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Webster killer appeals

Ryan Cran challenges manslaughter conviction

FLAWED JUDGMENT? Ryan Cran (above) is appealing his manslaughter conviction. Credit: Dean Buscher

The adult convicted and sentenced to six years in jail for his part in the 2001 beating death of Aaron Webster is appealing both his conviction and his sentence.

Ryan Cran’s lawyer, Kris Pechet, says his client had 30 days after the sentence to file the appeals. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to go through with either,” Pechet says. “[But] it would be folly not to [file].”

Pechet would not elucidate on his reasons for the appeals, but says it’s standard legal practice to make sure an appeal is filed within the time limit so that the possibility is not lost.

Generally speaking, lawyers can only appeal verdicts if they think the judge made a mistake in the law; it’s not enough to simply disagree with the judge’s ruling. Once a lawyer files an appeal, it’s up to the Court of Appeal to determine whether the judge made an error applying some portion of the law. If the court thinks a substantive error was made, it can quash the original ruling and order a new trial.

Pechet says that in this case, in general terms, Cran feels BC Supreme Court Justice Mary Humphries “couldn’t reach the judgment she reached on his participation” in Webster’s Nov 17, 2001 beating death.

Without going into specifics, Pechet says Humphries based her conclusions on “one or two particular statements from particular people.”

He says it was not possible to infer from the evidence that Cran had a weapon or hit Webster. But, he says, Humphries “did draw that inference.”

Humphries convicted Cran, 23, of manslaughter, Dec 10.

To be found guilty of manslaughter, one must have actively participated in the killing, or explicitly encouraged or aided others in its commission.

Cran was one of four people charged in the case. All but one pleaded or were found guilty.

The court heard that Cran drove the group to Stanley Park the night of the killing, had weapons in his car, took a weapon along with the others, walked armed from Third to Second Beach, found Webster having a smoke by the road, and chased the nearly naked man across the parking lot to his car where Webster was eventually beaten to the ground.

The court also heard that Cran later confessed his active participation in the incident to a friend at a pool hall, telling him, “Lance, we lynched a guy. We beat this guy up.”

Another witness, John Morgado, told the court that Cran confessed to him, too.

Morgado testified that Cran told him about the night he and his friends went to Stanley Park, found a guy naked and started beating him. When Morgado asked Cran directly if he killed Webster, Cran allegedly replied, “Yeah, it was us.”

Cran’s alleged confessions corroborated testimony given by two youths who were supposed to be the Crown’s star witnesses at trial. The youths had already pleaded guilty to manslaughter and agreed to testify against Cran and his co-accused, Danny Rao, in exchange for lighter sentences for themselves.

Humphries dismissed much of the youths’ evidence as self-serving and not to be believed. She then acquitted Rao, for lack of corroborating evidence against him.

Cran, however, was a different story.

“I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Cran was telling Morgado the truth when he stated that he had participated in the beating of the naked man at Stanley Park,” Humphries ruled.

“On a consideration of all the evidence, I am satisfied that the Crown has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Ryan Cran was present at the scene of the beating and participated in it as a principal,” she continued. “I find Ryan Cran guilty of the manslaughter of Aaron Webster.”

News of Cran’s appeal came as a shock to Velvet Steel of West Enders Against Violence Everywhere. “I think it’s going to anger the community, for sure,” she says.

Still, she hopes the appeal might shock more people in the community into demanding a government inquiry into the Crown’s handling of the case. Many in the community still want to know why the Crown didn’t describe the killing as a hate-motivated gaybashing at trial.

Crown spokesperson Stan Lowe says his office is still waiting to receive Pechet’s supporting materials outlining exactly what legal errors he thinks the judge made. Once those materials arrive, “we will formulate a response,” he says.