Warning: This story contains details some readers may find disturbing.
Dillon Whitehawk's murder trial has entered its final stage after Crown prosecutors and defence attorneys presented their closing arguments to Justice Janet McMurtry at Court of King's Bench in Regina on Monday.
Whitehawk, 28, is charged with first-degree murder in the January 2020 death of 29-year-old Keesha Bitternose.
He pleaded not guilty and opted for a judge-alone trial that began on Sept. 12.
During closing arguments, Crown prosecutors Adam Breker and David Belanger argued the murder was the result of a dispute between Whitehawk and Bitternose, both of whom were part of a Regina street gang known as the Indian Mafia (IM).
Breker argued that the court should find Whitehawk guilty of first-degree murder because the killing fulfilled the three potential pathways for a first-degree murder conviction: that Whitehawk deliberately planned Bitternose's murder, that the killing was carried out for the benefit of a criminal organization and that the killing occurred while Bitternose was confined.
"There was no subtlety to the violence," Breker said. "Keesha Bitternose was brutally killed."
During the course of the trial, the court heard that Bitternose was an entry-level IM member known as a "soldier."
Whitehawk, a long-standing and ambitious member of the IM, was a "crew boss" who had soldiers working under him, court heard.
Breker told the judge that the murder was anchored within the subculture and dynamics of the gang.
Current and former IM members testified during the trial that Whitehawk targeted Bitternose because he believed she was trying to move up a rank in the gang by undermining another higher-up gang member, leading to that member's demotion days before the killing.
The demoted gang member — whose identity is protected under a publication ban — testified that on Jan. 1, 2020, Whitehawk was plotting to kill Bitternose in a drive-by shooting to help them move back up in the gang.
They testified that they did not take it as a serious plan and believed that Bitternose would receive the gang's usual 30-second beating as discipline.
Instead "it turned into something else," the witness said.
The killing happened after a New Year's Day party at a home at 1571 Cameron Street, where IM members would frequently hang out and hold meetings, court heard.
The IM member testified they were woken up by Whitehawk, who handed them an SKS rifle and told them to go downstairs. When they got to the basement they saw Bitternose on the corner of a bed with another gang member standing nearby, they said.
They testified that Whitehawk told them to shoot Bitternose, but that they couldn't and then passed the gun to the other gang member.
They then watched Bitternose — an estimated arms-length away — get shot in the stomach and fall to the ground, they said.
The witness said Whitehawk and other gang members then went upstairs, leaving the witness as the last person there aside from Bitternose.
They said they grabbed the rifle and stepped over a mumbling Bitternose on the way up the stairs.
Later, on the main level, the witness saw an injured Bitternose in the doorway of the basement trying to crawl to the back door, they said.
However, Whitehawk wouldn't let her go, they testified.
The witness testified that Whitehawk grabbed a knife and passed it to the witness, who refused to use it.
Whitehawk began stabbing Bitternose "a lot," the witness told the court.
At one point Bitternose was able to open the back door, but Whitehawk closed it with his foot, the witness said.
Defence questions witness's credibility
Defence attorney Thomas Hynes stressed to Justice McMurtry that it was not on Whitehawk or his legal team to prove anything and that the responsibility lies with the Crown.
Hynes said that the Crown's central witness is actually the individual who should be held responsible. He argued that the demoted IM member was the one with the amount of animus toward Bitternose that would be necessary for someone to carry out the violent assault.
The court heard that the autopsy conducted on Bitternose was unable to determine her exact cause of death because she had a wide range of injuries from being beaten, stabbed and possibly shot.
A forensic pathologist testified at trial that Bitternose ultimately died of a collapsed lung and severe blood loss.
Hynes argued that rather than a planned killing carried out by Whitehawk, as argued by the Crown, the murder was a crime of passion carried out by the Crown witness.
It's for that reason that the evidence the witness provided during trial should be discounted, Hynes argued.
He said the witness is not credible or reliable and that they who failed to share a full description of what actually happened that night and instead offered a sequence of events that benefited themselves and cast the blame on Whitehawk.
Hynes pointed out that during cross examination, the witness admitted to perjuring themselves in an unrelated case.
Justice McMurtry said she will release her decision on Dec. 13 at 1 p.m. CST.