A former Prince Albert RCMP officer who pleaded not guilty to first degree murder in the shooting of Braden Herman has been found guilty of manslaughter.
More than 70 people, not including court officials and security, gathered at the Court of King’s Bench on Thursday to hear the verdict in the case against former Mountie Bernie Herman, no relation.
Braden’s friends and family arrived wearing large buttons with his picture on them. There were audible gasps from the gallery when Judge Gary Meschishnick read his decision.
“We feel that it’s very unfair,” said Rochele Herman, one of Braden’s friends who attended the hearing with a button on her shirt.” We did kind of expect the outcome. I don’t know what else to say about it, but it is what we expected.”
“We were expecting it, but we were kind of hoping it would be something more,” added June Hansen, another one of Braden’s friends who attended the hearing.
Bernie Herman sat quietly in court while Meschishnick read the verdict. The judge said he did not believe Bernie’s testimony about having no intention to kill Braden. Meschishnick also said he did not believe Bernie acted in self-defence.
However, Meschishnick said the Crown failed to prove Bernie was not provoked before killing Braden.
Both Hansen and Rochele Herman said they believe Bernie should have been found guilty of first degree murder, based on his testimony in court. They said Braden could not tell his side of the story during the trial, so they wore buttons as a way to give him a voice.
The court did not decide on a sentencing date. Crown prosecutor Jennifer Schmidt and defence attorney Darren Kraushaar will hold a hearing via conference call with Meschishnick on Feb. 2 to finalize one. Bernie Herman was instructed to appear at that hearing via phone.
Initially, the two parties suggested an April date, however Meshishnick said that was too long to wait for sentencing.
Braden’s body was found in an isolated part of Little Red River Park on May 11, 2021. Bernie, a 32-year veteran of the RCMP, was arrested later that day.
During the trial, the Crown entered text and social media messages into evidence showing Braden and Bernie were involved in a sexual relationship. That relationship strained Bernie’s relationship with his wife and daughter, who both testified during the trial.
Both witnesses testified that the relationship was positive at the start, but deteriorated as Braden continued living with the family.
Braden and Bernie met on social media, and Bernie eventually invited Braden to live in his home. The two men began a sexual relationship one month later.
Braden continued to live with Bernie and Janice until 2019 when Janice kicked him out of the house. Braden and Bernie continued their relationship after Braden was kicked out.
Text and social media messages entered into evidence showed tension and anger between Janice and Bernie, with Janice accusing her husband of abandoning her for Braden.
“I was along for months while you had the time of your life,” reads one of Janice’s messages to Bernie.
“Am I supposed to be okay with you talking to him?” read another.
In response to one of her complaints, Bernie wrote “like he tells the truth.”
Bernie took the stand in his own defence during the trial, and told the court he did not plan to kill Braden that day and did not recall running over Braden’s body before leaving the scene.
During closing arguments, the defence argued the shooting was haphazard, panicked, and “extremely unplanned.” The defence also argued Bernie was in a “highly emotional situation” and fired his gun in a state of panic, not cold calculation.
The Crown argued Bernie was not a credible witness because he was lying to his wife about his relationship with Braden, and had gaps in his memory that were “selective and at times quite convenient”. The Crown also argued that Bernie could have distanced himself from Braden the night of the shooting, but chose not to.