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Webster killer loses appeal

'I fail to see any merit in this submission': judge

DISMISSED: The BC Court of Appeal didn't buy Kris Pechet's argument that his client, Ryan Cran (above), shouldn't have been convicted for killing Aaron Webster. Credit: Dean Buscher photo

Ryan Cran is staying in jail.

On Oct 17, Cran lost his appeal of his conviction in the death of Aaron Webster.

Cran began serving six years behind bars last year for his part in the brutal beating that took the gay photographer’s life in Stanley Park almost five years ago.

Witnesses at his 2004 trial in BC Supreme Court told Justice Mary Humphries that Cran and several friends had gone to the park to beat up “peeping toms and voyeurs” and came across Webster naked except for his shoes near the park’s gay cruising trails.

Cran drove the car, brought the weapons, handed them out, then helped chase Webster across the parking lot and cornered him at his car, the court heard.

The court also heard that Cran later confessed his active participation in the killing to two different friends.

To one friend he said, “Lance, we lynched a guy. We beat this guy up.” To another he said, “Yeah, it was us,” when asked directly if he and his friends had killed Webster.

It was enough evidence to satisfy Humphries, who convicted the then-22-year-old of manslaughter.

Last month, Cran’s lawyer told the BC Court of Appeal that Humphries made a mistake convicting his client. In particular, Kris Pechet argued that the judge was wrong to attach so much weight to his client’s alleged confessions.

Cran’s statement that he “lynched a guy” does not necessarily mean he was involved in a beating, Pechet told the court.

The Court of Appeal disagreed.

“I would not accede to the submission that the trial judge erred in coming to an unreasonable verdict or one that cannot be supported by the evidence,” Justice Allan Thackray wrote in a unanimous decision for Justices Anne Rowles and Ian Donald.

“I fail to see any merit in this submission,” Thackray continued. “There is no basis upon which this court could properly interfere with that finding of the trial judge.”

The Court of Appeal also dismissed Pechet’s argument that his client was not a principal in Webster’s beating. Though Pechet conceded that Cran was present at the scene of the crime, he maintained that his client left before the final blows were struck.

“Those factors do not save Mr Cran from being guilty of manslaughter,” the judges ruled.

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

The Court of Appeal also dismissed Pechet’s suggestion that Cran’s request to friends to say nothing if asked about a pool cue stemmed from his misplaced loyalty to those involved in Webster’s death. “He didn’t want his friends to be discovered,” Pechet argued.

The justices didn’t buy that either.

“The appellant’s contention that his remarks on this point ‘simply reflected his desire to assist his friends’ lacks an air of reality,” Thackray ruled.

Cran admitted his participation to two friends and even mentioned Stanley Park, the justices pointed out.

The Court of Appeal concluded that a review of Humphries’ decision leaves “no doubt as to why the trial judge accepted the witnesses as being credible and their evidence as being reliable.”

Thackray also noted that Pechet seemed at times to be arguing against himself.

At one point, Pechet suggested that the testimony of the two youths convicted of manslaughter in the case should be relied upon, even though Humphries had dismissed their testimony as self-serving and unreliable without independent corroboration. Indeed, she ruled, the youths lied under oath.

“It is surprising that the appellant submits that the testimony of [the youths] should be relied upon on this point,” wrote Thackray, before dismissing Pechet’s appeal altogether.

Jack Herman of West Enders Against Violence Everywhere greeted the Court of Appeal decision with approval.

“I think it would give [Cran] more pause to consider being responsible for his actions,” Herman says.

While they are pleased the appeal was denied, the very fact that Cran was allowed to appeal, given that he apologized at his sentencing, continues to anger Webster’s family.

“Why does the system allow him to do this?” asks Webster’s cousin, Fred Norman. “Now he’s claiming he’s an innocent bystander.

“He was pretty well the motivator behind that attack. It’s just a piss-off that they put us through this again,” he continues.

“He should just get on with doing his time. He’s lucky he’s only doing six years. It’s a bunch of bullshit.”

Norman is calling on the city to make the park a safer place and urges the queer community to get behind that. Even just the addition of a few phone booths in the park would help, he suggests.