Nunavut man found not guilty of 2nd-degree murder

Judge says there was reasonable doubt in Crown’s argument; incident occurred in Iqaluit in 2020

Brandon Lyta was found not guilty of second-degree murder in court on Tuesday. (File photo)

By David Lochead

Brandon Lyta, charged in the death of Levi Michael in Iqaluit in 2020, has been found not guilty of second-degree murder.

Judge Neil Sharkey delivered the verdict in court in Iqaluit Tuesday, following six days of testimony heard in court last August.

During the trial, Lyta, who was then 23, admitted to stabbing Michael, who was 29, on May 15, 2020.

The incident occurred outside a home near the 4100 block, behind Imiqtarviminiq Lake, in the early-morning hours following a poker game.

Lyta testified he thought he had won the poker game but that he became upset and tried to take the beer from the game after Michael tried to buy back in.

When confronted, Lyta grabbed a knife and the remaining money, along with the beer and cannabis, and left. He said Michael chased after him outside the apartment.

Lyta testified that when he stabbed Michael, he was acting in self-defence because Michael was hitting him with an ice chisel.

The Crown told the court it had rebutted Lyta’s claim of self-defence and proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Michael was unarmed when Lyta stabbed him.

But in his verdict, Sharkey said there were aspects of the Crown’s case he found problematic.

He pointed to testimony from a friend of both Lyta and Michael, who said he did not notice a broom and shovel on Michael’s porch that night, even though the items were there.

The point, Sharkey said, is that people do not always pay attention to objects that are around them and that it is possible an ice chisel was on Michael’s porch that night.

Sharkey said he was not persuaded by the fact that the RCMP did not find an ice chisel or knife, even though Lyta said he had thrown those two items in the area.

The area between the 4100 block apartments and the Quickstop, where Lyta tossed the items is populous, especially during warm weather in May when the incident happened, Sharkey said.

It’s possible that someone picked up the ice chisel, which has value, before police officers began their search and that RCMP simply missed the knife, he added.

“I am reminded of the trite adage that the absence of evidence is not evidence,” Sharkey said.

“I do not agree with the Crown argument that not finding an ice chisel means an ice chisel did not exist.”

Sharkey also said he did not find Lyta’s statements to a cousin the night of Michael’s death to be problematic in the case.

Lyta had gone to a cousin’s house and exaggerated the events of that night. But Lyta was significantly drunk, Sharkey noted, so it is not surprising that he would exaggerate.

Lyta lied to police when he initially told them he had not told anyone about the events of that night. But Sharkey said he did not find that Lyta’s lie to police was evidence of his guilt.

Lyta also lied to police when he told them he did not have a phone and that it had either been lost or stolen. However, Sharkey accepted Lyta’s reasoning for the lie, which was that Lyta wanted to keep the phone and sell it to provide money for his son.

While Lyta was contradictory in cross-examination in explaining where he first saw Michael with the ice chisel, Sharkey said it his impression that Lyta was doing his best to remember the events.

The arguments presented by the defence regarding Lyta’s injuries were persuasive, Sharkey said.

One of the photos presented as evidence particularly showed significant bruising on Lyta’s left tricep, which is consistent with being hit by a bar or rod, he said.

The laceration on the top of Lyta’s left elbow also matches the spot where Lyta said he was hit by the sharp part of the chisel.

Sharkey also said he did not accept that Michael was in a calm mood when leaving the apartment to chase Lyta, since Lyta had just taken the money and beer from the poker game.

Because Lyta was armed with a knife, it is reasonable that Michael would want to be armed himself, Sharkey said. It also makes sense that Michael would grab the first thing he saw on the porch, such as an ice chisel, he added.

The Crown did not disprove Lyta’s actions amounted to self-defence beyond a reasonable doubt, Sharkey said.


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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by Recruitment on

    This should be good for luring healthcare workers and teachers

  2. Posted by John K on

    I’m just glad when anything can get done at the courthouse.

    I know FAR more people who have been let go from the court than have been retained.

  3. Posted by Delbert on

    Being critical of a judge decision is not. Is not popular. But judge Sharkey. Took every opportunity to dismiss. The evidence that the prosecution presented.
    Maybe if
    the suspect would have not told so many lies. To the police investigators. I could see why the judge. Could find him not guilty.

  4. Posted by Am I Missing Something Here? on

    He was drunk and under the influence of other drugs. Grabbed the money, alcohol and cannabis and a knife – when someone went after him, he assumed he may have an ice pick. Therefore, he could stab and kill him without being at fault? This is setting an ugly precedent.

  5. Posted by Terry on

    I really tire of the insane amount of mindless violence here.

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