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Bid to seek early release granted

A convicted killer has been given the green light to seek early release from prison -- and be handed a one-way ticket out of the country.

Twelve Winnipeg jurors ruled Tuesday evening in favour of Edmund Roopnarine-Singh, who was making a rare "faint-hope" application. They spent about six hours deliberating before reaching their unanimous verdict.

Roopnarine-Singh, 40, was convicted of first-degree murder for the 1995 killing of fellow inmate Bertrand Myran inside Stony Mountain Institution, where he was serving an aggravated-assault sentence at the time. Roopnarine-Singh was given an automatic term of life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 25 years.

He never denied the fatal stabbing, but claimed it was done in self-defence. Myran was an aboriginal gang leader who had been involved in putting a "hit list" out on black inmates such as Roopnarine-Singh, court heard.

Last week, Roopnarine-Singh appeared in court to ask a jury to consider his faint-hope bid under Sec. 745 of the Criminal Code. This may be one of the last hearings of its kind in Manitoba, since the faint-hope clause was outlawed in 2011 and only those convicted prior to that date can apply.

The onus was on Roopnarine-Singh to convince jurors he deserved a chance to ask the National Parole Board to release him prior to reaching his parole-eligibility date in 2020. If the jury rejected his bid, he couldn't apply. Now the parole board will have the final say.

Jurors heard testimony from several correctional officials who've worked closely with Roopnarine-Singh and support his bid for early release on the grounds he is a changed man.

Roopnarine-Singh's wife and aunt also took the stand, saying he wants to work with troubled youth and share his life story once he's paroled.

"The old Edmund is back. When I see him now, I see the person I used to know," his aunt, Hyacinth Singh, told jurors.

Roopnarine-Singh is not a Canadian citizen and faces automatic deportation back to his native Trinidad if he is released.

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