justice system fails miller family

On November 21, 2000, Lesley Miller began to learn the difference between the Canadian justice system, and the Canadian legal system.

It was on that day that a young man named Leo Teskey viciously attacked her husband, senior Dougald Miller, in the hallway of his apartment building, breaking his skull, ribs, nose, jaw, and ripping off an ear. He then left Dougald for dead, crumpled at the bottom of the stairs, while he broke into his apartment and car. In 2002, Teskey was convicted of aggravated assault. In 2005, he was given dangerous offender status, effectively imprisoning him indefinitely, unless he could demonstrate he was no longer a threat to society.

It has been a long and lonely road for Lesley since that awful day. Dealing with the trauma of a broken and dying husband, she would become his primary caregiver during the years when they should have been enjoying retirement. As the years passed Lesley would learn that the man who almost killed her husband had been convicted of dozens of previous offences, including a vicious attack that maimed a two year old boy, and, when he was 17, the shooting of Constable Mike Lakusta in the back of the head. (He was acquitted on a charge of attempted murder because he was impaired with LSD at the time of the shooting.)

Dougald was in a coma for eleven months before waking. Since then, he has lived with constant pain, under 24 hour care, and can only communicate by blinking his eyes. He will never recover. In 2006 Dougald spoke his first words, “It hurts … aches.” But the pain wasn’t going to stop.

In 2007 Teskey’s convictions (along with his dangerous offender status) were overturned by the Supreme court because his provincial judge had taken 11 months to provide written reasons for the original 2002 decision. A new trial was ordered. Eight months later, he was found guilty of the original charges. A dangerous offender hearing was set for last February. It continued until November, when Teskey chose to wait until only minutes before the closing arguments, at which point he fired his lawyer. This adjourned the process yet again, until this week. And once again, this awful tragedy was before the court who listened to a Corrections Canada representative explain options about what rehabilitative counseling could be afforded Teskey.

Many consider violence to be a mental illness, a burden that the offender must personally bear. Although the human brain and the chemicals that motivate it are complex matters, I find it obscene to think that actions that bring victims to the brink of death can somehow be excused from punishment.

The justice system attempts to judge a person’s motives, rather than his actions. There are times this should be considered, but most often, it causes the criminal act to be completely disregarded. At the age of 17 Teskey learned that his LSD-induced act of violence could be excused. How much did he learn through that judge’s decision? Since then, he has played the legal system like a game of volleyball. His rights have been upheld to the extent that it is a shame on the Canadian legal system. In the meantime, Lesley has sat by her husband’s side, painfully explaining the ongoing proceedings to her near-vegetative husband.

While you and I continue to pay for Teskey’s incarceration, Dougald Miller’s health compensation for victims of crime has long run out. Will Teskey ever be held accountable for his actions? Or should we expect more of the same from our Canadian “justice” system?

St. Albert Gazette | Mar 13, 2010 06:00 am | Dee-Ann Schwanke

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