Cape Breton fisherman James Joseph Landry was sentenced today to 14 years in prison, less time served, for the killing of a Petit-de-Grat man in the so-called “murder for lobster” case.
Chief Justice Joseph Kennedy handed down the term in Port Hawkesbury, saying Landry shot at Phillip Boudreau and injured him before using a gaff to drag the man out to sea. The judge gave the 67-year-old Landry 2½ years credit for time already served in custody.
The judge said the manner of Boudreau's death has divided the community, creating dissension and disharmony. The repercussions, he said, will endure for years and perhaps decades.
Defence lawyer Luke Craggs had argued for a less severe sentence of seven years, saying Landry was a good man who simply lost it the day Boudreau died. After the court hearing, he called Kennedy's sentence decision "excessive," and said Landry would appeal.
A jury found Landry guilty of manslaughter in November. He had been on trial for second-degree murder.
Boudreau's body has not been located. His sister, Margaret, said in a victim impact statement that the family prays his remains will be found.
She told the court Boudreau's body was left like "old bait," and said she could write for days about how his death has hurt the family. She had thought Landry was a family friend; the killing has shattered many lives.
Evidence at the trial suggested Landry and the two other crew members on the fishing boat Twin Maggies found Boudreau fiddling with their lobster traps.
The Crown had argued the Twin Maggies rammed Boudreau's boat three times at the mouth of Petit-de-Grat harbour on June 1, 2013. Prosecutors also said Landry fired four shots from a rifle, and one hit Boudreau in the leg.
Crown prosecutor Steve Drake has said Boudreau's boat overturned after it was rammed the third time, and he was then hooked with a fishing gaff and dragged out to sea.
Drake argued today that Landry should be sentenced to about 15 years in prison from what he called a barbaric manslaughter. He said Boudreau was defenceless and Landry’s acts were violent and repeated.
Craggs told the court that Landry’s narrative of events, which he told to police when interviewed following the death, stops at the point when the Twin Maggies rammed Boudreau’s vessel.
He said it is clear that the jury, in not convicting Landry of second-degree murder, did not believe testimony from another crew member about the gaffing.
Craggs said Landry has the support of family and there are community members who have no issue with him returning to the area.
The trial was filled with dramatic testimony, including videotaped statements from Landry, telling police his role in the attack that day.
Landry's lawyer has suggested his client took blame for parts of the attack that he didn't do, to protect the two other crew members — his son-in-law and another deckhand, who have young families.
Thursday's sentencing will close one chapter in this story. But three others still face charges:
- The two men on the Twin Maggies that day.
- The boat's owner, who is Landry's daughter.