Good Samaritan killers get reprieve

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By Dorin Grunwald

The father of a Ryerson student killed in 1992 said the men convicted in his son’s death, whose sentences have been reduced, should be grateful for their second chance.

David Semple, father of slain photography student Paul Semple, said the two men have received “a gift.”

David Downey and Merrick Watson were convicted in the killing of the 22-year-old Good Samaritan after a six-week trial in 1994.

Downey has been released and Watson is closer to freedom after the Ontario Court of Appeal reduced their sentences.

Semple did after he and his roommates tried to help a woman and her daughter who were being attacked by the two men.  Semple was being attacked by two men. Semple was beaten with a baseball bat and then stabbed in the back with a 13-inch butcher knife.

Downey and Watson launched an appeal of their sentences after their convictions, based on the grounds that the original sentences did not reflect the true nature of the crime.  The trial judge had said Watson’s attack was “out and out gratuitous, vicious violence.”

Crown prosecutor James Ramsay said the appeal to the court’s decision “was based on what was the appropriate level of punishment for the offence.”

Watson, convicted of second-degree murder, was sentence to life in prison with no eligibility of parole for 17 years.  This was reduced to the minimum 10 years, which makes him eligible for parole in 2002.

The three-judge panel also reduced Downey’s eight-year sentence for manslaughter to four and a half years with time served.  He was released from jail when the ruling on the appeal was handed down Oct. 19.

The court’s decision wasn’t made public until early this month.

David Semple said he was surprised by the ruling at first, and experienced “some degree of anger, and then a degree of processing, looking for gratitude and forgiveness.”

Semple said Paul showed love for both the women he saved and the men who killed him.  “You live as you die and Paul died in an act of love,” his father said.

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