Crown, defence deliver closing statements in Joshua La Rose murder trial

The jury at Joshua La Rose's trial heard closing statements Thursday morning. On Friday, Court of King's Bench Chief Justice Martel D. Popescul will give his instructions before the jurors are sequestered to come to a verdict. (Nicholas Frew/CBC - image credit)
The jury at Joshua La Rose's trial heard closing statements Thursday morning. On Friday, Court of King's Bench Chief Justice Martel D. Popescul will give his instructions before the jurors are sequestered to come to a verdict. (Nicholas Frew/CBC - image credit)

Thirteen jurors trying the Joshua La Rose murder trial listened intently Thursday morning as the Crown and defence delivered their closing statements.

La Rose, 42, is charged with second-degree murder for the death of Matthew Bossenberry, 32, on Aug. 24, 2020. He has pleaded not guilty.

Andrew Campbell, one of the Crown prosecutors, asked the jury to convict La Rose of second-degree murder, arguing that La Rose was not defending himself when he fatally stabbed Bossenberry, and that La Rose intended to kill Bossenberry or, if not him, another man who in the house at the time.

Defence attorney Bruce Campbell argued that La Rose was sustaining potentially lethal blows during a fight with Bossenberry and was defending himself when he stabbed the man in the chest.

"[La Rose] is not getting off the hook," the defence lawyer told the jury, noting that La Rose is already serving time and has admitted to his role in Bossenberry's death and the events leading up to it.

But, he said, the jury must weigh whether La Rose was entitled to self–defence.

Witnesses have told the court that La Rose had planned to visit a house in Regina's North Central area to confront a man living there.

La Rose, the court heard, lied his way into the home by saying he wanted to apologize to a man inside — not Bossenberry — for a past conflict. Once inside, he went to the living room and sprayed bear mace on the man.

Bossenberry, who was in the living room, jumped at La Rose and a fight ensued, the court heard. The two were initially using fists, but after the fight spilled into a back room, Bossenberry started hitting La Rose with a two-by-four.

Eventually, La Rose stabbed Bossenberry in the chest, court heard. That ended the fight and La Rose fled, eventually discarding the knife and his clothes.

First responders found Bossenberry on the front steps of the house. He was pronounced dead shortly after, court heard.

La Rose defending self: lawyer

For 40 minutes, defence lawyer Bruce Campbell argued the Crown did not meet the burden of proof needed to convict his client, while also advocating for La Rose's character.

Campbell pointed to La Rose's poise during cross-examination Wednesday, which lasted about two hours in total.

Campbell said the Crown had tried hard to find inconsistencies in La Rose's testimony, such as whether La Rose had brought the knife with him to the house.

"If he's not a truthful person, he can't hold up in a cross-examination like that," the defence lawyer said.

Campbell argued that the Crown was unable to prove several theories with the available evidence, including that La Rose went to the house with the intent to kill a man and/or Bossenberry.

He also honed in on what occurred in the back room, just before the stabbing.

Nicholas Frew/CBC
Nicholas Frew/CBC

The man who let La Rose into the house — who cannot be identified due to a publication ban — testified that Bossenberry hit La Rose with the two-by-four twice, punched him some more, used the two-by-four twice more, then threw more punches. The man told the court that La Rose eventually got up and the fist fight continued for about a minute-and-a-half, then he heard Bossenberry mention the knife.

La Rose, however, testified that he had been on the ground while Bossenberry hit him with the wood, then saw the knife lying nearby.

Campbell argued Thursday that Bossenberry, who had been sprayed with bear mace, was no longer defending himself and was delivering potentially lethal force to La Rose.

He asked the jurors to put themselves in La Rose's place and consider how they would have acted.

La Rose intended to kill: Crown 

Crown prosecutor Andrew Campbell spent an hour summarizing the evidence Thursday.

He laid out a case that La Rose's testimony couldn't be trusted and that he showed up to the house intending to kill a man inside, if not Bossenberry specifically.

"This is a case of Matthew Bossenberry acting in self-defence — not Joshua La Rose," Campbell said.

The prosecutor advised the jury to not be fooled by La Rose's stoicism while in the witness box Wednesday.

He pointed to La Rose's initial interview with police, during which he told officers that the injuries he sustained during the fight with Bossenberry were actually from jail guards who had beat him some time earlier.

La Rose, Campbell noted, had also told the court that he lied to his wife about when he received the injuries.

La Rose's wife, Wuanita, also told police that La Rose had taken the knife from her dresser, Campbell said, contradicting La Rose's testimony that he had found the knife lying next to him at the house.

La Rose's testimony about the fight in the back room also doesn't line up, Campbell said. La Rose said he wanted to leave the house, but the man who let La Rose into the house told the court that, during the fight, La Rose's back was next to the door. So, Campbell argued, La Rose could have fled, but chose not to.

Also, according to the man's testimony, Bossenberry had dropped the board before La Rose produced the knife, meaning he was unarmed and still suffering from the effects of bear mace, Campbell said.

Campbell also accused La Rose of knowing there were vital organs — namely, the heart and lungs — in the chest area and that stabbing Bossenberry there would kill him.

Ultimately, Bossenberry wouldn't have been killed had La Rose not followed through with his plan to show up to the house with bear mace, lie to get inside and spray the mace on someone inside, Campbell said.

Campbell argued that, because La Rose created the situation, self-defence does not apply in this case.

Court of King's Bench Chief Justice Martel D. Popescul, who is presiding over the case, will give instructions to the jury Friday morning.

Fourteen jurors were initially selected in case people got sick. Thirteen remain, so one will be removed before the jury is sequestered until it reaches a decision.