Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

As Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reap

"While your health issues may limit your mobility, it does not preclude the opportunity for reoffending."
"That additional information [of Stage 4 cancer] has been forwarded indicating further metastases is not, in the board's opinion, significant new information as it pertains to mitigation of your risk. Rather, this provides information on the normal progression of the disease with which you have been diagnosed."
Parole Board of Canada

"Peter could only move from his bed to his wheelchair, and that was painful and exhausting for him. No reasonable person could feel at risk from someone in that condition."
Christian Collins, older brother of Peter Collins
"He [the 22-year-old Peter Collins] was someone who didn’t understand consequences.  He didn’t have any comprehension of what could happen, what it actually meant … "
"I wish I could have spoken to him back then. I wish things hadn’t turned out the way they did. Yeah, ----, you know, but you can’t change any of that. You can only move forward. But certainly, there’s a lot of regret around that."
"In the early years of my incarceration, I took no responsibility for my conduct or my crime. The process of being caught, convicted and sentenced only strengthened my belief that I was the victim."
"It seemed like I was always in trouble, always a bad fit. I couldn’t find my way to fix it and my parents couldn’t figure out how to fix it, either."
"The way I was able to go so far off course as a young person was because it was just me having conversations with me. I was able to justify a lot of my bullshit. But her questions [social worker], her willingness to go through it with me brought me around to the point where I was able to recognize that I was the problem, that I had to change."
"In prison, I found what I felt was a useful social purpose: trying to improve things."
Peter Collins, 53, convicted murderer 

A police veteran of ten years' standing, Constable David Utman was on parole duty at an Ottawa-area neighbourhood. He happened to be sitting at a table at a nearby mall, having a coffee when an armed and belligerent young Peter Collins came on the scene, prepping himself psychologically to commit to a robbery, until he realized the presence of the uniformed police officer. He turned to leave the mall, and then re-thought his action, deciding to return and to challenge Const.Utman.

"Get up asshole, your time has come", the young thug said to the police constable, who in turn made no move. "I told you to get up. Now." Collins repeated, after firing a gun into the wall behind where the policeman sat across from his girlfriend, both on coffee breaks from their jobs. At that the officer picked up his nightstick and slide out of his seat and rose. Collins backed up into the concourse of the mall as the officer repeatedly urged him to surrender his weapon, walking steadily toward him.

"Take out your gun. Go for your gun", Collins kept responding, according to one trial witness, while another recalled him warning the constable "Don't come any closer. Get out of my way or I'll shoot you." As the policeman reached for his walkie-talkie Collins said: "I guess I'll have to kill you", firing a single shot to the officer's chest, and he fell to the ground. At close range, the shot hit its mark to perfection, and the 38-year-old police officer died later of massive internal bleeding.


Peter Collins grew up in an intact family with four siblings. Family life was emotionally dysfunctional, and by age twelve, he was a runaway. He claims that while living on the street he had been sexually abused by two men who had gained his trust, which led him to turn to drugs to calm his emotional state. He kept company with drug dealers, bikers and sex workers, and had a swastika tattooed on one of his arms, symbolic of his belonging to a criminal underclass.

During his trial for the murder of Constable Utman, when the judge ordered him to stand for his sentencing, he refused, defiantly telling the judge "I don't want to". It made little difference; he was sentenced to an automatic life term of 25 years without parole. "Whatever his motive or reason, Peter Collins shot an unsuspecting, totally innocent policeman. Constable Utman is dead and the motive is a mystery and will remain a mystery. Only Peter Collins knows why. But it appears he isn’t willing to tell us", stated Crown attorney James Stewart at the time.

In the end, Peter Collins served 32 years in prison for murdering police Const. David Utman on October 14, 1983. He applied for compassionate release, suffering from the late stages of bladder cancer. By the time he was diagnosed, the bladder cancer was untreatable. In his request for release from prison to die in the comfort of his surrounding family members, he argued he was no longer any risk to the public.

Since his cancer was diagnosed a year ago, it had spread to his abdominal wall, his lungs and his spine. The Parole Board was unmoved. Collins had, in any event, little confidence he would be released to die at home. "I think I'm going to die in prison: that seems like a reasonable conclusion", he had stated in an interview. While in prison he had reformed himself, become an artist and musician, a social activist and advocate for prisoners.

What he could not erase was the reality that he had murdered a man whose profession it was to uphold the law and protect the public from violent acts forced upon society by people like himself. He had deprived children of their father's presence in their lives, by taking the life of a far better man than himself. Striving to make amends to society after his unspeakable act is one thing; expecting compassion when he failed that very test himself was a hope too far.

The family of Constable Utman had opposed the release of his murderer. In letters they sent to the parole board to influence their decision making they wrote of "a suffering that will never end for them", and what they wrote of how they felt of the dreadful event that forever changed their lives was noted by the panelists whose decision was final. A week after that decision was conveyed to Peter Collins, he died in prison of his cancerous condition.


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