The fate of a 47-year-old Rama man who pleaded guilty to attempted murder is now in the hands of a provincial court judge.
At a sentencing hearing February 21 in the matter of Rodney Hanishewski, who shot his neighbour in 2010, the Crown and defence made arguments for imprisonment of eight to nine years and five to seven years respectively.
Prosecutor Darren Grindle focused on premeditation and Hanishewski’s lack of remorse in making the case for the Crown.
He told the court that on July 27, 2010, Hanishewski had seen the neighbour swathing hay on a quarter section owned by Clarence Hanishewski, Rodney’s brother. In August 2010, the Regina Leader-Post reported Marianne Hanishewski, Clarence and Rodney’s sister, said Rodney had felt slighted and angry when their 85-year-old mother, Helen, had turned the land over to Clarence.
After seeing the neighbour swathing, Rodney returned home where he said, “I’m going to kill the neighbour,” according to Marianne and Helen.
Rodney had retrieved two firearms from the basement of the family home, Grindle said, a Remington 306 hunting rifle and a Mossberg shotgun. He drove out to the section and waited in his car until the neighbour’s tractor reached the edge of the field. He opened fire with the rifle shattering the windshield and ripping a nine-centimetre gash in the neighbour’s shoulder.
Rodney fired nine more times, at one point attempting to follow the tractor into the field, as the neighbour tried to flee.
Grindle carefully went over photos showing the victim’s injuries and damage to the tractor that he said demonstrated the sheer lethality of the high velocity bullets.
“It’s not unreasonable to say it was sheer chance [the victim] was not killed,” the prosecutor said.
Grindle summarized the case for premeditation. After seeing the neighbour swathing, Rodney had had time to go back home, retrieve his firearms and return to field. He sat in his car and waited for the tractor to approach and had deliberately and methodically shot 10 times with time to think about what he was doing between shots.
“Most concerning” for the Crown, however, was Rodney’s lack of remorse, Grindle said. He called a pre-sentence report “not overly positive.”
The report said Rodney admitted what he did, but doesn’t take responsibility for it; that he blames his brother for the incident; and that he has no insight into his actions.
A psychiatric report described him as suspicious, paranoid and angry, diagnosing him with paranoid personality disorder characterized by distrust, excessive hostility, a history of family violence and an unwillingness to be treated.
Based on the reports, Grindle said, “the Crown has great concern for the public.”
He said deterrence and denunciation were appropriate grounds under Criminal Code sentencing guidelines for an eight to nine year term given mitigating circumstances that Rodney had no prior criminal record and had pleaded guilty, albeit after a prolonged period of time (December 6, 2012).
Grindle submitted several pieces of case law dealing with attempted murder sentencing. Terms in the submitted decisions ranged from seven to 16 years.
For the defence, Saskatoon criminal attorney Michael Nolan argued that while incarceration was necessary, the primary consideration in Rodney’s case was getting him treatment for his mental illness.
Nolan said he had hoped the pre-sentence report would have included details of treatment programs available in the correctional system adding that his own research indicated there was very little that would benefit his client.
He said he had, however, recently become aware of a pilot program at the Regional Psychiatric Centre (RPC) in Saskatoon for treating violent offenders including paranoid schizophrenics. The RPC is basically a custodial psychiatric hospital with multiple security levels for both male and female inmates.
The defence was originally going to seek a sentence of two years less a day that would have kept Rodney within the provincial system, but had decided a penitentiary term was now more appropriate in light of the RPC program. Nolan said he was seeking a court recommendation for Rodney to be incarcerated at the RPC.
Nolan addressed the case law as not being consistent with his client’s situation. Only one, he said, considered mental illness. In Rodney’s case, he explained, there is a definable problem with mental illness; that at the time of the offence, he had a brain tumour that drove him to self-medicate with alcohol; and that he is an admitted alcoholic.
The attorney continued saying the tumour had been removed while Rodney has been in jail and that he has slowly started coming around to his need for treatment and is now taking anti-depressants.
The defence also took umbrage with the psychiatric report. Nolan said Rodney hears voices and that experts in paranoid schizophrenia experts he consulted led him to believe the diagnosis of paranoid personality disorder was tenuous at best.
He encouraged the Court not to penalize Rodney for his late guilty plea saying the reason was untreated mental illness and now that he is accepting at least some treatment, he is on the way to recovery.
Following the Crown and defence submissions, Judge Patrick Koskie had only one question. He asked the defence if he, the judge, was not still faced with a defendant in the same psychological condition as described in the reports before him.
Nolan responded with a qualified yes, saying while Rodney had a long way to go in accepting responsibility for his actions, the Court could be encouraged by the fact he was making progress. However, the lawyer warned, without the recommendation for treatment at RPC, Rodney would never get well.
Koskie scheduled his decision for May 24. Whatever the judge decides, Rodney will receive credit for time served.