N.S. man pleads guilty to manslaughter in death of gay rights activist
The man accused of beating a prominent gay rights activist to death outside a Halifax bar has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Andre Noel Denny appeared in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The 36-year-old Membertou, N.S. man was initially charged with second-degree murder in the death of 49-year-old Raymond Taavel, but he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
“That isn't to say of course that it wasn't a brutal killing,” said Crown prosecutor James Giacomantonio. “It was a brutal murder. Mr. Taavel was killed in the middle of the street. He was beaten to death, for what we believe is almost no reason.”
Denny was originally scheduled to stand trial on the murder charge in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in September but it was delayed when he fired his lawyer.
“His case has had a number of issues that needed expert evidence in order to analyze the number of issues that arose,” said defence lawyer David Mahoney.
Denny was a patient at the East Coast Forensic Centre at the time of Taavel’s death in April 2012. Denny left the facility on a one-hour pass but failed to return when he was supposed to.
The court heard that Taavel was standing outside Menz Bar on Gottingen Street when he got into a fight with Denny. Denny struck Taavel twice in the head and repeatedly kicked him, pushing his head into the pavement.
“He was someone who had compromised mental health as you all know, he was a paranoid schizophrenic, and we also learned that he had consumed drugs and alcohol,” said Giacomantonio.
The Crown says now that all of the facts are known, manslaughter is a more appropriate charge than second-degree murder.
“The law requires the ability to form a specific intent to kill and under the circumstances with all of those things in play, it was just something that we didn't believe we could prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Giacomantonio.
Hundreds attended vigils for Taavel in the days following his death. Taavel, who had worked with gay rights organizations both provincially and nationally, was remembered at the time by former Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter as a champion in the fight against discrimination, violence and intolerance.
Denny agreed to the statement of facts read before the courts and, through a Mi’kmaq translator, told the judge that he regrets his actions and feels sorry for Taavel’s family.
“Mr. Taavel's family has, I suspect, been waiting for this day for a long time, as well as the community at large,” said Giacomantonio.
Denny was remanded into custody and is due to appear in court for sentencing on Jan. 25. Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Denny’s family declined to comment as they left court.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kayla Hounsell.