British Columbia

Sentencing begins for man who stabbed taxi passenger to death in downtown Vancouver

Crown lawyers say Kenneth Bryson Williams should be sentenced to life in prison, with no parole for 12 years. Robert Tyson Smith, 28, died in the altercation that happened in February 2014 in Vancouver's entertainment district.

Kenneth Bryson Williams was convicted of 2nd-degree murder in the 2014 attack

The aftermath of the stabbing on February 9, 2014 in Vancouver's entertainment district. Robert Tyson Smith, 28, died after he got out of his taxi to confront a man kicking and yelling at the car. (CBC)

The man who fatally stabbed a stranger during an altercation in Vancouver's entertainment district should be sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 12 years, Crown lawyers argued before a B.C. Supreme Court judge on Monday.

Kenneth Bryson Wiliams was convicted of second-degree murder in 2016. 

The conviction stems from an incident that unfolded on February 9, 2014 near the intersection of West Georgia and Granville streets in downtown Vancouver.

Robert Tyson Smith, 28, was in a taxi with a friend when a man, also with a friend of his own, began kicking and yelling at the vehicle. Smith got out of the cab to confront the man and a fight broke out. The assailant's friend  — Williams — then interjected himself between the two, lunged at Smith and stabbed him in the chest and shoulder.

Smith was taken to hospital but later died.

A second-degree murder conviction comes with a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no parole for at least 10 years. Crown lawyer Daniel Mulligan told the court on Tuesday it is asking for 12 years because of the aggravating factors.

"This was a tragic and senseless killing of an unarmed man in one of Vancouver's busiest public intersections," said Mulligan.

"Mr. Williams was in possession of a knife, while under the influence of alcohol in Vancouver's entertainment district. He represented a potential threat to every member of the public who happened to cross his path," said Mulligan.

"[He] took the life of a complete stranger."

The alcohol factor

During his trial, Williams testified that he was so drunk at the time of the incident, that he blacked out and had no memory of what had happened.

On Tuesday, his lawyer Jonathan Waddington urged the judge to consider the role alcohol played in the incident and how it ties into his upbringing.

"In my submissions, the alcohol drinking is so intertwined with his native heritage, with those specific aspects … that you can't really take them apart," said Waddington, who detailed the physical abuse Williams witnessed as a child and the history of alcohol abuse in his family.

​Williams has no previous criminal record.

Packed courtroom

Williams — who remains in custody — was in court for Tuesday's proceedings, dressed in a grey suit, tie and a blue shirt. Members of his family were sitting behind him, separated by a glass barrier.

A few dozen members of Smith's family were also in court, including his brother, Adam Smith, who read a victim impact statement to the court.

"I can't fathom how my brother life was taken for no reason and how the offender will be out living his again at some point," said Smith.

"My family and I are serving a life sentence."

Smith's father, Richard Smith, also read a victim impact statement to the court. He suffers from multiple sclerosis and talked about the effect his son's death has had on him.

"The physical symptoms and disability mean nothing to me. The reality of losing my son is an emotional disability that I will never recover from," said Smith.

"My thoughts and memories of Tyson are overwhelming: the realization that my son was savagely murdered at the hands of another."

Williams' lawyers continue to make sentencing arguments as the hearing goes on.