Calgary

Ferguson jury begins deliberations

The fate of a veteran RCMP officer is in the hands of a jury that was told Tuesday it must decide whether Const. Michael Ferguson intended to kill a prisoner or acted in self-defence.

The fate of a veteran RCMP officer is in the hands of a jury that was told Tuesday it must decide whether Const. Michael Ferguson intended to kill a prisoner or acted in self-defence.

Ferguson is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Darren Varley, 26. The incident happened Oct. 3, 1999, while Varley was in the Pincher Creek detachment's holding cell, after having been arrested for being drunk in a public place.

Const. Michael Ferguson

Varley was shot twice, in the stomach and in the head.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Paul Belzil told the jury that shooting someone in the head is inherently dangerous, but that it is their job to determine what Ferguson's intent was.

If they agree that Ferguson meant to kill Varley, Belzil said, they should convict him of second-degree murder. If they have doubt about his intentions, they can find him guilty of manslaughter, the judge said.

Belzil said if the six women and six men on the jury believe Ferguson acted out of self-defence and was justified in killing Varley, then no crime was committed. The jury began its deliberations at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Darren Varley

In their closing arguments, the Crown and defence lawyer Earl Wilson painted different scenarios of what happened that night.

"He was in the agony of a struggle to save his own life," Wilson said, arguing for self defence. "You now hold his future. You now hold his fate."

Crown attorney Rick Saull argued that Ferguson, now 48, shot an intoxicated Varley out of rage.

"This was a shooting caused by anger and loss of control. I suggest the accused trapped Darren Varley and killed him," he said.

Ferguson, who was suspended after being charged, testified that Varley grabbed for his holstered gun. The officer, who had been with the force for 19 years, said Varley his vest over his head, which momentarily prevented Ferguson from seeing anything. He said Varley then managed to release his gun from the holster and while the two struggled with it, a shot rang out.

Police officers testifying for the Crown told the court that RCMP holsters are designed to prevent the gun being removed by anyone other than the officer. A defence police witness said it is possible for an officer to have his gun taken.

The Crown said there wasn't any evidence that Varley touched the officer's 9-mm pistol.

This is Ferguson's second trial on the charges. The first ended in November, 2001 with a hung jury, after 30 hours of deliberation.

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