tp-nb-crystal-mackenzie

Crystal Dawn MacKenzie was found not guilty of murder on Tuesday in the stabbing death of her common-law husband. ((Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon/CBC))

A Saint John woman has been acquitted of a second-degree murder charge in the killing of her common-law husband.

Crystal Dawn MacKenzie, 28, was accused in the stabbing death of Patrick Thomas, 29.

The Saint John provincial court jury deliberated for eight hours Tuesday before returning their verdict.

MacKenzie took a deep breath, her eyes welling up with tears, as she looked back at her mother from the prisoner's box.

MacKenzie hugged her lawyer and then walked out of the courtroom.

Asked whether she was happy with the verdict, she said yes.

When asked what she would do next she replied: "Go home with my kids."

During the six-day trial, the court heard that MacKenzie had stabbed Thomas once near the collarbone after he had put her in a chokehold and dragged her across the road in the early hours of March 15.

The couple lived on Alma Street in the city's centre. Police were called and found Thomas lying in the street. He died later in hospital.

David Kelly, MacKenzie's lawyer, had argued that she was a victim of domestic abuse and had acted in self-defence.

Couple had a violent history

MacKenzie, who testified on her own behalf Monday, told the court she did not intend to kill Thomas but got the knife to scare him into ending the fight in front of their children. The court had heard from witnesses who said the couple had a violent history.

The court also heard that Thomas had been convicted of assaulting MacKenzie in February, 2009, which resulted in a suspended sentence and nine-months probation. Thomas had been ordered not to have any contact with MacKenzie, to abstain from alcohol and drugs and to attend counselling.

Outside the courthouse, Kelly said there are no real winners in such cases.

"Every murder trial you do, or manslaughter, they're always tragedies. You know somebody's suffering either way; his family, her family, whatever. Somebody's suffering," the defence lawyer said.

Kelly said it will be difficult for MacKenzie to put the ordeal behind her, but added she is focused on looking after her three children, aged seven, four and one.

The Crown has 30 days to appeal the verdict.