The teen accused of murdering James Denton may know his fate by Aug. 1.
Supreme Court Justice R.B.T. Goepel told court Thursday afternoon following closing statements by both defence lawyer Michael Mulligan and Crown prosecutor Gordon Baines, the date is tentatively set for a decision, and if required, both lawyers should be prepared to argue sentencing following the verdict.
During the final day of the trial — which was originally scheduled until June 22 — Mulligan argued the judgment of young people, particularly that of the 17-year-old accused, is often not at an adult level.
The court heard throughout the trial that Denton, 19, was stabbed twice — once in the left armpit and once in the left lower back — near the entrance to G.P. Vanier Secondary School following the conclusion of a day-long music festival at the nearby Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds.
Mulligan argued people the age of the accused, who was 16 at the time of the incident and cannot be named because of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, believe they are invincible.
“We do our best to protect young men from themselves … we ought not to judge people of that age too harshly. Some of the choices on that night were poor ones,” he noted.
He referred to case law to note that young persons do not have an adult’s ability to see consequences.
Mulligan argued his client’s reaction to hearing of Denton’s death while in police cells is not reflective of someone who wanted to commit murder.
“His answer of, ‘Oh, my god, did that actually happen?’ and ‘I really don’t believe that. You guys aren’t kidding.’ His responses are not of a person who thought about it (the murder) and proceeded anyway,” he said. “It was a natural, immediate response. Is that the response of someone who reflected upon murder and then elected to proceed? It’s not.”
Mulligan stated the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the accused actually foresaw death and that death was the likely result, not a probable result.
He told court due to a fight last summer when the accused had been “beaten up really badly,” the incident played an impact in his client’s point of view when it came time to the confrontation between his group of friends and that of Denton’s near the school entrance.
“He believed the (confrontation) would end badly. Was he scared for his life? Yes, pretty darn close,” said Mulligan.
While Mulligan asked the judge to consider the notion of self-defence, Justice Goepel questioned the defence’s reasoning.
“If he (the accused) has a fear, why does he jump and become actively engaged in the dispute?” asked the judge.
“That’s not in my evidence. There was a response to larger, older men coming to confront them,” replied Mulligan. “From his background, he had a grave concern.”
During the Crown’s closing arguments, Baines told the judge the accused intended to cause bodily harm and that he had the subjective foresight of death.
He asked Justice Goepel to discount the accused’s evidence almost entirely as fabrication, as Baines stated he tailored his answers to the issues.
“(The accused) believed the human body can’t die by being stabbed. If that’s the case, perhaps the school board should be seeking its Dogwood back,” he added. “(The accused) was 16, he wasn’t six.”
Crown argued that the accused knew his actions were likely to result in death.
“For (the accused) to suggest he wasn’t aware that a knife could cause bodily harm, he is engaging in fanciful delusions. That’s why he’s not a credible witness,” added Baines.
Crown argued the accused knew a knife could be used as a deadly weapon, and that he used the knife in an area of the body where death was the likely result.
“It wasn’t put into his leg or buttocks,” he added. “This isn’t an academic exercise. Common sense isn’t left at the courtroom door,” he added.
On the issue of intoxication, Baines said the accused was able to walk, he had the physical dexterity to reach into his pocket and open a knife, was able to use the knife, and was able to run away from the scene after the incident. He added two police officers testified they did not find him to be impaired by alcohol.
“He was remarkably sober despite what he claimed to have consumed,” noted Crown. “There is no evidence worthy of belief that (the accused) was any more than mildly intoxicated, if that.”
Baines argued the issue of self-defence cannot be used because the accused was the aggressor and initiated the fight.
He stated following a verbal altercation, Denton sarcastically giggled at the accused. “What was (the accused’s) reaction? He took out a knife. No way could any rational person agree that was rationally proportional.”
“Based on (the accused) acting aggressively, there was no evidence that he was scared; he interjected himself into the argument, he knew he had a knife, he took it out and stabbed a boy when at the very worst he could have gotten into a fistfight. I respectfully submit he should be guilty of second-degree murder.”