Philip Butler killed brother and laid next to body, prosecutor says

Crown prosecutor Scott Hurley began his opening statements Monday afternoon with a dull list of instructions for the jury to consider, before laying out the keys to the case against Philip Butler.

Hurley told jury members they can expect to hear from two witnesses who said Butler confessed to killing his older brother, George, on May 21, 2018.

He also said one witness will testify they walked in the next morning and took a picture of the two brothers "sleeping" next to each other on the floor of Philip Butler's home in Conception Bay South.

She didn't know one of the brothers was dead, Hurley said.

None of these allegations have been proven in court, but are expected to come out as witness testimony ramps up.


Butler sat quietly in the prisoner's box as lawyers for both sides selected a jury in a lengthy process Monday morning. It's one of the last cases in Canada where the defence and prosecution will be able to dismiss potential jurors without giving a reason. New laws on jury selection recently came into effect nationwide, but some cases were exempt.

Butler, 37, looked healthy in a suit and tie — a contrast from the man who sat in the prisoner's box after his arrest in May 2018 wearing pyjama pants and a blue T-shirt.

Where he once ducked his head away from the cameras, he held his head high on Monday.

He would signal to his defence team with a nod or a head shake at times when potential jurors stepped to the front of the line to be assessed.

Confusion over status of victim, officer testifies

The first witness took the stand in the afternoon for about 15 minutes before court broke for the day.

Sgt. Cynthia Crocker, formerly of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary's forensic identification team, testified that she learned of the homicide on May 22, 2018.

She said there was conflicting information on whether the victim, George Butler, was dead when he was found at the scene. Crocker was initially told he was alive en route to hospital, but was later told he had been dead for "some time."

She went to Butler's house in Conception Bay South, but was told by a supervisor to return to headquarters and wait for the police to get a warrant to search inside the house.

Back at RNC headquarters on Parade Street in St. John's, she photographed Butler after he'd been arrested.

The jury will hear more about those photographs on Tuesday morning.

Jury selection interrupted with light moment

Butler's trial was supposed to start last Monday, but it was postponed one week due to delays from the blizzard and state of emergency in St. John's.

The entire jury pool showed up last week. All 200-plus people returned again Monday morning. 

They were faced with delays again, due to problems with the audio system in the courtroom. After about an hour, everyone cheered and clapped when the system was fixed.

Ryan Cooke/CBC

The selection process lasted until just before 1 p.m. The tedious process was interrupted with laughter when Hurley dismissed a potential juror and said it was because he was wearing a Boston Bruins hoodie.

The man had asked for an exemption to be with his pregnant wife.

A jury of seven men and five women were picked, with one man and one woman as alternates. By the time testimony started in the afternoon, one juror had been dismissed due to a problem that arose over the lunch break.

The court will hear from several police officers and paramedics, before hearing from witnesses who allegedly heard Butler's confessions.

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