A man awarded the title, “Mr. Black”, in 2004 by Vancouver’s Black community, was sentenced today after being convicted on Saturday of second degree murder.Judge Arne Silverman told the packed courtroom that he had taken into consideration Dennis Knibbs’ involvement in the Black community in sentencing him. Knibbs’ lawyer, Glen Orris who has helped prepare the defense of accused serial prostitute killer Willie Pickton, told the judge that the 31 yr. old Knibbs had not only been named “Mr. Black”, he had been involved in Black History Month in Vancouver.

Knibbs, born in Montreal to Jamaican immigrants, was convicted by a jury of 8 women and four men, all Caucasian except for two women of Japanese ancestry, of murdering Trumaine “Ekoh” Habib, 21, on the night Apr. 4, 2005 . Knibbs shot Habib in the seedy New Wings Hotel on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, after Habib had shot Knibbs’ cousin in the belly. The double shooting had left residents the block by Oppenheimer Park stunned to see “police everywhere” carrying assault weapons.

The trial which began in April of this year, opened a window onto the “Vansterdam” drug culture which City Hall is attempting to curb as Vancouver prepares to “welcome the world” to the 2010 Winter Olympics. Witnesses at the Knibbs trial revealed everything from how much a crack cocaine dealer earned at the New Wings Hotel to how to buy and sell heroin without saying a word. The City closed down “The Wings” after the double murder and converted it to housing for women, many of whom are prostitute.  It was re-named  Sereena’s Place, after Sereena Abotsway, one of five Vancouver prostitutes whom Willie Pickton is now on trial for allegedly murdering.
Knibbs, the judge explained receives an automatic sentence of 25 years for murdering Habib But it’s the judge’s job to decide whether Knibbs will be eligible for parole after serving the mandatory 10 years or whether that term will be increased. Prosecutor Michael Luchencko asked the judge to set the minumum sentence at 10-13 years.
There was a tense moment in the court room when one of Knibbs’ supporters harassed the victim’s mother, a youthful Black woman with short hair, when her Victim Impact Statement was being read by the judge.
The jury, consisting of 8 women and four men, all Caucasian with the exception of 2 Asian women, had recommended that the judge allow Knibbs to be eligible for parole after serving ten years. Judge Silverman told them on Saturday that he would listen to them. And he did.

For full story, see Downtown Eastside Enquirer, which has been covering the trial live at B.C. Supreme Court.

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