Poitras not guilty in fatal Canada Day stabbing

A jury found Augustine Poitras not guilty of second-degree murder Friday in the fatal stabbing of Shane Howarth on Canada Day 2009.
Augustine Poitras leaves the Edmonton Remand Centre Friday after he was found not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2009 stabbing of Shane Howarth. (CBC)

A jury found an Edmonton man not guilty of second-degree murder Friday in the fatal stabbing of Shane Howarth on Canada Day 2009.

Augustine Darren Poitras, 43, showed no reaction as the jury delivered the verdict around 3 p.m. Poitras was released from the Edmonton Remand Centre several hours later.

"It's been a rough trip for nothing, you know?" Poitras told a group of photographers and TV videographers as he walked off the property. "Thanks to the Edmonton Police Service and their great investigation and incompetence."

Howarth, 42, was stabbed in the heart at the transit centre on Telus Plaza moments after the Canada Day fireworks ended July 1, 2009. He died later in hospital.

In delivering their verdict, the jury indicated to the judge they could not be certain that Poitras was the person responsible for killing Howarth.

"Doesn't mean he's innocent. Just means he's not guilty," Edmonton Police Det. Bill Clark said about Poitras outside the courthouse. "The evidence just wasn't there, obviously, in the mind of the jury."

The jury viewed this surveillance video taken on July 1, 2009 at the transit centre next to the Telus building in downtown Edmonton. ((CBC))
A key piece of evidence in the case was surveillance video taken from the transit station that police believe shows the attack on Howarth. But the black and white video was grainy and dark, making it hard to see the individuals involved.

"This is an ETS video and it's probably the worst ETS video of all the video cameras that ETS has," Clark said. "But that's the hand you're dealt with."

Clark said police have no plans to reopen the investigation.

Poitras relieved by verdict, lawyer says

Poitras' lawyer, Dino Bottos, said he was not surprised by the jury's verdict.

"I think they spent their time looking at the ETS video, which was the only part of the Crown's case that they could rely on to make a case of identity," he said.

Defence lawyer Dino Bottos said Poitras was relieved by the verdict. ((CBC))
"If you look at that long enough and hard enough, and over two or three hundred times, or six hundred times, like we did, it becomes clear that it could not have been Mr. Poitras."

Poitras was relieved by the verdict and said a number of prayers beforehand, Bottos said.

In closing arguments Wednesday, Crown prosecutor Avril Inglis told the jury it was unreasonable to believe another person could be guilty of stabbing Howarth, she said. Inglis said Poitras was angry because his wife and the victim were talking.

Some witnesses testified they saw a man in a gray hoodie go up to Howarth, grab him by the shoulder and then strike straight at the centre of his chest. Seconds later Howarth collapsed. Poitras admitted he was wearing a grey hoodie.

But Bottos pointed the finger of blame at Jordan Belhumeur, one of Poitras' friends. Belhumeur was supposed to be a witness at the trial, but has been missing for months.

The prosecution called Belhumeur a red herring and told the jury the only theory that makes sense is to find Poitras guilty of second-degree murder.