Nunavut jury retires to ponder verdict in Van Eindhoven murder trial
Judge explains difference between manslaughter and murder
The jury’s out in the Adrian Van Eindhoven second-degree murder case.
Justice Earl Johnson instructed a panel of jurors Oct. 15 on how to judge evidence given during a two-week trial at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit.
Van Eindhoven is accused of second-degree murder in connection with the 2004 death of his common-law spouse, 22-year-old Leanne Irkotee in Rankin Inlet.
One of the male jurors on the original 13-member jury as been excused.
That leaves a seven-man, five-woman jury to decide whether Van Eindhoven is guilty of second-degree murder, guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter, or not guilty all together.
Johnson told the jurors that the time has come when the most difficult part of their job begins.
“You are all judges now, and you have a very important responsibility,” Johnson told the jurors.
While addressing the jurors, Johnson told the panel that Crown prosecutor Nick Devlin mis-stated some evidence in his final arguments, and that he gave some personal opinion as well — something lawyers are not supposed to do.
Johnson pointed out that the possibility of Irkotee accidently stabbing herself is not a “lottery chance” as Devlin told jurors during final arguments.
An expert pathologist offered an opinion — which experts are allowed to give by law — that the stab wound is consistent with a right-handed person stabbing Irkotee, Johnson said.
But the expert, when cross-examined by defence lawyer Laura Stevens, said that while it is unlikely Irkotee fell on the knife, it is still possible, Johnson said.
Johnson reiterated that the RCMP erred by destroying evidence in 2006, such as the steak knife that lodged into Leanne Irkotee’s upper left chest, sliced the left ventricle in her heart and ultimately lead to death from blood loss.
That’s important, because a DNA expert could not examine the knife to check for blood splatters that are consistent with Van Eindhoven’s story that the knife nicked his chest and drew blood when Irkotee attacked him.
But in the pathologist’s opinion, Van Eindhoven’s story of how he had awoken to Irkotee in front of him, attacking him with a knife, did not make sense, Johnson told the jurors.
Johnson also pointed out that Van Eindhoven said he usually sleeps on his stomach, but happened to be sleeping on his back when attacked by Irkotee.
Van Eindhoven’s brother, his neighbour, and Van Eindhoven all said he was drunk immediately after the incident, the judge said.
The RCMP arresting officer, however, did not believe Van Eindhoven was drunk and did not give him a breathalyzer test.
And Johnson said it is proven that Irkotee had been drunk at the time of the incident.
Johnson also explained the difference between second-degree murder and manslaughter to the jurors.
He told that that to be guilty of second-degree murder, they would have to find that Van Eindhoven knew stabbing Irkotee could kill her.
If Van Eindhoven caused her death but had not intended to kill her, then he would be guilty of manslaughter.
Johnson said that the jurors would have to choose a chairperson to lead discussions. If they find him guilty, it must be unanimous and beyond a reasonable doubt.
The jurors may take as much time as they need until they make a decision.
They are not allowed to be separated unless there is permission from the court, and nobody outside the jury is allowed to speak to the jurors.
“Discuss your differences with an open mind,” Johnson said.
Van Eindhoven sat in court during the proceedings with a black-striped collared shirt and dark pants.
He often leaned over the defense lawyer’s desk with his hands cusped on his chin.
After the proceedings, Van Eindhoven accepted a cigarette from Tamara Fairchild, one of his lawyers, and smoked it under supervision inside a gated area.