Former RCMP officer Bernie Herman sentenced to 11 years for manslaughter

Former RCMP officer Bernie Herman is escorted out of the Court of King’s Bench in April 2024 after being found guilty of manslaughter in the death of Braden Herman. Bernie was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Tuesday, June 18. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Former Prince Albert RCMP officer Bernie Herman was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Tuesday for killing Braden Herman, no relation, in May 2021.

Herman stood quietly in court while Judge Gary Meschishnick pronounced the sentence Tuesday afternoon. He will receive credit for time served prior to the sentencing.

Braden’s brother, Brett, was one of several family members of friends in court on Tuesday. Brett said the family wanted to a life sentence for Bernie, but were not surprised it wasn’t handed down.

“It’s as fair as it’s going to be for this country, just the way our system’s setup,” Brett said. “It’s not setup too great, so that’s probably the best we’re going to get. Nothing will ever bring my brother back, and no sentence will be right.”

Brett described Braden as a good-hearted person, who was different in real life from how he was portrayed in court. During the sentencing, Meschishnick said Bernie was “abused and blackmailed by the victim”, a charge Brett disputes.

Brett said the trial was difficult for the family.

“It’s been tough for everybody,” he said. “We have an elderly woman who raised my brother, and she’s got to sit through all that and try to keep it together and it’s not easy for her. It’s not easy for any of us.”

Defence lawyer Darren Kraushaar sought a sentence of between four and six years for Bernie, while the Crown wanted a life sentence.

The Crown has already decided to appeal the verdict of manslaughter. Kraushaar said the defence will consider its options going forward.

“It (the sentence) is obviously higher that what we were hoping for and what we expected,” he said during an interview outside court house.

Crown Prosecutor Jennifer Schmidt said there was a lot of publicity surrounding the case because Bernie was a former RCMP officer who used an RCMP-issued gun to kill Braden. However, she said they argued it as an intimate partner violence case in court.

“The decision today is a significant sentence in a case that recognized there was an element of intimate partner violence that drove this behavior,” Schmidt said afterwards.

Meschishnick wrote in his judgement that Bernie “left his moral compass in his pocket” by “staying in an abusive relationship” because Bernie was worried about his own reputation.

Meschishnick wrote that Bernie’s self-interest “contributed to and underly this crime,” and that the decision led to further violence. Meschishnick wrote that Bernie’s decision to stay in the relationship rather than “choosing a moral path that led out of the conflict” was an aggravating factor.

However, Meschishnick also wrote that there was no evidence Bernie abused Braden. Instead, Meschishnick wrote, it was Braden who had a history of mentally and physically abusing Bernie.

In court, Meschishnick described the case as close to self-defence as you can get, without it being self-defence. However, he also said it was as close to murder as you can get without it being murder.

Manslaughter typically carries a sentence of between 4-12 years in Saskatchewan, although judges can hand down sentences outside of that window in extraordinary circumstances. Meschishnick rejected the Crown’s call for a life sentence is this case because Bernie did not have a prior criminal record, and was not in the process of committing another crime.

The Crown submitted three previous cases where offenders had received more than 12 years for manslaughter. However, Meschishnick said those cases involve offenders with numerous criminal convictions, with one offender alone having 39 convictions before receiving 18 years for manslaughter. Meschishnick also said those offenders committed manslaughter while engaged in other illegal activity, something that wasn’t true of Bernie Herman.

Bernie is 55-years-old and served more than 30 years as an RCMP officer before he was arrested. Corrections Canada will conduct its own risk assessment of Bernie before defending which institution to place him in.