The Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently granted bail to a Black man, Vaughan Roberts, citing the Theriault decision. In R. v. Roberts, 2021 ONSC 8401, Mr. Roberts was charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder after allegedly firing shots at two victims before fleeing a residence in Kingston, Ontario.
On August 12, 2021, an argument ensued between Mr. Roberts and Jason Wagar at an apartment before shots were fired at Mr. Wagar. Michael Muchmore was in the bathroom when the shooting occurred. When he exited the bathroom, he claims that Mr. Roberts fired two shots at him before fleeing the apartment. However, the bullets did not hit Mr. Muchmore.
After the shooting, police were called and provided a description matching Mr. Roberts. The police found Mr. Roberts jogging down the street with a backpack that contained $7,225 in cash and 76 tablets of Percocet. A fanny pack was also located close to where Mr. Roberts fled, holding a firearm that matched the one used to shoot Mr. Wagar.
The Judge’s decision
To be successful on an application to be released on bail, the Applicant must show that his detention is not necessary on three grounds: to ensure his attendance at trial, to protect the safety of the public, and to maintain confidence in the administration of justice having regard to all circumstances of the event, including the strength of the Crown’s case, the gravity of the offence, the circumstances surrounding the commission of the event, and the term of imprisonment.
The bail hearing introduced evidence to show that Mr. Roberts may have been the target of a hate crime immediately preceding the incident that took place. They also produced text messages between Mr. Wagar and another occupant of the apartment indicating that they were planning on robbing Mr. Roberts while he was sleeping. The text messages also contained inappropriate language and racial slurs to describe Mr. Roberts. Moreover, additional evidence implicated Mr. Muchmore in the plan to rob Mr. Roberts.
The Judge found that the seriousness of the offence and a potentially lengthy prison sentence warranted the charges; however, there were weaknesses in the Crown’s case, including a potential claim of self-defence. In considering the circumstances surrounding the commission of the crime, the evidence showed that Mr. Roberts may have been the target of a racially motivated attack, which under Theriault is relevant and should be considered when rendering a ruling in this matter.
Considering the context of the crime and Mr. Roberts' lack of a criminal record, the Court decided to grant bail conditions to Mr. Roberts, which included house arrest outside working hours and wearing a GPS monitoring device.
As we enter 2022, we hope to see more Judges across the country take anti-Black racism into account when they make their decisions.