A convicted killer has won the support of high-ranking prison officials in his bid to seek early release.
Two veteran Correctional Service of Canada employees took the witness stand Tuesday to testify at the 'faint hope' hearing for Edmund Roopnarine-Singh.
Both women left jurors with a similar message: They believe Roopnarine-Singh, 40, has turned his troubled life around and deserves a shot at freedom.
"I'm not the easiest to get along with. I'm hard-nosed. This is the first, and probably the last, time I'll step forward and support an inmate," said correctional officer Tracy Bertrim. She has worked closely with Roopnarine-Singh in recent years while he's been serving his sentence at a minimum-security facility in Ontario.
Lynda Hoyel-Beehler, who has worked for CSC for more than 35 years, called Roopnarine-Singh a model inmate who has helped guide many troubled young men who've entered prison.
"He's a mentor to them," she said. Hoyel-Beehler spent nine years as Roopnarine-Singh's case worker and credited him with once helping stop a prison riot in Ontario.
Rooparine-Singh 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. He was given an automatic term of life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 25 years.
But Roopnarine-Singh is now asking a jury to consider his faint-hope bid under Sec. 745 of the Criminal Code. The onus is now on him to convince jurors he deserves a chance to ask the National Parole Board to release him prior to hitting his parole eligibility date in 2020.
If the jury rejects his bid, he can't apply. But if they give him the green light, the parole board has the final say.
There's an added twist to this case: Roopnarine-Singh is not a Canadian citizen and faces automatic deportation back to his native Trinidad if he is released.
Jurors are hearing plenty of details about Myran's killing, and how Roopnarine-Singh felt he acted in self-defence because Myran, and other aboriginal gang members, were targeting black inmates such as himself inside Stony. There was even evidence of previous attacks against him and a "hit list" with his name on it.
Bertrim told jurors Tuesday she's familiar with how gangs like the Manitoba Warriors -- of which Myran was a key member -- can take over prisons.
"I don't condone what happened. But given the circumstances, I can understand the situation he was in at the time," she said.
Roopnarine-Singh has upgraded his education and married a supportive woman who will also testify later in the hearing, court was told.