Regina jury begins deliberations in murder trial of Dillon Whitehawk, accused in 2 killings in 2019

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Dillon 'Ricky' Whitehawk is brought into the Delta Hotel in Regina on April 6. He is accused of first-degree murder in the 2019 killings of  Jordan Denton, 27, and Keenan Toto, 23. (CBC - image credit)
Dillon 'Ricky' Whitehawk is brought into the Delta Hotel in Regina on April 6. He is accused of first-degree murder in the 2019 killings of Jordan Denton, 27, and Keenan Toto, 23. (CBC - image credit)

The three-week-long murder trial of Dillon Whitehawk in Regina has entered its final stage, with the jury now deliberating on a final verdict.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Neil Robertson delivered his final instructions to the jury Friday morning.

"I am the judge of the law, you are the judge of the facts," said Robertson, who gave jurors a summary of evidence and testimony made during the trial before instructing the jury on the law they must follow.

"It is your duty to accept the law as I explain it to you," he told jurors. "You must not use your ideas about what the law is or what it should be."

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

Denton, 27, was shot on Nov. 9, 2019, in a drive-by shooting. Toto, 23, was killed in a separate drive-by shooting on Dec. 1, 2019.

Whitehawk has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

The Crown has argued that the jury must reach a guilty verdict if they believe that Whitehawk killed the two men as a part of a deliberate plan.

A guilty verdict is also necessary if they determine he was under the direction of a criminal organization, if the killings were done in association with a criminal organization, or if they were done for the benefit of a criminal organization, the Crown told jurors.

Court has heard that Whitehawk was a member of a local street gang known as the Indian Mafia, or IM.

Robertson told the jury that the verdicts they reach on the two charges must must be decided separately.

"A verdict, whether guilty or not guilty, is the unanimous decision of the jury," he said in his charge to the jury, which took just under three hours.

Gang member wanted to climb ranks: Crown

The trial has focused heavily on Regina street gangs and a period of open hostility between rival gangs at the end of 2019.

Crown attorneys have alleged that the two shootings were driven by Whitehawk's desire to climb the ranks of the Indian Mafia.

Whitehawk was a crew boss in the gang. One of the ways to advance through the ranks was to commit violence against rival gang members.

Crown attorneys have alleged that Whitehawk killed Toto and Denton because he thought they were members of a gang.

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

Jurors heard testimony from Crown witnesses that Whitehawk was promoted up the ranks of the IM as a result of the shootings.

Multiple corroborating stories from witnesses point to Whitehawk as the shooter in both incidents, according to Crown attorneys.

A publication ban prohibits CBC News from identifying some of the Crown witnesses who testified.

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

'Bizarre fall guy': defence

However, defence attorneys have urged the jury to ignore the testimony of those witnesses, whom the defence described as unreliable and not credible.

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

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 leave reasonable doubt about his guilt.

He put forward other possible theories for the jury to consider, including that Whitehawk is a "bizarre fall guy" for other gang 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.

The trial, which began April 4, 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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