Jury begins deliberations at Nicholas Butcher’s second-degree murder trial

HALIFAX — The fate of a Halifax man accused of killing Montreal-born yoga instructor Kristin Johnston is now in the hands of the jury.

Justice Joshua Arnold delivered his final instructions to jurors Friday at Nicholas Butcher’s second-degree murder trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

Arnold told the 12-member jury there are three possible verdicts: Butcher could be found guilty of second-degree murder, guilty of manslaughter, or he could be found not guilty.

He asked the jury to make their decision “without sympathy, prejudice or fear.”

“Keep an open mind, but not an empty head,” Arnold said, reminding the jurors that there decision must be unanimous, although they don’t have to arrive at a decision in the same way.

The jury of five men and seven women deliberated for about 2.5 hours on Friday. Deliberations will resume Saturday morning.

Arnold told the jury they must ask themselves a series of questions to guide them in reaching their verdict.

He said if they’re satisfied Butcher caused Johnston’s death, but find he acted in self-defence, they must find him not guilty.

However, if they find the Crown has proven Butcher did not act in self-defence, they must then determine if he intended to kill Johnston. If they find he did not intend to kill Johnston, they would find him guilty of manslaughter.

But if they find he did intend to kill Johnston, they must then determine if Johnston provoked Butcher.

The judge said that if they’re satisfied the Crown has proven Butcher was not provoked, he would be guilty of second-degree murder. If they find he was provoked, he would be guilty of manslaughter.

Jurors returned with two questions before retiring for the night, including one about the provocation defence.

The Crown has argued that Butcher deliberately killed Johnston, but the defence says he was acting in self-defence.

In his closing arguments Thursday, defence lawyer Peter Planetary told the jury that Butcher did not intend to kill Johnston at her house on March 26, 2016.

Planetary said the 32-year-old woman had grabbed a knife as Butcher slept and stabbed him in the neck, and that Butcher was acting in self-defence when he fought back.

He suggested to the jury that Johnston was “acting quite erratically” in the days before her death after she returned home from a trip to Costa Rica and following the closing of her yoga business in Halifax.

Planetta said Johnston eventually snapped, and attacked Butcher.

The 36-year-old accused — the only witness for the defence — testified it was dark and he couldn’t see who it was, but managed to grab the knife and lash out, realizing seconds later he had killed Johnston.

Crown lawyer Carla Ball argued Butcher killed Johnston after realizing their relationship was deteriorating.

Ball suggested Butcher fatally stabbed Johnston and then tried to kill himself with the same knife before cutting off his right hand with a mitre saw.

Ball said: “He decided that if he could not have Kristin Johnston, no one else could have her.”

The court heard Butcher called 911 and told the dispatcher he had killed his girlfriend and tried to kill himself. During the call, he never mentioned that he had been attacked or that he had acted in self defence.

Butcher has a law degree from Dalhousie University but was unable to find work in his field.

Follow (at)AlyThomson on Twitter.

Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Rebels drop home opener to Oil Kings

The Edmonton Oil Kings were simply better than the Red Deer Rebels… Continue reading

Sylvan Lake cleanup cancelled

Weather prompts cancellation

Alzheimer Society’s COFFEE BREAK campaign is back

Raising money to help families with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

Orr wins UCP nomination

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA continues as UCP representative

RDC Kings topple Medicine Hat College Rattlers

Kings Matheus Alves scores twice in the win

RDC Kings topple Medicine Hat College Rattlers

Kings Matheus Alves scores twice in the win

Nurse leads Canada over South Korea 82-63 at FIBA Women’s World Cup

TENERIFE, Spain — Kia Nurse poured in 29 points to lift Canada… Continue reading

Aretha Franklin exhibit debuts with eye toward her legacy

DETROIT — The Detroit museum that hosted Aretha Franklin’s public visitations after… Continue reading

‘Anaana’s Tent’ passes Inuit songs, legends, language to a new generation

In Pangnirtung, Nunavut, on the eastern tip of Baffin Island, Rita Claire… Continue reading

Housing data decision opens door to real estate innovation, say realtors

TORONTO — Realtor Daniel Steinfeld has wanted to post home sales data… Continue reading

Ty Long kicks winning field goal, Lions come back to beat Ticats in OT

VANCOUVER — Ty Long was eager for a special moment, and he… Continue reading

Indigenous eateries take centre stage in Canada thanks to increasing awareness

VANCOUVER — Since Paul Natrall started serving Indigenous cuisine from his Mr.… Continue reading

Canada’s capital region reeling after intense tornado rips through communities

OTTAWA — Parts of Canada’s national capital were still reeling Saturday after… Continue reading

Coaches, players on Alberta university rugby team buckle up for the Broncos

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — The head coach of the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns… Continue reading

Most Read