Advocates outraged by not guilty verdict in shooting of pregnant woman
VANCOUVER -- Angela Marie McDougall was hoping Carleton Stevens would be convicted of attempted murder for shooting his pregnant ex-girlfriend in Vancouver last year.
Instead, the executive director of Battered Women’s Support Services is outraged after a judge found the Surrey man not guilty, despite agreeing with prosecutors that Stevens had threatened to kill his ex, and fired the shot that struck her in the stomach, killing their unborn child.
“It's these moments when we have such an egregious version of male violence and we see the criminal system failing, that it is distressing,” said McDougall.
In her ruling, Justice Jennifer Duncan found Stevens broke into the East Vancouver print shop where his pregnant ex was hiding out from him, and fired a single shot that hit her in the stomach, severing the umbilical cord and killing the fetus.
But the judge said because evidence showed the bullet passed through the arm of print shop employee Taj Lovett before hitting the victim known to the court as J.Y., she wasn’t convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that J.Y. was the intended target, or that Stevens was trying to kill her.
Justice Duncan theorized Stevens may have been aiming at Lovett, who had invited J.Y. to stay at the print shop with him.
“The court I think rightly concluded that the gun discharged during the course of a struggle. That discharge resulted in the complainant losing her baby which was notably also the accused's baby,” said Stevens' lawyer Chandra Corriveau. “And as a result of those circumstances and findings of fact she was not able to conclude he had the requisite intent for attempted murder.”
“It is a constant reminder of how disappointing and how outrageous the criminal legal system is in addressing male violence, and particularly in talking about the use of weapons and when there’s all of these risk factors,” said McDougall.
Despite the judge’s findings, Stevens’ lawyer insists her client did not come to the print shop to shoot his ex-girlfriend, saying Stevens arrived before dawn while J.Y. was sleeping to drop off the I.D. she had asked for.
“The person who actually caused harm is the person we should be concerned with catching,” said Corriveau. When asked who that is, the lawyer shrugged and said “no comment.”
Stevens is still in custody on a charge of possession of a firearm contrary to a court order. He intends to plead not guilty, and seek bail. That has McDougall concerned.
Stevens has an extensive criminal history including a 2013 conviction for threatening to kill someone else.
“We know for a fact he’s done it before, so we can assess he will do it again. We can predict that quite easily,“ said McDougall. “Whether or not that will be lethal violence, we don‘t know.”