Manslaughter Charges Dropped Against Teens In Death of Man on Edmonton Bus
Band Photo: Metallica (?)
News 1130 reports: Four young men hugged weeping friends and family after Crown prosecutors dismissed manslaughter charges against them in the death of a man on an Edmonton transit bus after a fight over heavy metal music.
"The initial reaction that was played out in the media was one of a person on an ETS bus being swarmed and killed," prosecutor Bart Roberto said outside court Friday.
"I think it was actually very reductive for the public to see that once the full evidence came out, a very different story was told."
The four youths - one was 16 and three were 17 at the time of the killing - were charged with manslaughter in the March 2006 death of Stefan Conley, 35, originally from Cookshire, Que.
Initial published reports from witnesses suggested that Conley was swarmed, kicked and stomped by four rowdy teens after he told them to settle down. The beating was said to have continued after Conley fell.
But that story collapsed during a preliminary hearing, which was held in public at the request of the defence.
Under cross-examination, those witnesses acknowledged they didn't actually see any kicking or stomping because their view was blocked.
Others testified Conley interrupted a conversation among the four youths about the rock band Metallic and insulted their taste in heavy-metal music. Court heard Conley and the teens then traded jibes.
A 16-year-old girl testified that Conley, who was five-foot-11 and weighed 198 pounds, crossed the aisle and punched one of the boys. The youths fought back, but one passenger told court they stopped punching Conley as soon as he let go of their friend.
The fight lasted about 10 seconds. Between five and 10 punches were thrown.
A medical examiner testified that Conley, who had a blood alcohol level twice the legal driving limit, died from a rare injury - a pinhole tear in a tiny artery at the base of his brain, the result of a blow to the face or chin. He died within minutes of receiving it.
The case initially provoked widespread public outrage.
Security was tight at the youths' bail hearing and included a metal detector. Outside court, one person claimed to have a petition with 20,000 names on it opposing bail.
Roberto acknowledged there was a chance of more public anger over Friday's dismissals.
"The system is often complex and sometimes difficult for the general public to understand, but the system has at its heart the principle that everyone is innocent until their guilt has been proven," he said.
"Our hope is also that the community responds, not by further blame, but rather by learning from this incident that violence is not an appropriate way to settle a dispute."
Edmonton police also drew fire for their handling of the encounter. Chief Mike Boyd admitted his officers failed to act quickly enough when they received information about the fight.
The victim's father said the decision means he will now never know how his son died.
Steve Conley wanted a trial to proceed, if only to hear testimony from the four youths.
"The four of them were probably the best witnesses to what happened," he said Friday from Apsley, Ont. "I would have liked to have seen this go to trial. Then the best witnesses would have been questioned.
"I am really clueless as to the exact facts of what happened."
Source: News 1130
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