Nunavut court: Colin Makpah admits to stabbing, claims self-defence
“We were all under attack that night”
Colin Makpah remembers stabbing D.J. Gamble three times with a filet knife, and described how and why he did it when he took the witness stand at his manslaughter trial May 13 at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit.
Makpah said that on Aug. 14, 2010 in Rankin Inlet, he was under attack and stabbed Gamble in self-defence.
Makpah, 29, has been on trial for manslaughter since April 29. He is currently free on bail.
Makpah said Gamble “was in a rage” that night and that he was scared of what Gamble might do to his friend Abraham Nakoolak and Gamble’s common-law spouse, Sheryl-Lynn Outchikat after all four started brawling.
Manslaughter is an unlawful killing without an intent to cause death. The offence carries no minimum penalty — except for four-year mandatory minimum that applies only when a firearm is used — and a maximum of life imprisonment.
Defence lawyer Shayne Kert called Makpah as her first and only witness in the trial which, after 11 days of testimony, has concluded for now while lawyers prepare written final arguments.
Makpah spent the day on the witness stand, first telling Kert and then Crown prosecutor Faiyaz Amir Alibhai what he remembered from the night in question.
It all began late on Friday, Aug. 13, 2010.
He told Kert the mood inside Abraham Nakoolak’s house was calm early on. Nakoolak — who is a friend from high school — Makpah, Gamble, Gamble’s common-law spouse Sheryl-Lynn Outchikat and their one-year-old daughter were all there.
“Everybody seemed to be getting along,” Makpah said.
Makpah — who didn’t know Gamble well — shared some vodka with Gamble in exchange for a gram of marijuana. Makpah said he had four or five drinks and Gamble had more than that.
Gamble left the house at one point to drop off his father’s truck, but his father disapproved of his drinking and driving.
Gamble returned “sad and upset,” Makpah testified.
Gamble left again, this time to buy baby supplies. Shortly after he returned, RCMP officers arrived at the door looking for Gamble because of reports he was driving impaired.
Makpah said Gamble and Outchikat ran upstairs to avoid police. Outchikat testified earlier at trial that Gamble escaped the house through an upstairs window.
After police left, Makpah decided to leave as well, but as he was putting on his boots to leave, Gamble returned to the house, Makpah said, and rushed past him angrily.
“The next thing I saw was Sheryl’s body falling to the floor,” Makpah said.
He told the court he didn’t actually see Gamble hit Outchikat, but it appeared that he had done so.
Nakoolak stepped between Gamble and Outchikat at which point Gamble threw Nakoolak to the floor, Makpah said.
“That’s when I told him I was going to get a knife,” Makpah said.
He ran to the kitchen and grabbed the filet knife as an “intimidation tool,” he said, because he “wanted [Gamble] to stop doing what he was doing.”
“I told him I had a knife now, and said it loud,” Makpah said.
Unfazed, Gamble grabbed Makpah’s shoulders, threw him to the floor then straddled his torso, with his hands on Makpah’s shoulders, he said.
Outchikat struck both Makpah and Gamble on the head with a vodka bottle, Makpah said, and then Gamble turned his attention back to Outchikat.
“That’s when I stabbed him,” Makpah said. “I was scared of what he might do.
“It seemed like he was out of control,” he said. “We were all under attack that night.”
Makpah said he first stabbed Gamble in the chest but it didn’t seem to slow him down so he stabbed him twice more.
Gamble fell to the floor. Makpah stood up, tossed the knife, and ran outside to a neighbour’s house, where he asked for a telephone and some Kleenex.
Makpah said he twice tried calling an ambulance, but nobody picked up the phone.
He then walked 30 minutes to his mother’s house where he called his girlfriend and told her what happened. He also chatted with Nakoolak on Facebook about Gamble’s condition, which Nakoolak said was okay. Then he went to sleep.
Later that morning, RCMP came to his house and arrested Makpah in relation to Gamble’s death. That was the first he had heard of Gamble dying.
Crown prosecutor Faiyaz Amir Alibhai grilled Makpah about what he remembered and the choices he made that night during cross-examination.
A pathologist found five “sharp wound injuries”— four stab wounds and one cut to the neck — on Gamble, but Makpah only remembers stabbing him three times.
Alibhai asked why Makpah grabbed a knife to stop Gamble and not something else, such as an empty liquor bottle or a chair.
“I don’t know,” Makpah said.
Alibhai asked Makpah if knives are used to kill people, to which Makpah responded: “Amongst other things, yes.”
“You were not going to use that knife to filet fish, right?” Alibhai asked.
Alibhai then asked if Makpah stabbed Gamble to prevent him from getting up. Makpah agreed again.
“All he tried to do at this time was try to get away from you?” Alibhai said.
“I don’t know that,” Makpah said.
Alibhai suggested the stabbing wasn’t self-defence, that Makpah was trying to hurt Gamble.
“Not true,” Makpah responded.
Alibhai also asked about the call to the ambulance and why he didn’t try calling for help from other locations after his earlier attempts failed.
“You just gave up?” Alibhai asked.
After a long pause, Makpah replied “Yes.”
Makpah said he didn’t seek help at the health centre or RCMP detachment because he “wasn’t thinking straight.”
That concludes both the Crown and defence cases. Both lawyers will now submit written final arguments to Justice Neil Sharkey, who is presiding over the trial by judge alone.
Final oral arguments will take place at a later date.