Judge finds Scott Hala guilty of 1st-degree murder in death of Emerald MacDonald

3-day trial brings end to 3-year-old Kugluktuk crime

A judge in Kugluktuk found Scott Hala guilty of the first-degree murder of actor Emerald MacDonald, seen here while working on the movie, “The Grizzlies.” MacDonald was killed in 2021 while staying at a cabin outside of Kugluktuk. (File photo)

By Jorge Antunes

Scott Hala has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2021 death of actor, artist and activist Emerald MacDonald near Kugluktuk.

Justice Vital Ouellette gave his verdict Thursday afternoon, at the end of the third day of the trial for Hala who was charged with killing MacDonald, an actor known for her role in the movie, The Grizzlies.

The trial began Tuesday at the Kugluktuk community hall.

Hala was also charged with attempted murder and aggravated sexual assault of MacDonald’s friend, a woman who cannot be named due to a court-ordered publication ban used to protect the identity of a sexual assault victim.

As the three-day trial proceeded, Hala pleaded guilty to the attempted murder and sexual assault charges, leaving the court to deal with the murder charge.

On Thursday, Crown and defence lawyers argued over the legal distinction between first-degree murder and second-degree murder. First-degree murder requires the killing to be planned and deliberate, while second-degree murder is the result of an act of passion.

“It is the overarching theory of the [Crown’s case] that this is a situation where Your Honour should convict for first-degree murder,” Crown lawyer Emma Baasch told the judge.

“The theory is that a plan [was] hatched in the mind of Scott Hala on the night of April 30 into [the morning] of May 1. That plan may have been rudimentary at its beginning, but developed into a full-fledged plan and concluded” with Hala committing two acts of sexual violence, she said.

The Crown recounted the events that led up to the shooting that killed MacDonald and severely injured her friend.

The two women had been staying at a cabin about five kilometres outside of Kugluktuk, starting April 29. They were visited by friends at various times during their stay.

At some point, Hala arrived and claimed his snowmobile was giving him trouble. Neither of the women knew him, but it was cold outside so they invited him to come in.

In the early morning of May 1, the two women asked Hala to leave. They then went back inside the cabin. The amount of time that Hala was outside is not known, both the Crown and defence agreed.

What is known, Baasch said, is that sometime after Hala was asked to leave, he grabbed a gun from his snowmobile and proceeded to shoot MacDonald through a window, killing her.

He then went around the side of the cabin and shot through another window, hitting MacDonald’s friend.

At some point, Hala entered the cabin and sexually assaulted MacDonald. Earlier in the trial, pathologist Tara Dixon said MacDonald would have died within minutes from her gunshot wound.

Hala then sexually assaulted MacDonald’s friend, who was unconscious.

Baasch’s argument for a first-degree murder conviction hinged on two details: whether the shooting was premeditated — meaning it both involved planning and was deliberate — and the sexual assaults that came afterward.

Baasch contended Hala shot the two women so he could sexually assault them, or that the first crime preceded the second as one unified event. If one or both of those points were true, it would be enough for the judge to convict Hala of first-degree murder, she said.

At the opening of defence lawyer Rob Warren’s argument for a second-degree charge, he conceded that, based on the evidence, the charges of attempted murder and of aggravated sexual assault were true. Hala was guilty, he said.

A member of the audience cried out after hearing Warren say Hala was guilty on those counts, leading to a reprimand from the judge.

The two lawyers argued over the timing of events. There was a gap of approximately four hours which could not be accounted for by either the defence or Crown.

Warren outlined a series of events in which Hala became angry when he was asked to leave the cabin, shot the women, then sexually assaulted them. The series of events was borne out of his anger and sadness at being asked to leave — but was not planned and deliberate, Warren said.

The judge disagreed with the Crown’s contention that the shooting and sexual assaults were “one transaction.” But he noted the methodical and planned way in which Hala killed MacDonald and shot her friend, and ruled that was enough for a first-degree murder conviction.

The sentence for first-degree murder is imprisonment for life, with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.

Hala is expected to be sentenced on Friday.


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(12) Comments:

  1. Posted by Aqpik on

    A warning should have been written about this story that it involves a sexual assault!!!

    • Posted by Northerner on

      This is an old story. It happened 3 years ago. Are you that slow to pick up stuff? This is a news article. Did you forget that? Old news. Just went off for ever because the court system up north is slow. Because we have no actual courthouse. You should know that by now. Unless you live in yukon or nwt.

      • Posted by protime on

        It’s not, read the title. “Scott Hala has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2021 death of actor” ~ Her death was in 2021, but he has now BEEN FOUND GUILTY. YES THERE SHOULD BE A TRIGGER WARNING ON STORIES REGARDING SEXUAL ASSAULT. Was that slow enough, for me to put down for you, “northerner”. How dumb.

        • Posted by What are you complaining about? on

          You know you have the option to stop reading and close the webpage at the start?

          You could just stop reading right at “Hala was also charged with attempted murder and aggravated sexual assault of MacDonald’s friend, a woman who cannot be named due to a court-ordered publication ban used to protect the identity of a sexual assault victim.”

          I don’t understand people who are not capable of doing basic things and would rather just complain. There’s an “X” on either the tab or the top of the web browser. Click that. Hopefully that was a sufficient explanation. “How dumb”.

          • Posted by Blue Moon on

            We live in a age where being a victim confers a kind of righteous status, so I would argue that such complaints as we see here are just that, a way to chase that status and the wee drops of dopamine that also follow from moral grandstanding.

        • Posted by Best Not to Have Them on

          Trigger warnings are themselves triggering and damaging – check the research.

          Given this fact, it is best not to have them.

        • Posted by Northerner on

          Imagine nunatsiaq news giving trigger warnings on articles. It’ll be like a dumb video game giving off trigger warning for flashes that could cause seizure. Is that how your brain works when you read, you read certain words and get seizure like symptoms or go into seizure? Or when you read a certain word, does your brain start clicking? Maybe you should just stick to “fun facts” on cereal boxes or the fun facts left on Dubble bubble gums or halls wrappers. When you find a fun one, hit me back ok facebook or Instagram.

        • Posted by Bobbi-Lynn MacDonald on

          This is the outcome of the crime that happened 3 years ago. If you correctly read the heading of the article you would know that.
          This is most definitely newsworthy and finally a closure for family and friends.
          As for a trigger warning, if the article went into the details of the sexual assult I could see a reason for the warning. But it didn’t.

    • Posted by are you dumb? on

      Your reading a JUSTICE news article about a murder and your worried about a trigger warning for sexual assault. Maybe just don’t read about court trials.

  2. Posted by Fred on

    We need the death penalty brought back for scumbags like him. Now we’ll all have to pay to keep him in a jail for the rest of his life, what a waste of tax payers dollars. Please don’t use Gladeau (sp) principles when sentencing him, because of his upbringing and Indigenous status, sentence him for the scumbag that he is.

    • Posted by alex on

      First degree murder has an automatic life sentence with no chance at parole for 25 years.

    • Posted by Mit on

      Monsters all bleed the same blood


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