The lawyer for a man convicted of killing two men in a mass shooting inside the Eaton Centre is arguing that his client should be granted extra credit for the almost two years he served in administrative segregation at two Toronto jails.
In ongoing sentencing hearings Wednesday, Dirk Derstine said Christopher Husbands should be credited for time spent isolated at the Don Jail and Toronto East Detention Centre on top of 1.5 days of credit for each day he spent during the better part of seven years in pretrial custody.
“I’m asking for an increase of two years off his sentence beyond what (he) would ordinarily be entitled to,” Derstine said outside the University Ave. courtroom Wednesday, adding he plans to argue that the prolonged use of segregation in Husbands’ case was “cruel and unusual.”
In February, Husbands was convicted of two counts of manslaughter in the June 2012 shooting that left two dead, wounded several others and sparked a panic at the downtown mall.
The jury also found Husbands guilty of five counts of aggravated assault, criminal negligence through the use of a firearm and reckless discharge of a firearm.
Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of life in prison with no chance at parole for seven years.
The Crown has earlier indicated it will seek the maximum sentence. It could also argue for a lengthy fixed-term sentence.
Husbands, 30, who took the stand Wednesday, said he was never given a clear reason why he was segregated at the now-closed Don Jail after his arrest.
He testified he served 521 days in isolation at the jail, in conditions described in court as filthy and overcrowded, locked in his cell for most of the day and only let out for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.
“After you’ve been kept in segregation for so long, you feel like you’re losing your mind,” he said.
On Wednesday, two jail staff testified Husbands was isolated from the general population because of the seriousness of his charges and the high-profile nature of his case. They claim ongoing reviews of his segregation were done to justify his prolonged stay.
During his cross-examination of Husbands, Crown prosecutor John Osirio painted the picture of a high-risk inmate who was segregated from the general population for his own safety during his stay at the jail between June 2012 and November 2013.
The Crown showed a letter Husbands allegedly wrote to a woman spelling out plans to retaliate on inmates associated with the men he had killed.
“I will punish them for f—ing my life up,” Husbands allegedly wrote in the note found by corrections officers at the Don Jail, who provided it to Toronto police. “It’s on when I see them in here.”
This is not the first time Husbands has faced a possible life sentence for the mall shooting.
Husbands was previously facing a life sentence with no parole for 30 years after he was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder following his first trial in 2014.
Prosecutors are now challenging Husbands’ manslaughter conviction in his second trial and seeking a third one, alleging the judge in that proceeding made several mistakes related to evidence.
Husbands’ sentence will in part depend on the judge’s findings stemming from the jury’s verdict since the jury does not give reasons for how they reached their decision.
Sentencing hearings are expected to continue this week.
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Jason Miller is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Reach him on email: email@example.com or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic