The 12 jurors deciding the fate of Joshua La Rose received their instructions from the judge Friday morning in Regina and were then sequestered pending a verdict.
La Rose, 42, is charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of Matthew Bossenberry on Aug. 24, 2020. He pleaded not guilty.
"Justice will not be done if you wrongly apply the law," Court of King's Bench Chief Justice Martel D. Popescul said.
"Your decision is secret. You do not give reasons. No one keeps a record of your discussions for the Court of Appeal to review. As a result, it's very important that you accept the law from me, and follow it without question."
Over the past two weeks, court heard from various witnesses, including La Rose himself, that while the accused was in jail for unrelated offences, he made a plan to go to a house in Regina's North Central area to confront a man — not Bossenberry — who lived there, due to a previous altercation.
After his release, La Rose went to the house in question armed with bear mace, court heard. There has been conflicting testimony about whether La Rose had the knife he used to kill Bossenberry before going to the house, or if he grabbed it while there.
Court heard that La Rose knocked on the back window of the home and told the man who answered that he wanted to apologize to another person living there for a previous conflict.
After being let in, La Rose went to the living room, where several people including the man he intended to spray with bear mace were, court heard.
Once La Rose started spraying, Bossenberry, 32, jumped at him and a fight ensued, court heard. The two eventually made their way into a back room, where Bossenberry started hitting La Rose with a two-by-four that had been knocked loose into the room.
Court heard conflicting witness testimony about how the fight progressed from there, particularly how many times Bossenberry hit La Rose with the wood, where La Rose was when he produced the knife and how he came in possession of it.
Dr. Andrea Nistor, a forensic pathologist, testified that Bossenberry bled to death from a stab wound between his left ribs that punctured his lung and heart.
On Friday, Popescul spent nearly two-and-a-half hours going over the rules the jury must follow, how to weigh certain factors and evidence, and what questions the jurors must answer based on the available evidence to reach its verdict.
There are three possible verdicts: not guilty, guilty of manslaughter or guilty of second-degree murder.
If La Rose is found guilty of either murder or manslaughter he will receive a life sentence, according to the Criminal Code of Canada, but his eligibility for parole would vary depending on what he's convicted of.
For second-degree murder, he would not be eligible for parole until at least serving 10 years. For manslaughter, he'd be sentenced to life in prison "with normal eligibility for parole," the code says.
Burden of proof
To find him guilty on the murder charge, the jury must unanimously find that Crown prosecutors Andrew Campbell and David Bélanger proved beyond a reasonable doubt that La Rose caused Bossenberry's death, killed him unlawfully, and that La Rose was in the state of mind required for murder, according to Popescul.
The available evidence has proven that La Rose killed Bossenberry, Popescul said. But the jury, he said, must determine whether he assaulted Bossenberry. If so, then the jury must answer if La Rose did so in self-defence.
For self-defence to stand, the jury must agree that La Rose believed force was being used against him and that his belief was on reasonable grounds, that La Rose stabbed Bossenberry to protect or defend himself from the use of force, and that the stabbing was reasonable given the circumstances.
Popescul noted the final point will be a key question for the jury.
If the jury finds all three conditions are met, La Rose would be not guilty. But if the jury believes otherwise for any one of those conditions, the argument of self-defence fails.
If self-defence fails, the jury must determine whether La Rose either intended to kill Bossenberry, or meant to cause Bossenberry harm that he knew would likely be fatal but acted anyway.
If the jury feels the Crown proved either of those elements, La Rose will be guilty of second-degree murder. If the jury finds the Crown was unable to prove both, then he's guilty of manslaughter.
A guilty or not guilty verdict must be unanimous, Popescul said. There is the possibility of a hung jury, but Popescul urged the jurors to do what they can to come to a decision for the case.
"No jury will ever be in any better or different position to decide this case than you are now," he said.
The jury was sequestered shortly after 12:30 p.m. CST Friday.
Court will resume when the 12 jurors reach a decision.