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Sentencing hearing adjourned for Groves's bus-death conviction

Nov 26 2011

The sentencing hearing for Christopher Michael Groves was adjourned Friday when defence lawyer Bob Claus was called away to deal with a serious personal family matter.

In September, a B.C. Supreme Court jury convicted Groves, 23, of manslaughter in the death of Ariana May Simpson. The 20year-old member of Victoria's street community died after being pushed under the rear wheels of a bus on Feb. 12, 2009.

The hearing is expected to continue Dec. 13.

On Friday, both families sat in the front row of the gallery, listening to legal arguments on whether Groves should be sent to jail or receive a suspended sentence.

Court heard how the events of that night have devastated the two families. Justice Barbara Fisher listened to victim impact statements written by the Simpsons.

She also listened to Michael Groves, who testified that Simpson's death has turned his hard-working, well-liked son into "a wreck," and made his family feel like they're living in suspended animation.

Groves testified that his son was bullied in elementary school by his friend George Westwood - the same friend who decided to head to the intersection of Pandora Avenue and Quadra Street to try to buy cocaine that night.

Crown prosecutor Kimberly Henders Miller, who asked for a sentence in the range of six months to four years, called it "a very difficult sentencing."

"The Crown's position is that incarceration is required," she said.

The verdict implies that the jury rejected Groves's version of events and believed Groves intentionally pushed Simpson, said Henders Miller.

"A victim was killed and the court must be sensitive to the concerns of society," she said.

Simpson's death also devastated members of her street family, said Henders Miller.

A memorial on that corner, erected by the street community, was maintained and respected for two years. "And their loss should be respected as well," she said.

In her victim impact statement, Simpson's older sister Sheila described the mood of sadness hanging over their lives and the pain of watching her parents suffer.

"I will never be able to clear the sound of my mother's painful cries that night from my head or the absolute helplessness I felt holding her in my arms," wrote Simpson's other sister, Kelly.

"I want to be able to remember the good times we had growing up. I want to be able to remember the lovely person she was. I want to be able to say her name without my heart breaking."

Mike Simpson recalled his final goodbye with his daughter.

"Her body was covered with a white plastic sheet. We were told we should not view the body. Through her plastic shroud, I touched her for the last time. Ariana was so cold," he wrote.

"I feel a silent rage that somebody could do something like this to an innocent person," said Simpson.

In her statement, Cindy Simpson said she no longer feels safe and has developed health problems.

Claus argued that a suspended sentence with a period of probation and community service would achieve all the goals of sentencing without the damage of a jail sentence. He asked Fisher to consider that Groves is of good character and had no previous criminal record and that the push itself would not have caused any kind of injury.

It happened at a moment in time, where people came at him, said Claus.

"He had withdrawn. Miss Simpson came at him, threw something at him and came up behind him."

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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