No defence witnesses in triple-slaying trial

The lawyer for Christopher Bishop, the Nunavut man accused of gunning down three men in 2007, says he will not call upon any witnesses.

The lawyer for Christopher Bishop, the Nunavut man accused of gunning down three men in 2007, says he will not call upon any witnesses, meaning the jury will start deliberating Bishop's fate early next week.

Bishop, 24, is on trial on three counts of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder related to the Jan. 6, 2007, shooting in the western Nunavut hamlet of Cambridge Bay. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Keith Atatahak, 28, and Kevin Komaksiut, 22, both of Cambridge Bay, and 29-year-old Dean Costa of Edmonton were killed in the shooting. Injured were Logan Pigalak and Antoinette Bernhardt, Atakahak's common-law partner.

Since the Nunavut Court of Justice trial began May 26 in Iqaluit, the 12-person jury has heard the Crown present forensic evidence and testimony from witnesses who said Bishop opened fire on a group of people who broke into his housing unit.

The Crown wrapped up its case on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, the courtroom was packed with people anticipating hearing the defence's case.

But Bishop's lawyer, Scott Cowan, told the court he will not be calling any evidence or witnesses, not even Bishop himself.

Onus on Crown

Since an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty, it is up to the Crown to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

With no defence evidence, the jury must decide whether Bishop is guilty or not guilty of the charges, based on the Crown's evidence and testimony.

Crown witnesses have testified that early in the morning of Jan. 6, 2007, a group of people forcibly entered Bishop's Cambridge Bay housing unit, breaking down his front door and moving into his bedroom.

Witnesses said Bishop opened fire on them in the bedroom with a semi-automatic assault rifle.

Costa, Atatahak and Komaksiut were shot multiple times and killed, while Pigalak was injured, forensic experts said.

Witnesses have said they saw Bishop firing the weapon. Some of those killed were shot in the back while they were running from Bishop's home, according to forensic evidence.

Before the trial, Cowan had told reporters that he would likely argue Bishop was acting in self-defence.

When the trial started, Justice John Vertes told jurors that self-defence is within the law, under certain conditions.

Both the Crown and the defence are expected to make their closing arguments on Monday. Vertes will then give his final instructions to the jury before they begin deliberations.