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Three other men have been sentenced in relation to Bird’s death.
Among the witnesses to testify during the trial of McKay and Burns was an inmate who said he was severely beaten.
Crown Prosecutor John Morrall defended the testimony as reliable and “uncontradicted,” but Burns’s lawyer Blaine Beaven pointed out that when the inmate awoke in hospital 11 days later on Christmas, he initially thought he was in a car accident and had no idea he was in prison.
“He said he didn’t know he had a wife and six kids,” Beaven said.
The same man released his statement to police three months later, and Beaven said there was a lot of time for his story to be influenced by fellow inmates.
“That signifies a significant level of impairment,” Justice Scherman said.
While Burns was being released from custody on Monday, McKay was returned to the Prince Albert Correctional Centre where he is being held on remand for an unrelated matter.
In addition to Bird’s death, eight inmates were injured in connection with the riot. Two were hurt during the riot, which involved more than 180 inmates, and six more were injured by shotgun fire when prison staff stormed the rioters’ improvised barricades.
Three other men were sentenced in relation to Bird’s death. Sundance Okeymasim entered a guilty plea to a charge of aggravated assault and received a two-year sentence, Klaine Campeau received a seven-and-a-half-year sentence for his role in the attack, and Kelfert Watech received a 10-year sentence to convictions of attempted murder and second-degree murder.