N.W.T. Supreme Court hears final arguments in Fort Resolution murder trial

·4 min read
According to Beck's Lawyer, Peter Harte, Beck should be convicted of manslaughter, rather than second degree murder, because he was provoked and not of sound mind. The Crown disagrees, saying they have proven Beck is guilty of murder without a reasonable doubt.  (Walter Strong/CBC - image credit)
According to Beck's Lawyer, Peter Harte, Beck should be convicted of manslaughter, rather than second degree murder, because he was provoked and not of sound mind. The Crown disagrees, saying they have proven Beck is guilty of murder without a reasonable doubt. (Walter Strong/CBC - image credit)

Final arguments were heard in N.W.T Supreme Court last Friday in the trial of Chad Beck, who is accused of second-degree murder.

In an agreed statement of facts, Beck fatally struck Cameron Sayine in the head with an axe two years ago, on July 1, in Fort Resolution. Sayine flew to the ground, resting by his friend's feet, when he was hit again in the back. He died as a result of the first blow, the court heard.

Beck attempted to plead guilty for manslaughter, but the Crown rejected that offer.

Beck's lawyer, Peter Harte, maintained that his client should be convicted of manslaughter, not second-degree murder.

Death result of a sudden reaction, defence argues

In court, Harte argued that the level of Beck's intoxication meant he was not of sound mind, and argued that Sayine had provoked Beck.

According to the agreed statement of facts, Sayine had attacked Beck numerous times that day, resulting in a gash above his eyebrows in addition to bruises on his face.

The pair had a history of violence. They'd known each other their entire lives, Beck testified in court on Feb. 17.

He said they had even been best friends at one point, but that relationship soured after an altercation between the two when Sayine stole alcohol from Beck's grandmother. Beck ran after Sayine to retrieve what was stolen, but they fought instead.

Things were never the same after that, Beck testified in court. During hi's testimony, Beck went on to describe a series of events where Sayine would "beat him up" and break in and enter his home.

Harte argued that Beck had not intended to kill Sayine, but even if he had, it was because he was provoked. Sayine was described as a bully, whom Beck grew scared of.

Harte told the court that Beck grabbed the axe upon entering the house for the purpose of scaring Sayine away, but then panicked, and swung at his head instead.

In his testimony, Beck told the court, "I was thinking, what if sees me with an axe and hits me and takes it away. I just panicked. I swung the axe as a reaction."

Crown prosecutor Jill Andrews told the court a “grizzly and horrible murder had taken place” in the cabin pictures pictured above, in Fort Resolution.
Crown prosecutor Jill Andrews told the court a “grizzly and horrible murder had taken place” in the cabin pictures pictured above, in Fort Resolution.

It was a sudden reaction after a series of violent attacks, Harte said.

Due to how much Beck had been drinking that day, Harte also argued that it was unclear whether Beck could connect bodily harm with death. When Beck testified, he said that he struck Sayine again because he did not think the first strike to the head had killed him.

Harte told the court that Beck was a quiet guy, who respects his elders and does not like to get into fights. In other words, the nature of violence inflicted that day was out of character for Beck.

But the Crown prosecutors told a different story.

Crown says Beck intentionally struck Sayine

Crown prosecutor Jill Andrews told the court that a "grizzly and horrible murder had taken place."

She said Beck had intentionally struck Sayine with the axe after he grew tired of putting up with his bullying, and ensured that he stayed down, Andrews said.

Sayine was a "nuisance" to Beck, she said. Instead of feeling remorse, Andrews argued Beck mutilated his body, when he struck Sayine several times after he was already dead, demonstrating he had "no respect for Sayine, in life and in death."

Andrews questioned the defence's argument that Beck was too intoxicated to recognize that an axe would be lethal because Beck was able to recall the events that took place that day in detail. Also, Beck was able to wield the axe with no issues, showing that his motor skills were also intact.

Beck also disposed of the axe, moved the body all the way down the property, and was coherent with police when he was eventually arrested, Andrews said.

She argued that this showed he was self-aware, contradicting the defence's stance that he was significantly impaired, when he may have been just mildly intoxicated.

Andrews assured the court that the Crown has proven Beck is guilty of second-degree murder without a reasonable doubt.

Beck "killed his bully in the most unambiguous way," Andrews concluded.

Justice Shannon Smallwood will announce her verdict on May 21, 2021.