Jury begins deliberations at trial of man accused in death of off-duty cop

HALIFAX — The fate of Christopher Garnier, accused of punching and strangling Nova Scotia police officer Catherine Campbell and using a compost bin to dump her body, is now in the hands of the jury.

Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Joshua Arnold delivered his final instructions to the jury Wednesday before deliberations began around 6 p.m. They wrapped up only 30 minutes later, and were to continue Thursday morning.

Garnier is charged with second-degree murder and interfering with a dead body in the death of Campbell, a 36-year-old Truro police constable who was off-duty when she met Garnier at a downtown bar.

The Crown alleges Garnier punched and strangled Campbell inside a Halifax apartment in the early hours of Sept. 11, 2015, and disposed of her body near Halifax’s Macdonald Bridge.

The defence has argued that Campbell died accidentally during consensual rough sex.

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

“You must consider the evidence and make your decision without sympathy, prejudice or fear,” Arnold said during his four-hour address, as Garnier sat quietly at his lawyer’s bench.

The judge instructed the jury on what he called a “decision tree,” in which the jurors answer a series of questions to guide them in reaching their verdict.

Those questions — the essential elements of the second-degree murder charge — include whether Garnier caused the death of Campbell, whether he caused it unlawfully, and whether Garnier intended to kill Campbell.

For example, if the jury was satisfied that Garnier caused Campbell’s death, and caused it unlawfully, but found he did not intend to kill Campbell, he would be found guilty of manslaughter.

If the jury answered all three questions with “yes,” Garnier would be found guilty of second-degree murder, the judge said.

For the second charge, Arnold explained that if the jury determined Garnier did interfere with Campbell’s remains, they must then determine if he was in a state of automatism at the time.

Defence lawyer Joel Pink had argued in his closing arguments Monday that the defence of automatism was available to Garnier. The trial heard Garnier claim he cannot remember much of what happened after Campbell’s death.

Arnold explained that automatism is when a person is in a state of impaired consciousness and does not have voluntary control of their actions.

He said if the jury finds Garnier was in a state of automatism following Campbell’s death, then the jury must find him not guilty of interfering with a dead body.

Arnold told jury members their verdicts must be unanimous.

“Although the verdict on any count must be unanimous, the path each of you takes, and the evidence on which each of you relies to reach that conclusion, need not be the same,” Arnold said as jurors jotted down notes.

Just before deliberations began, two members of the 14-member jury panel were dismissed. A jury of seven women and five men will decide Garnier’s fate.

Pink has asked the jury to find his client not guilty of both charges.

Crown attorney Christine Driscoll said during her closing statements Monday that the Crown had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Garnier punched and strangled Campbell inside an apartment of McCully Street, hours after the pair met at the Halifax Alehouse.

She said the Crown had also proven that Garnier placed her body into a compost bin and dumped it in thick brush near the bridge off a busy Halifax street, where her remains stayed for five days.

“The truth is that Ms. Campbell did nothing wrong. Her life was over and she was treated like trash,” Driscoll said.

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