Crown asks for life sentence for former Prince Albert RCMP officer convicted of manslaughter

Deputy sheriffs escort former RCMP officer Bernie Herman out of the Court of King’s Bench on Thursday after the Crown and defence made their sentencing submissions. Bernie was found guilty of manslaughter in the death of his former lover, Braden Herman. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Was Bernie Herman a victim of blackmail who made a wrong decision, or was he a person in a position of trust who took advantage of a vulnerable young man?

That was the question up for debate as crown and defence lawyers made their submissions at the former RCMP officer’s sentencing hearing on Thursday.

Crown prosecutor Jennifer Schmidt argued Bernie should receive a life sentence after being found guilty of manslaughter in the death of former lover Braden Herman, no relation. Meanwhile, defence lawyer Darren Kraushaar argued Bernie was a “strong candidate for rehabilitation” who had no previous criminal record.

Bernie spoke briefly on his own behalf towards the end of the hearing, telling the court he was sorry for the “time and resources wasted on this matter.” Judge Gary Meschishnick will deliver the sentence on Tuesday, June 18.

During the Crown’s submission, Schmidt argued that Bernie and Braden’s relationship was “certainly dysfunctional,” but Bernie was still in a position of trust. Schmidt told the court Braden was “as vulnerable as he could be” when Bernie shot him in an isolated part of Little Red River Park on May 11, 2021.

Schmidt described the shooting as an act of intimate partner violence, and argued the court needed to hand down a sentence that acknowledged Bernie’s high moral culpability.

Schmidt also pointed to evidence presented during the trial where Bernie called Braden a “parasite” as signs Braden was the victim. She also argued Bernie had an opportunity to leave the relationship, but never took it.

The defence described the shooting as “a tragic case” that did not warrant a high jail sentence.

Kraushaar told the court Bernie “deeply regrets” his actions. Kraushaar also described the shooting as a “split second decision.” The defence argued that Bernie had no previous criminal record, was a good dad, and overcame physical and sexual abuse at day school to have a 33-year career in the RCMP.

Kraushaar told the court Bernie suffered from PTSD due to his job in policing, was a productive member of society, and “not an offender that the court should be making an example of.”

Kraushaar argued that Bernie was a victim of blackmail, and was abused by Braden during their relationship. While that did not excuse his actions, Kraushaar said it showed Bernie was not a risk to the public, and had “very good prospects” for rehabilitation.

When asked by Meschishnick if Bernie was in a position of trust, Kraushaar said no. When asked if his position as an RCMP placed him in a position of trust, Schmidt said yes, while Kraushaar said it was not a factor.

Much of Thursday’s debate focused on comparisons between this case, and others where defendants were found guilty of manslaughter and received high sentences.

There is a minimum four-year sentence for manslaughter if it involves a firearm. Once sentenced, Bernie will be placed into protective custody as a former police officer.