Emrah Bulatci attempted to plead guilty Wednesday to manslaughter in the shooting death of an RCMP officer in Hay River, N.W.T., two years ago.
The 25-year-old Edmonton man entered the plea in a Yellowknife courtroom as Crown and defence lawyers were about to make opening statements in his first-degree murder trial.
After the charge was read to him in front of the jury Wednesday morning, Bulatci said he was not guilty of first-degree murder. Then in a quiet voice, he said, "I'd like to plead guilty to manslaughter."
The Crown rejected his plea, and the trial proceeded.
Bulatci is charged in the shooting death of Const. Christopher Worden, 30, in Hay River, 400 kilometres south of the territorial capital near the Alberta border.
Worden, originally from Ottawa, joined the Mounties in 2002 and spent most of his career in the Northwest Territories. He is survived by his wife, Jodie, and their two-year-old daughter.
Trial to focus on intent
Police arrested Bulatci in Edmonton six days after the Oct. 6, 2007, shooting, following a nationwide search. He has been in custody since then.
Bulatci's guilty plea to manslaughter means the seven-week jury trial will focus not on whether he killed Worden but whether he had intended to do so.
In her opening statement to the jury of seven men and five women, defence lawyer Laura Stevens said Bulatci's guilty plea means he has admitted to firing the four shots that caused Worden to bleed to death.
The RCMP officer's death "was absolutely wrong," Stevens said as Jodie Worden wept in the courtroom. "It was tragic."
"We acknowledge it was Emrah Bulatci's fault that he is dead. He is not innocent."
Fatal shots not intended
Stevens added that Bulatci was in Hay River to deal drugs, and he had a gun that was obtained illegally.
But Stevens said her client had intended only to hurt Worden by firing two shots and did not intend to fire the third or fourth shots that killed him.
In their opening statements, Crown prosecutors said Worden was responding alone to a call for assistance regarding a suicidal man when he happened to stop at a house as Bulatci was leaving.
Bulatci fled and Worden, a former football player, chased him around an apartment building to the clump of trees where the four shots were fired, prosecutors said.
The Crown said it will argue that Bulatci fully intended to kill Worden or that he acted with reckless disregard in his use of the gun in an attempt to inflict bodily harm.
On the night he died, Worden was driving a marked car and wearing his uniform. He didn't fire his gun, which was still in his holster.
Stevens expects Bulatci will testify in his own defence at the end of the trial.
Worden's father, mother, brother and sister also attended the trial Wednesday.
Jodie Worden told reporters outside court that neither she nor the family would be commenting on Bulatci's case during the trial.