Guilty or not guilty?
Jurors in the Cody Alan Legebokoff murder trial were still in their deliberations Thursday morning as this newspaper went to press.
Just after 8 p.m. Wednesday jurors came back with three questions for B.C. Supreme Court Justice Glen Parrett and those questions were expected to be addressed Thursday morning. Legebokoff is charged with four counts of first degree murder in the 2009/ 2010 deaths of Jill Stacey Stuchenko, 35, Cynthia Frances Maas, 35, Natasha Lynn Montgomery, 23, and Loren Donn Leslie, 15.
Three of the killings are said to have taken place in or around Prince George, except for Leslie, whose body was found off a logging road in a treed area off Highway 27 between Vanderhoof and Fort St. James.
Following his instructions or charge to the jury which began Monday, Parrett said he was faced with the task of having to dismiss two of the 14 jurors. He explained when juries are initially selected in a criminal trial and the trial is expected to be lengthy, there is a provision which allows for more people on the panel.
However, only 12 jurors can be present during deliberations, so Wednesday each juror’s assigned number was placed in a box, two numbers were randomly drawn and jurors with those numbers were dismissed.
The trial began June 2 in courtroom 104 and during several weeks of testimony heard 93 Crown witnesses including family members of the victims, police officers, and several forensic specialists taking the stand. Legebokoff also took the stand and testified in his own defence.
Four possible verdicts are open to the jurors in each of the four counts on the indictment including:
1. guilty as charged of first degree murder
2. guilty of the included offence of second degree murder
3. guilty of the included offence of manslaughter
4. not guilty
Their decision must be reached by unanimous verdict, said Parrett.
In making some of his final points of instruction to jurors Wednesday, Parrett emphasized they must take into consideration during their deliberations the “evidence as a whole.”
Included in the judge’s charge was a review of both Crown and defence cases. Parrett said Joseph Temple’s theory was that Legebokoff acted alone in the first three murders of Stuchenko, Maas and Montgomery (Legebokoff has admitted he was the only other person present on Nov. 27, 2010 when Leslie died) and that Temple rejected what he called Legebokoff’s “incredible” story that yes, he was there during the murders taking place at his two residences (Carney Street and Liard Drive) but that other people he would identify only as X,Y and Z committed the actual murders.
In each of the three cases, Parrett noted later in his summary, Legebokoff said he had provided weapons to X, Y or Z. He found and handed over a pipe to X which X then used to kill Stuchenko; he handed a pickaroon (logging tool) to Y to kill Maas; and then a knife to Z to kill Montgomery.
Parrett also gave equal attention to a summary of the defence case put forward by lawyer James Heller, who said Legebokoff is guilty of second degree murder (but not first degree murder) and who suggested there is reasonable doubt that the murders, with respect to Legebokoff, were planned and deliberate.
Heller submits, said Parrett, the Crown’s case falls short of proving first degree murder in the case of each of the first three murders. And with respect to Leslie’s murder, the judge noted, Heller had suggested that Leslie’s emotional difficulties and psychiatric background are relevant including the fact that she’d just been released from hospital a week before her death. He’d also taken issue with the “unreliable” testimony of some Crown witnesses.
Parrett explained the law respecting first degree murder and the included offences of second degree murder and manslaughter. He told jurors a finding of first degree murder in any or all of the murders could be reached by three different routes – if they found on all the evidence it was planned and deliberate; if the murder was committed along with an act or acts of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault; or if they believed in the existence of X,Y and Z, they could find Legebokoff was a party in the murder and that he aided one or more of X, Y and Z in the commission of first degree murder.