A Winnipeg man who stabbed Brett Bourne to death at Kelvin High School in June 2015 has been convicted of manslaughter.
He cannot be identified by name because he was a youth at the time of the killing.
Bourne, 17, died from a single stab wound to his chest after allegedly instigating a fight with a teen who had been dating Bourne's ex-girlfriend.
The now 20-year-old was charged with second-degree murder — and pleaded not guilty. Jurors were given the option of convicting him of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Jurors reached their verdict Thursday night after approximately seven hours of deliberations. A few hours into deliberations the jury asked the court to clarify the difference between manslaughter and second-degree murder.
Defence lawyer 'happy' for accused
"I'm very happy for [the accused]," defence lawyer, Greg Brodsky, said outside court. "He didn't mean to kill anybody and the jury said so … he went too far in protecting his friend who was being attacked."
Prosecutors have signaled they will be seeking an adult sentence for the accused.
"I don't think [the Crown] expected an acquittal on the murder charge," Brodsky said. "Now that there is an acquittal on the murder charge let them reassess their position."
Court heard Bourne, a former student at the school, had tried for several minutes to goad a teen off school grounds to fight. Witnesses have testified Bourne chased the teen inside the school, where a fight ensued.
The accused told court last week he was among several students who followed Bourne and the other teen inside the school. The accused testified he had armed himself with a folding knife, retrieved from a friend's car minutes earlier.
"I saw Brett on top of [the other teen], with his hand at the back of his head, trying to smash it," the accused testified. "Then I saw Brett reaching [into his pocket] for a knife. Everybody thought he had a knife. That's when I unfolded the knife, ran up to Brett and stabbed him."
The accused claimed several other students had voiced concern Bourne was armed with a knife. He said he feared Bourne was going to kill the other teen, who was a friend.
'Brett may have deserved a criminal charge of assault ... but he did not deserve to die for that bad choice.' - Crown attorney Erika Dolcetti
Brodsky said the accused's claim was supported in court by the teen who had provided him with the knife. That witness testified "people were saying prior to the incident … that [Bourne] usually carried a weapon on him."
Brodsky argued it was up to jurors to decide whether the accused's actions were "intentional" or "reflexive".
"It is not an issue whether he made a correct decision. The issue is whether he made a reasonable decision in the circumstances," Brodsky said in a closing address to jurors earlier this week.
Prosecutors argued jurors could not trust the accused's testimony, saying he had lied several times to police. His lies included a claim he had suffered a knife wound intervening in the attack. He admitted at trial he cut himself in order to cast suspicion on the victim.
Four trial witnesses, including Bourne's ex-girlfriend, said there had been no discussion of Bourne being armed prior to the fight.
If he feared for his friend's safety, the accused could have easily alerted a teacher or called 911, Crown attorney Erika Dolcetti said in her closing address to jurors.
"We concede that Brett was the aggressor that day," Dolcetti said. "Brett may have deserved a criminal charge of assault … but he did not deserve to die for that bad choice."
The accused remains free on bail. He will return to court for sentencing at a later date following the completion of a court ordered pre-sentence report.