Halifax man given 4-year sentence in 2012 killing of Kaylin Diggs

Devon Marteeko Downey was given a four-year sentence for manslaughter in the death of 26-year-old Kaylin Diggs, who was found unresponsive outside a downtown Halifax bar in 2012.

Judge says it's not clear why Devon Marteeko Downey punched the 26-year-old

Kaylin Diggs was found unresponsive on a downtown Halifax sidewalk and later died in hospital. An autopsy determined that he died as a result of injuries sustained in the assault. (novascotia.ca)

A man has been handed a four-year sentence for manslaughter in the death of 26-year-old Kaylin Diggs, found unresponsive on the sidewalk outside a downtown Halifax bar in 2012.

Devon Marteeko Downey will also have to supply his DNA to the court and is facing a mandatory firearms ban.

Justice Peter Rosinski delivered the sentence Friday, saying deterrence and denunciation were the most important factors in his decision. 

There were several factors that did not work in Downey's favour when it came to sentencing, Rosinski said, including the fact that Downey only pleaded guilty after incriminating text messages were ruled admissible in court and Downey's decision to tell his friends and family not to co-operate with police.

Downey pleaded guilty in February to a charge of manslaughter.

The Crown argued Downey should spend seven years behind bars, while the defence suggested a two-year sentence with three years' probation. The lawyers made their case in a courtroom filled with members of both men's families.

One deadly punch

Twenty-one members of Diggs' family were in court seated across from 19 of Downey's supporters. Extra sheriffs were called in to keep the two sides separate, while a police officer stood just outside the courtroom door. 

Diggs' family members wore T-shirts with his face emblazoned on them.

It was silent in the courtroom as the judge read his decision.

"The Diggs family has been devastated by the loss of their son, brother, boyfriend," said Crown prosecutor Rick Woodburn, "It's been incredibly difficult on them. Even after all these years, you can still hear and feel the pain."

Some of Kaylin Diggs family and friends gather outside the courtroom in Halifax. No one wished to comment on the judge's ruling. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Diggs was found lying unconscious on the ground at the corner of Argyle and Sackville streets on Aug. 11, 2012. He later died in hospital.   

Both Woodburn and lead defence lawyer Brad Sarson said this was a one-punch manslaughter. Woodburn said this type of manslaughter is fairly common and usually happens after people have been drinking.  

"When they're hit, they're knocked out literally on their feet. When they fall, if you fall a certain way you can die when you hit the ground," he said.  

The judge said it's likely that Diggs was sucker-punched but there is not enough evidence to prove that conclusively. Rosinski said Diggs was not involved in a fight with anyone at the time he was struck and it's not clear why Downey struck him.

The attack happened outside the Toothy Moose bar on Argyle Street. 

Texts used in court

Downey turned himself over to police almost three years after Diggs' death in February 2015. He has since been free on bail with several conditions.  

Woodburn argued that Downey showed no remorse for his crime and pointed to texts Downey sent after the incident; in one text, Downey is quoted as saying: "Getting my lawyer's fees together LMAO [Laugh My Ass Off]."

Crown prosecutor Rick Woodburn said that one punch manslaughters are fairly common. (Emma Davie/CBC)

The defence countered by saying the texts don't tell the whole story.

The judge's ruling should act as a deterrent, Woodburn said in court.

"A hefty jail sentence is going to come to you if you start a fight and someone dies."

He also argued that Downey told his family and friends not to co-operate with the police after the attack. 

Defence says Downey was remorseful

Sarson, Downey's lawyer, said there is no evidence that Downey started the fight. He also stated that Downey felt remorse but was following the code of the street by not expressing it openly.

No one was looking for a fight the night Diggs died, he said.

"Whether your Lordship decides on two years, or three years, or seven years, or 7,000 years, the Diggs family can never be made whole again," said Sarson. 

In his decision, Rosinski said manslaughter cases occur on a spectrum: some are closer to accidents, while others are closer to murder. Downey's case is closer to an accident, he said.