Calgary jury rules woman who murdered estranged husband can ask for release 6 months early
Nancy McKinnon convicted of 1st-degree murder for 2003 death of Nick Maradyn
What sounded like it would be a big courtroom victory for convicted murderer Nancy McKinnon, ended up a small win after a jury agreed to allow her to seek early release from prison but only by six months.
McKinnon, who is serving a life sentence for the first-degree murder of Nick Maradyn in 2003, asked jurors to allow her to apply for parole five years early as part of a rare "faint hope" hearing.
The 52-year-old is eligible to ask the parole board for freedom in June 28, 2028. On Tuesday, jurors came back with their decision — McKinnon can apply for early parole but not until December 28, 2027.
'Flawed' system: victim's sister
Jurors reached their decision Tuesday night, about four hours after they began deliberating following Justice David Labrenz's final instructions on how to apply the law.
"I hope the bureaucracy is lengthy," said Vicky Maradyn, the victim's sister in reaction to the jury's decision.
She went on to call the justice system "flawed" for allowing someone convicted of a "premeditated ambush for financial gain" to apply for early release.
Earlier in the day, both the defence and prosecution delivered final arguments.
McKinnon's lawyer James McLeod asked jurors to allow McKinnon to apply to the parole board early, describing her as a "model inmate" who is no longer the "terrible person" she was when she orchestrated the execution of her estranged husband nearly 20 years ago.
'Her debt is still owed'
Following McLeod's final statement, prosecutor Shane Parker delivered his closing address, telling jurors McKinnon continues to lie and urged them to deny the application
"Her debt is still owed and unpaid," said Parker.
On June 14, 2003, McKinnon and Joey Bruso, her boyfriend of just a few weeks, lured Maradyn to a remote location near Crossfield. Bruso fatally shot Maradyn with a newly purchased high-powered rifle.
Within 48 hours, McKinnon began making claims on Maradyn's insurance policies.
The pair were due to be divorced in 10 days, making Maradyn "worth more dead than alive," said Parker.
Following a trial in 2004, McKinnon and Bruso were handed life sentences with no chance of parole for 25 years. As it stands, McKinnon is eligible for day parole in 2025 and full parole in 2028.
So-called faint hope applications were abolished by Parliament in 2011 but those convicted before then are still allowed to apply after serving at least 15 years.
McKinnon has spent 19 years and seven months behind bars.
"You must consider the character of this Nancy McKinnon — 52-year-old Nancy McKinnon, not 32-year-old Nancy McKinnon," her lawyer told the jury.
'Exceptional' prison behaviour
He asked jurors to think about how they had changed in the last 20 years and what the world had taught them in the last two decades.
"Full stop. She was a terrible person at that time," said McLeod.
"She is no longer the person she was when she committed that terrible crime."
McLeod argued McKinnon's time in prison "has been exceptional."
"We all still have the capacity for change," he said.
Parker reminded jurors they have four criteria to consider when deliberating.
McKinnon's character, her conduct, the nature of the offence and the impact the murder has had on the victims, including her son, who testified Monday.
Now 29 years old, his name is protected by a publication ban. He was nine years old when his mother murdered his father. McKinnon's son, who struggled to speak through tears, testified his life was derailed when he lost his father.
The prosecution pointed out those whose lives were "ruined" by McKinnon: her son, Maradyn's sisters and father, and Joey Bruso.
The pair knew each other for just a few weeks when Bruso killed Maradyn. In the weeks before meeting Bruso, McKinnon had asked several other men to help her kill her ex.
"Nancy McKinnon recruited a man nine years younger than her, who lived with his mother … with promises of sex, marriage, appeals to his ego … [she] played him and ruined his life," said Parker.
"Nancy McKinnon picked who would die, when he would die, where he would die and who would pull the trigger."
'Make her pay her full debt'
McKinnon was the hearing's first witness, and although she'd previously refused to accept blame, testified last week that she was ready to take responsibility.
"I'm guilty," she told jurors. "I got the ball rolling and it's all my fault."
But McKinnon refused to admit she was the one who called Maradyn. She also denied flagging him down to get him pulled over on the side of the road in the exact spot where Bruso would have a clear shot from 20 metres away, where a shell casing was found.
Her direct evidence, said Parker, was that "she was merely a fly on the wall convicted for having bad thoughts."
"She continues to hold the truth hostage," he said.
"She can wait her time, pay her debt and wait her five years to make her application to the parole board," said Parker.
"Ladies and gentlemen, make her pay her full debt."