Nunavut court: Iqaluit spouse-killer guilty of manslaughter
“He is a liar and cannot be believed”
Pitseolak Peter, 52, of Iqaluit is guilty of manslaughter, but not second degree murder, Justice John D. Rooke said in a lengthy verdict judgment that took him more than three and a half hours to read July 25 inside a packed Iqaluit courtroom.
Rooke, a deputy judge who normally sits on the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, presided over Peter’s five-day trial this week without a jury.
Rooke set the sentencing hearing for Sept. 12 in Iqaluit, to give Crown lawyers time to gather victim impact statements from Michael’s family members and to allow time for the preparation of a pre-sentence report.
There is no mandatory minimum sentence for manslaughter, except in killings committed with a firearm. The maximum is life imprisonment.
Peter was accused of second degree murder in connection with the horrific beating of his common-law partner, Kathy Makituk Michael, on Feb. 3, 2013, an event that led to her death on Feb. 17, 2013.
After receiving 24 exhibits and hearing 14 witnesses, one of whom was Peter testifying for his defence, Rooke found that Crown lawyers proved every element of their case beyond a reasonable doubt except for one: that Peter intended to kill his victim.
For that reason, the law requires that he find Peter guilty of the lesser included offence of manslaughter, Rooke said, citing numerous cases and accepted guidelines for trial judges.
In reaching that verdict, Rooke rejected theories that defence lawyer James Morton put forward in attempts to raise reasonable doubt.
That included the “mystery person” theory, in which Morton suggested a third person could have been in the house when Michael died, because of some blood from a third person found in a second bedroom.
“There is no air of reality to the suggestion of some mysterious other assailant,” Rooke said.
And he rejected the idea that Michael’s numerous injuries could have been caused by accidental falls due to intoxication.
He also rejected defence suggestions that an RCMP blood spatter expert supplied evidence that cannot be relied on.
In a lengthy discussion, Rooke said the blood spatter expert’s testimony shows that Michael’s head came into violent contact with walls and with a radiator cover at least three times.
Reading from a medical report, Rooke listed more than 30 injuries found on Michael’s body, including a broken bone in her neck, a broken nose, burns on her face, massive bruising over much of her body, a big gash above her left eye and a subdural hematoma.
A subdural hematoma is a form of bleeding inside the head of a person who has suffered a traumatic head injury and is often life-threatening.
Rooke said it’s virtually impossible that all of those injuries could have been accidental.
“It would have to be a multitude of accidents, which defies credibility,” Rooke said.
And he also rejected most of the story that Peter told when he appeared as a witness.
Peter, on July 24, said awoke after passing out from a lengthy vodka binge on Feb. 3, 2013 to find Michael in the bedroom with her head lying on the radiator, and that he dragged her into the bathroom to pour water on her burned face.
He said Peter’s two videotaped statements to police and the story that he told in court contain numerous internal contradictions and that they also contradict each other.
“This shows that he is a liar and cannot be believed,” Rooke said.
Rooke also accepted evidence from a blood spatter expert whose testimony Morton said should be given zero weight.
On the other hand, while he found that although Peter may not have been as intoxicated as he claimed, he was still intoxicated when he beat his common-law.
Between Feb. 1, 2013 and Feb. 3, 2013, Peter and Michael consumed bottle after bottle of vodka, most of which Michael had acquired from local suppliers.
But he said there is reasonable doubt as to whether Peter intended to kill Michael when he beat her into a coma, and that he has no choice but to find him guilty of manslaughter.
Peter will remain in custody at the Baffin Correctional Centre until his Sept. 12 sentencing date.