year sentence. He does not seek a hate-crime designation.

Feb 8, 2005
Justice Mary Humphries sentences Cran to six years for manslaughter. She does not call it a hate crime. She says she didn’t hear any evidence at trial to prove that Cran deliberately targeted a gay man.

Feb 8, 2005
Outraged gay community members and Webster’s family call for then-BC attorney general Geoff Plant to conduct an investigation into the prosecution of the case and the Crown’s decision not to seek a hate-crime designation.

December 2005
The first youth is released from custody to serve the last year of his sentence at home, under supervision.

April 20, 2006
The second youth is released from custody to serve the last year of his sentence at home, under supervision.

Feb 6, 2009
Having previously been denied early parole, Ryan Cran is released on statutory parole, after serving two-thirds of his sentence behind bars. Parole Board documents show that Cran was “involuntarily transferred to higher security while incarcerated for alcohol use.” He is instructed to abstain from alcohol, avoid people he suspects may be “involved in criminal activity,” and get counselling until his sentence ends on Feb 7, 2011.