Final arguments wrap in Dillon Whitehawk murder trial in Regina

·4 min read
Dillon 'Ricky' Whitehawk is brought into the Delta Hotel in Regina. The Whitehawk murder trial is being held at the Delta Hotel to allow for physical distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  (CBC News - image credit)
Dillon 'Ricky' Whitehawk is brought into the Delta Hotel in Regina. The Whitehawk murder trial is being held at the Delta Hotel to allow for physical distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (CBC News - image credit)

The Regina murder trial of Dillon Whitehawk entered its final stages on Thursday with Crown and defence attorneys providing closing arguments to the jury.

Whitehawk, 27, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection to the deaths of Keenan Toto and Jordan Denton.

Toto, 23, and Denton, 27, were killed in separate drive-by shootings in Regina in 2019.

The trial by jury is being held at Regina Court of Queen's Bench.

Gang member looking for advancement, says Crown

Crown attorney David Belanger outlined the prosecution's case in his closing statement.

The Crown has put forward the theory that Whitehawk committed the shootings as part of his plan to swiftly rise through the ranks of a Regina street gang known as the Indian Mafia (IM)

At the time of the shootings, IM was openly hostile with other gangs, and Whitehawk killed Toto and Denton because he thought they were members of a gang, Crown attorneys said.

Whitehawk did not have a prior relationship with either victim and is alleged to have shot them based off of the colour of the clothing they were wearing at the time.

Belanger urged the jury to return guilty verdicts on both charges.

He said that first-degree murder is the obvious conclusion if the jurors believed that Whitehawk killed the two men under the direction of the IM, for the benefit of the IM, or as part of a deliberate plan.

Testimony of key witnesses in dispute

Multiple corroborating stories from witnesses point to Whitehawk as the alleged shooter in both incidents, the Crown said Thursday.

A publication ban prohibits CBC News from identifying some of the Crown witnesses who took to the stand.

Some of the witnesses identified as members of IM and said they were in the vehicle during at least one of the drive-by shootings.

The defence argued that the jury should ignore the testimony of those witnesses, who they described as unreliable and not credible.

"There just isn't that much more [evidence] than their words," said defence attorney Thomas Hynes in his closing argument to the jury.

Hynes also said the jury should put less weight on the testimony from Crown witnesses who were testifying for their own benefit.

The Crown took another approach.

"The simple explanation is that they were telling the truth," said Belanger, urging the jury to use their common sense and believe what they were told.

Belanger said that the jury should not "shut [their] eyes to the evidence" presented to them throughout the course of the three-week trial.

No evidence ties Whitehawk to pulling the trigger: defence

Throughout their closing argument, the defence urged jurors to acquit Whitehawk.

The 27-year-old entered not guilty pleas to the charges at the start of the trial.

"I'm not saying Dillon Whitehawk is a saint. But he's not on trial for being a gangster... he's on trial for first-degree murder," Hynes said.

"He's presumed to be innocent until the Crown proves he is guilty."

Hynes provided jurors with nine reasons why they should have reasonable doubt about Whitehawk's supposed role in the killings of Toto and Denton.

Hynes argued that the Crown presented no definitive evidence that Whitehawk was the person who pulled the trigger in both shootings and said that alone should be enough to have reasonable doubt.

He put forward other possible theories for the jury to consider, including that Whitehawk is a "bizarre fall guy" for other IM members who could have fired the shots that killed Toto or Denton.

The jury had been told by witnesses that the guns allegedly used in the crimes — one of which was purchased by Whitehawk's brother — were known to have been used by IM members.

They were not the exclusive property of Whitehawk, the jury was told.

Instructions and deliberation to come

The jury will receive instructions from Justice Neil Robertson on Friday at 9:30 a.m. CST.

Twelve jurors will be sequestered and begin deliberating on a verdict soon after the instructions are completed.

The trial has been held at the Delta Hotel in order to allow for physical distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whitehawk is facing another first-degree murder charge in connection with the death of Keesha Cree Alexandra Bitternose. That jury trial is scheduled to proceed in September.

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