Jimmy Melvin Jr. has been found not guilty of the 2009 murder of Terry Marriott Jr. after a four-week trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
There were quiet gasps in the courtroom and one woman stormed out before the jury was even dismissed as members of Marriott's family expressed anger that the man accused of killing him had just been acquitted. Both the Marriott and Melvin families left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.
The jury had deliberated for about a day and a half before returning with the not-guilty verdict. They were just over an hour away from being sent to a hotel for a second night before they reached their decision.
Marriott was shot and killed while he slept in a home in Harrietsfield, N.S., in February 2009. The key Crown witness, police informant and career criminal Derek MacPhee, was the only one who placed Melvin at the crime scene.
Both Crown and defence described MacPhee as an "unsavoury witness." The man is a long-time criminal who also admitted he's lied to police and the courts in the past. MacPhee said he and Marriott sold drugs together.
After the verdict, Melvin hugged his lawyer, Pat MacEwen. He was led away by sheriffs and remains in custody as he is also charged with attempting to murder Marriott in late 2008. He is set to appear in court in that case in September.
Case hinged on informant
Outside the the courtroom, MacEwen told reporters he was not surprised by the verdict.
"We were hopeful that the jury would come to this conclusion," he said. "Obviously it's been a long trial. The jury heard from a number of witnesses. Mr. MacPhee, in particular, I would characterize as an unsavoury witness. The court did so as well.
"At the end of the day I suspect they had a doubt with respect to his testimony and came to the proper decision."
Crown attorney Rick Woodburn said jury made its decision after a long, arduous trial.
"That's the way our system works. You have 12 people who wade through the evidence and come to a verdict," he said. "We only put the evidence before the jury and let them make their decisions."
Woodburn acknowledged the case was a difficult one because of MacPhee's credibility.
"We believed that he was telling the truth when he gave the statement to the police and throughout the trial, we thought the same thing," he said.
The Crown called several witnesses during Melvin's first-degree murder trial.
Only MacPhee — a paid police informant who admitted his involvement in the murder — tied Melvin to the killing. There was no physical evidence connecting Melvin to the crime.
MacPhee told the court he drove Melvin to and from the murder scene. He said they both went there armed with handguns.
MacPhee testified he parked across from the home and heard five loud bangs after Melvin went inside. He said he later returned to the scene and the police were called.
Marriott's blood was found on MacPhee's jeans. Gunshot residue was also found on MacPhee's hands and face. The informant also told the court he washed his clothes after the murder.
MacPhee implicated Melvin in the murder in 2015 after being charged in a violent home invasion in which he faced more time in prison. He was given immunity from prosecution in that case as well as for the murder.
He is currently in witness protection.