A BC Supreme Court judge has rejected a “homophobic rage” provocation defence in sentencing a man convicted of stabbing another man to death in a hotel on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Justice Gail Dickson heard at trial that George Phillip Holt, 65, “lost it” when Reginald Haynes, 79, offered him $50 for oral sex.
Holt had gone to Haynes to get money to buy crack cocaine, the court heard.
The court heard Haynes died within about 10 minutes of being stabbed 134 times all over his body on Aug 27, 2004.
A jury convicted Holt of second-degree murder in November 2011. He was not arrested for the killing until December 2009.
On Feb 20, Dickson sentenced Holt to life in prison without possibility of parole for 10 years.
Defence lawyer Steve McMurdo told Dickson during Feb 6 sentencing submissions that Holt had been sexually abused in mental institutions and was “very uncomfortable” if he was touched in any way by a male.
“He does not respond this way if he is touched by a female,” McMurdo said.
Dickson rejected the explanation. “I’m not satisfied, on balance . . . that Mr Haynes made a sexual advance toward Mr Holt before the stabbing,” she said as Holt, clad in red prison fatigues, looked on from the wheelchair where he sat hooked up to an oxygen tank. Rather, Dickson said, “something passed between them that angered” Holt. She said that anger was fuelled by cocaine.
Dickson said the stabbing happened “for reasons that are not clearly apparent.” The attack was “prolonged and brutal,” she said.
Asked if he had anything to say, Holt replied, “I don’t know what to say. It hurts most because of what I did and I’m sorry.”
Dickson noted Holt’s ill health and said compassion should be part of sentencing.
“On occasion, justice without clemency may be injustice,” she said.
McMurdo told the judge Feb 6 that Holt’s willingness to testify indicated remorse. Dickson said she wasn’t sure Holt had the ability to fully conceive remorse.
“I am not convinced Mr Holt is remorseful in the sense that he feels empathy for Mr Haynes,” she said. Holt had “not achieved the level of moral development that would allow remorse,” she added.
She noted Holt had attempted to clean up the blood in Haynes’ room at the Columbia Hotel after the attack before returning to his own room. He then called an ambulance because he had been cut.
When later questioned about the killing, the judge noted, Holt had tried to blame two others.
Prosecutor Geordie Proulx told the judge in Feb 6 submissions that Holt had changed his story repeatedly and had problems separating fact from reality. “He’s a liar and maybe he doesn’t know he’s lying,” Proulx said.
He said Holt should receive life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 14 years.
He had told Dickson the idea that Haynes made a homosexual advance or suggestion should be given no extra weight than the suggestion that Holt took Haynes’ pulse after stabbing him repeatedly.
“He sought medical attention for himself, not for the deceased,” Proulx said. Someone in a neighbouring room said they heard banging on the walls, grunting and a high-pitched scream, Proulx said.
Holt testified at trial that he was high on cocaine at the time Haynes asked him to perform oral sex.
“I started to lose it because I have a fear of homosexuals,” Holt told the jury. But he testified he didn’t remember stabbing Haynes.
Dickson heard that blood was found on Haynes’ feet, indicating he was standing as he was being stabbed. And, she was told, his blood was also on the deadbolt of the door, indicating he had tried to escape.
“Mr Haynes fought hard for his life,” Dickson said.
Dickson heard that most of the wounds were to the head, neck and face, although some on the hands and arms could have been defensive wounds. The jugular and carotid arteries were severed.
Holt’s blood was found in Haynes’ room, but he originally denied being involved.