CALGARY — A driver who ran down a gas station attendant who had been on the job for only two weeks didn’t bat an eye Friday as he was found guilty of manslaughter in the immigrant woman’s death.
The reaction from the jurors in Calgary Court of Queen’s Bench was far different.
The forewoman tearfully answered “not guilty” when asked for the verdict on Joshua Cody Mitchell’s second-degree murder charge. Tears were running down the faces of about half of the seven-woman, five-man jury.
Maryam Rashidi, 35, had been laid off from her engineering job and had recently started work at the Centex station in Calgary when she was killed two years ago while trying to stop Mitchell from taking off without paying for $113 in fuel.
Court heard he swerved his truck to try to shake Rashidi off after she climbed on the hood and then ran over her when she fell. She died of devastating injuries.
“When I addressed the jury I told them this has been a gut-wrenching and very emotional trial. I didn’t expect it was going to be any less for them than it was for us. I wasn’t surprised to see they were emotional,” defence lawyer Kim Ross said outside court.
Ross said his client was “very happy” with the jury’s decision.
“This was the right verdict,” he said. “The jury came and obviously made the right findings of fact.”
The Crown had urged the jury to deliver a second-degree murder verdict. It argued Mitchell, 22, should have known his actions would lead to Rashidi’s death.
Prosecutor Johnathan Hak said the Crown accepts the jury’s decision
“This is a case where we asked 12 members of our community to evaluate the guilt of Mr. Mitchell. They came to a verdict that was clearly open to them to reach, and we can take no objection to the community giving its collective judgment,” he said.
“I think people mistakenly believe that being a juror is easy. It’s really hard when you have to sit in judgment of a fellow citizen and it was clearly very difficult for this jury to do what they did.”
Justice Alan Macleod expressed his gratitude before the jurors slowly left the courtroom.
“I know it’s been a difficult two weeks for you,” Macleod said. ”I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Ross said he is considering whether to ask for a presentence report for Mitchell. A sentencing date is to be set next Friday.
Rashidi and her husband came to Canada from Iran in 2014 and both had engineering jobs before being laid off when the Alberta economy started to decline. They had one son together. Her husband was not in court when the verdict was read.
Jurors deliberated for about 10 hours.
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Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press