New Brunswick

Bonnell murder trial jurors to deliberate a 2nd day

The jury in Curtis Bonnell's first-degree murder trial is scheduled to resume deliberations on Saturday morning.

Will resume Saturday morning

Justice Fred Ferguson urged the jury to give fair and impartial consideration to the trial evidence. (Jean-Robert Richard/CBC)

Jurors in Curtis Bonnell's first-degree murder trial are scheduled to resume deliberations on Saturday morning.

They adjourned for the day Friday at about 8:30 p.m., after considering the evidence for about four-and-a-half hours.

Bonnell, 32, of the Esgenoopetitj First Nation, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Hilary Bonnell, his 16-year-old first cousin. He has pleaded not guilty.

The jury is expected to return to the Miramichi courthouse at 9:30 a.m., to continue poring over the nearly seven weeks of evidence and testimony in the case.

The 12-member jury began deliberations late Friday afternoon, following lengthy instructions from the judge.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Fred Ferguson urged the jurors to "carefully consider all of the evidence with an open mind" and not to be swayed by any media reports they may have been seen.

The 12-member jury in Curtis Bonnell's murder trial are scheduled to begin deliberations on Friday afternoon. (CBC)

"You are the judge of the facts," he said.

The judge laid out for the jury the three possible convictions — first-degree murder, second-degree murder or manslaughter.

The conviction would move up to the most serious first-degree murder if the jury finds there was sexual assault or unlawful confinement, he said, reading from the 40-page summary he prepared.

But the jury, made up of six men and six women, must be unanimous on what happened, he stressed as the accused, who was sporting a white, button-up shirt looked on.

Ferguson also went over the testimony of several witnesses with the jury, recounting what the individuals had said.

"What is most important is that you choose what you think are the facts and what are not," he said.

The Crown alleges Bonnell picked up Hilary the morning of Sept. 5, 2009, as she was walking along Micmac Road in the province's northeastern community after a party. Bonnell is accused of holding Hilary against her will, sexually assaulting her and killing her.

On Thursday, the Crown and defence were each given one hour for their closing remarks.

Confession under pressure

Defence lawyer Gilles Lemieux contends there is no evidence Curtis Bonnell killed Hilary, other than his own words. (CBC)

Gilles Lemieux, the defence lawyer, said it was "unfortunate that a young lady was robbed of her life."

"You can come to the conclusion that a crime was committed, but the defence's position is that there wasn't," he said.

Lemieux went over the timeline of events and stressed that nobody saw Bonnell's truck on the road at the same time Hilary was walking and nobody can place the two of them together.

"Interesting dilemma here," he said.

The defence argued there was no physical evidence or forensic evidence to show Hilary was killed. And there was no evidence to suggest Bonnell had killed her — other than his own words.

Hilary Bonnell disappeared from her northern New Brunswick community in September 2009. (RCMP)

During the trial, the jury had watched a police video of Bonnell admitting to RCMP that he had killed Hilary in his backyard after they had sex, but Lemieux said the confession was given under pressure from police.

There was no trauma to Hilary's body and Bonnell is a large man, Lemieux said, comparing him to a bull in a china store. The lawyer referred to Bonnell's own testimony, when he said that if he hit someone, there "would be carnage."

Lemieux also questioned if Bonnell had killed Hilary and worked so hard to cover it up, why he would lead police to her body. The reason, he said, was Bonnell was looking for help; an explanation as to what happened that night because he blacked out from drugs and alcohol.

The defence says Hilary may have flagged Bonnell down for protection because she was scared, as her earlier text messages to another cousin seemed to indicate, got drunk with Bonnell and then feel asleep in his truck in a position that may have blocked her airway.

"Maybe, just maybe, the Crown got something wrong," Lemieux said.

'Preposterous'

Crown prosecutor Bill Richards said he "absolutely rejects" the accused's testimony that he can't remember what happened the day Hilary went missing. (Jean-Robert Richard/CBC)

Bill Richards, the Crown prosecutor, said he "absolutely rejects" Bonnell's testimony that he woke up in his truck on Sept. 5 to find Hilary's body slumped over in his passenger seat, panicked and then buried her.

"Preposterous," Richards said.

He pointed out that Bonnell admitted to killing Hilary, not only to police, but also to his father and a spiritual elder.

Bonnell also gave police detailed information about what had happened, said Richards.

Bonnell told police he and Hilary had fought because Hilary wanted $100 in exchange for the sex and he refused. He said he covered her mouth to stop her from yelling and before he knew it, she was dead.

"You have a window into the personality of the accused," said Richards.

"You've seen him tell [RCMP] Sgt. [Greg] Lupson, 'I was a monster that day,' and that he went 'overboard.'"

Bonnell was angry that day; upset that his girlfriend had left and taken their son with her, said Richards. He was furious and when he saw Hilary, he lashed out, argued Richards.

He contends Bonnell attempted to sexually assault Hilary, then killed her and buried her.

There is forensic evidence to support the Crown's case, Richards said, pointing to the testimony of the pathologist, who concluded Hilary's death was criminally suspicious.

Even the defence's pathologist could not rule out the fact that it was criminally suspicious, Richards said.

The trial started on Sept. 17.

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