Crown and defence counsel made their final submissions to the court in the trial of Cheyenne Learn on Friday in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
In front of Justice Dev Dley, Crown counsel Lianna Swanson and defence counsel Brent Bagnall both painted two very distinct narratives for the events leading up to Dec. 17, 2007, where Tammy Ellis died after being shot by Learn inside a residence.
Learn is on trial for second-degree murder. He was convicted of the same charge in 2009 but it was overturned on appeal in 2013 and he was awarded a new trial.
After seven days of testimony from two eyewitnesses to the incident as well as RCMP members and experts on forensic pathology and firearms, the two sides wrapped up their cases for the court, starting with the defence.
Bagnall began by stating that the crown must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that there was intent to kill for there to be a conviction for second-degree murder.
Bagnall focused on what had been established beyond a reasonable doubt due to evidence given by testimony from each of the witnesses.
There is no doubt that Learn discharged the firearm and Ellis died, that there was a confrontation between the two outside of a house and that he arrived at the house with the sawed-off shotgun used in the incident, said Bagnall. In exercising extremely poor judgement, there is no doubt he left his trailer to head to the residence of the shooting on his bicycle with his firearm, he continued.
Bagnall questioned Learn’s intent to murder, noting he never tried entering the house upon arrival and was focused on carrying out a plan to disable his ex-girlfriend’s vehicle to stop her from trafficking cocaine before her eventual arrival.
Bagnall added that there was a key moment directly before the shooting where Ellis was arguing with Learn outside the house as he was trying to leave. In Learn’s earlier testimony, he said Ellis had humiliated him by exposing his intimacy issues with his ex-girlfriend. That specific event served as a provocation, which can be used as a defence that leads to a charge of manslaughter, Bagnall argued.
Bagnall also argued that there is no way to establish intent beyond a reasonable doubt based on Learn’s state of mind due to his extreme level of intoxication the night of the incident.
Crown counsel responded with a different version of events leading up to the shooting. Swanson argued that there was intent based on Learn telling Ellis that “you turned my girlfriend into a crackhead you [expletives]” before pulling the trigger, based on testimony from two eyewitnesses.
She argued that Learn’s level of intoxication couldn’t be established in the brief interactions that he had with his ex-girlfriend the night of the incident. Swanson also said Learn was desperate man because his ex-girlfriend had broken up with him two days before and wasn’t coming back.
Swanson argued that Ellis drove a wedge between Learn and his ex-girlfriend and that Ellis’ fate was sealed after an argument between the two directly before the shooting.
There is no air of reality that Learn was so drunk he didn’t know what he was doing, Swanson said, noting that assembling the gun from four pieces and riding a bike down a dark street in winter conditions from his trailer to the house requires co-ordination that isn’t possible if highly intoxicated.
She argued that his actions, such as tossing the gun over a bridge covering Joseph Creek and ending up in a recycle bin behind Dairy Queen, proves that he was trying to hide evidence and himself following the shooting.
Bagnall had a brief rebuttal to crown’s submission, noting Learn’s actions and behaviour before the event make no sense unless there was provocation. Bagnall admitted that amnesia is no defence, but argued that Learn testified that he remembered certain parts of the shooting incident and hadn’t tried to deceive the court by conveniently claiming he couldn’t remember the whole evening.
Because of an absence of evidence into his state of mind, there is an inability to state what his intention really was, Bagnall said.
Justice Dev Dley has reserved his decision for Wednesday next week.