A man who took part in the beating death of a Green's Harbour man almost nine years ago walked out of court a free man today.
David Ryan (front left) talks to lawyer Bob Buckingham in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John’s. — Telegram file photo
In Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s, David Ryan was sentenced to time served.
Ryan had pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
The 54-year-old had served almost seven years in jail when he was originally convicted of second-degree murder in May 2007.
In making his decision on sentencing, Justice Alphonsus Faour went along with an agreed recommendation, presented during the sentencing hearing March 13, by Crown prosecutors Vikas Khaladkar and Mike Murray, along with defence lawyers Bob Buckingham and John Brooks.
"If my decision could bring back Richard Brace, I would, but it can't," Faour said.
Brace, 29, was found badly beaten at a house on Water Street in Carbonear July 1, 2005. He was declared brain dead and died of a hemorrhage three days later.
Ryan had been found guilty after he represented himself at his first trial in May 2007 and was sentenced to life in jail without the possibility of parole for 16 years.
However, in February 2012, the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial.
In making its decision, the appeals panel pointed out that Ryan, a man with limited education, could not fully understand the legalities of the trial and was unable to conduct a proper defence.
Ryan, who had been in jail since 2005, was released on bail in March 2012 after the Appeal Court decision.
Faour agreed that the sentence was in keeping with most sentences for manslaughter convictions, which is four to 10 years.
He said with Ryan having served almost seven years in jail, it was within the range.
He also pointed out that it was in keeping with the pleas of the two other people charged in the case — Ashley Wheadon — who incited the beating, and a male youth — who did most of the beating, also pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Wheaton was sentenced to a conditional sentence of two years less a day. The youth, who was 16 at the time, was given a three-year youth sentence in secure custody.
Ryan has abided by all conditions of his release in the last two years, including abiding by a curfew, abstaining from alcohol and reporting to police weekly.
He acknowledges alcohol and drugs played a huge part in his actions and has accepted his responsibility.
Faour also agreed the guilty plea has saved the family the strain of a lengthy trial.
Brace’s mother, Carolyn Sooley, was in court for today’s proceedings. She cried as Ryan walked out of the courtroom.
Faour called Brace's death, "a senseless and brutal act."
He noted the family still feels pain almost nine years later.
Last time in court, Ryan had said he wouldn’t have done what he did had he not been under the influence of alcohol and drugs, both prescription and non-prescription.
He said he hopes Ryan stays sober.
"His future depends on his ability to continue on this path (of sobriety)," the judge said.
He pointed out that Ryan will have the opportunity for a bright future, which was taken from Brace.
Ryan declined comment as he left the courtroom.