Grandson pleads guilty to lesser charge of manslaughter shouldve been first-degree murder, says daughter
TRURO - Family members of slain native elder Nora Bernard greeted her killer with hateful stares and harsh words as he was hastily led into court yesterday morning.
"I want to know if when he looks at his hands, can he see my mother's blood on there ... can he smell it?" asked Bernard's daughter Leanna MacLeod of Hilden.
As James Douglas Noel Gloade was led from the sheriff's van, his answer was brief.
Gloade, 25, pleaded guilty yesterday to manslaughter in the brutal killing of his grandmother, 72-year-old Millbrook resident Bernard. Gloade was originally charged with first-degree murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge. The plea comes one day after Bernard would have turned 73.
Bernard, a well-known native activist and champion of residential school survivors, was found dead in her home in the early hours of Dec. 27, 2007. Her death sent shockwaves throughout the community.
Gloade was remanded to custody until his sentencing on Oct. 21. His defence lawyer, Stan MacDonald, asked for a native sentencing circle. Sentencing circles involve elders, members of the victim's and accused's families, the lawyers and a judge. In order for the circle to take place, the elders of the community would have to agree to accept the case.
Both the reduced charge and the possibility of using a sentencing circle produced
anger and outrage from members of Bernard's family.
"I'm not happy about it," daughter Gail Richardson of Winnipeg said of the manslaughter plea. "I think it still should have been first-degree murder, but I will have to take what I've got."
Richardson also expressed discontent with the proposal of a sentencing circle.
"I think it's making a mockery out of aboriginal ways. This is a horrific crime, he slaughtered her ... and I've dealt with sentencing circles and healing circles and they are for minor infractions. This is not a minor infraction."
Gloade's lawyer explained the sentencing circle could only recommend outcomes to the judge and whether that recommendation is accepted is up to the presiding judge's discretion.
As a native, Gloade has the right to a circle and ultimately it's his choice, he said.
"He accepts responsibility for what happened with his grandmother. There's no happy outcome with this, but it's an acceptable plea," said MacDonald.
MacLeod also expressed her outrage at the day's outcome.
"The sentencing circle is to bring about healing, to repair the harm done. How can you possibly repair the harm done (in this case)?" she asked.
"He's never been made to take responsibility. He's never been held accountable for anything he's ever done," she added.
Gloade sat quietly throughout the short court proceedings except to whisper "yes," when Judge John MacDougall asked him to confirm his wish to plead guilty.
However, Gloade seemed to find his voice after he left the courtroom. As media waited for him to emerge from the courthouse he could be heard shouting obscenities from inside.
"Tell them to f*** off," he yelled.
Bernard would not have wanted a sentencing circle to take place, her sister Matilda Bernard tearfully told the Truro Daily News yesterday afternoon. She would have wanted Gloade to sit in a courtroom. That's why the family intends to oppose the circle's use in this case.
Gloade will also face a preliminary inquiry for first-degree murder on Oct. 21 as well as a charge of failing to report to a supervisor at 14 Court St.