Canada

Top court upgrades woman's conviction to murder

The Supreme Court of Canada has upgraded a young woman's conviction for her role in the killing of a 13-year-old Edmonton girl to first-degree murder, rejecting the defence that she had a change of heart in the girl's slaying.

The Supreme Court of Canada has upgraded a young woman's conviction for her role in the killing of a 13-year-old Edmonton girl to first-degree murder, rejecting the defence that she had a change of heart in the girl's slaying.

Stephanie Bird, 21, had been convicted of manslaughter in the April 2005 slaying of Nina Courtepatte and sentenced to 12 years in prison after a trial judge agreed with the defence of "abandonment."

But in a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court found that the "evidence was incapable of supporting" the defence and that "no other defence arises on the facts."

Bird's case will now be returned to the original trial judge for a new sentencing.

If sentenced again as an adult, Bird — who was 17 at the time of the April 2005 killing — faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole eligibility for 10 years.

"It's gonna be a good Christmas because we got the decision. And I know it made Nina happy," said Courtepatte's mother Peacha Atkinson. "She's gonna have a good Christmas up there, too."

Bird was part of group of people who lured Courtepatte and her friend from the West Edmonton Mall on the pretense they were going to a party.

They were taken to a golf course. While they were walking, Bird hit Courtepatte with a wrench. Courtepatte was then held down and sexually assaulted.

Although Bird held down Courtepatte for a brief time, she returned to the car before Courtepatte was beaten to death.

The Crown had charged Bird with first-degree murder, but Bird's lawyers used the defence of "abandonment," claiming their client had a change of heart in the killing.

The trial judge agreed and found Bird guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter. Alberta's Court of Appeal upheld that ruling.

With files from The Canadian Press

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