Kuujjuaq jury acquits local man of manslaughter
Crown prosecutors say a jury member may have made comments on local radio suggesting that the jury made its mind up before hearing all the evidence.
KUUJJUAQ — A jury acquitted a Kuujjuaq man accused of manslaughter last Friday, but this judgment may now be contested in Quebec’s Court of Appeals.
After handing down a verdict of acquittal in this case on Friday afternoon, the head of the jury then reportedly spoke over the local radio, saying that the jury’s decision to acquit the accused had been taken even before the lawyer’s arguments were presented.
Crown prosecutor Marie-Chantale Brassard said that her decision to seek an appeal will depend on the results of an investigation into the content of the broadcast.
By law, jury members are strictly forbidden from disclosing any information that does not form part of the official court record.
Edward Koneak was accused of manslaughter in the death of Brian David on September 2, 1996. According to evidence presented in court, the two began to argue in the street after they had spent the evening drinking together.
Koneak then went home to fetch a gun, a .300 Magnum Ruger. After he fired a shot, David, who also had a gun, was hit in his leg. As a result of this wound, David bled to death.
“We presented a defense based on article 341 of the criminal code, concerning self-defense,” said Koneak’s lawyer, Eric Lépine. “It can refer to a person who is defending himself and doesn’t mean to cause death.”
During the week-long trial, Koneak testified in his own defense. Koneak said that he had fired a warning shot and did not intend to injure David.
“We had confidence in the evidence and the proof,” said Lépine. “The defense was serious.”
The prosecution relied on the sequence of events and witnesses who also recalled Koneak saying “I’m going to get you” and “Don’t fuck with me, buddy,” to David during the fatal argument.
The jury deliberated for approximately two hours before delivering its decision to Superior Court judge Louis De Blois.
According to the court lawyers, most jury trials in Nunavik have ended in acquittal, with juries apparently reluctant to convict a member of their own community.
If convicted, Koneak would have faced a jail sentence of about seven years.