‘Intense and focused’ attack
Convicted murderer must serve 14 years before applying for parole
An Eskasoni man who beat another man to death in 2015 must serve 14 years of a life sentence before he can begin applying for parole.
Supreme Court Justice Robin Gogan imposed the sentence Tuesday, having previously found Albert Michael Bernard, 38, guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Dale Frank Dennis, 36, on July 4, 2015, in Eskasoni.
While a murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence, in cases of second-degree, a court or jury decides how much time an offender must serve before becoming eligible to begin applying for parole. The minimum period to be served is 10 years and the maximum is 25 years. Having presided over Bernard’s 12-day trial, Gogan said the evidence left her with no reasonable doubt that Bernard intended to attack Dennis and cause serious bodily harm that was likely to kill him.
“He was aware of what he was doing,” said the judge, noting Bernard’s punches and kicks were focused primarily on the neck and head of Dennis.
Prosecutors Darcy MacPherson and John MacDonald recommended a 15-16 year period before Bernard would be eligible for parole while defence lawyer Darlene MacRury recommended a 10-year period. The parole time clock began ticking when Bernard was charged on July 4, 2015.
Gogan previously described the attack on Dennis as “intense and focused.”
Evidence at the trial indicated Dennis was beaten beyond recognition and that Bernard had used such force, he broke his hand.
In addition to punches, Dennis was also kicked repeatedly around the head and neck along with his groin area. At the time of the attack, Bernard was wearing steel-toed boots.
Bernard testified in his own defence and said the attack stemmed from his belief that his girlfriend was cheating on him with Dennis.
Bernard has a lengthy criminal record including convictions for other violent offences.
Two reports prepared for the court prior to sentence, describe an individual who grew up with alcohol abuse and physical violence in the home. Bernard said he began drinking at age 11 and doing drugs at age 13. At the time of the attack, Bernard was heavily intoxicated.
Family and others described Bernard as being a nice guy when he wasn’t drinking.
Police now consider him a threat to community safety and in one report for the court, Eskasoni Chief Leroy Denny said Bernard is not welcomed back to the First Nations community.
In addition to the jail sentence, Bernard is banned from possessing weapons for life and must supply a DNA sample to the national registry.
In meeting with Dennis family members outside the court Tuesday, MacPherson and MacDonald explained that Bernard will be under the supervision of the national parole board for the remainder of his life.
MacPherson explained that should Bernard breach any of the conditions imposed on him by the board, he could find himself back behind bars.
MacDonald said it will be the board that will decide where Bernard is to live and under what conditions.
MacPherson said it will be up to Bernard to apply for parole, noting it will not be granted automatically as officials will review his prison history and other factors.