Ray Stacey found not guilty of 2nd degree murder

The jury in the second-degree murder trial of Ray Stacey has delivered a verdict of not guilty.

Stacey, 25, was charged with stabbing and killing Clifford Comerford, 41

Ray Stacey with his lawyers on the steps of the Supreme Court in St. John's after being told he is free to go. (Cecil Haire/CBC)

The jury in the second-degree murder trial of Ray Stacey has reached a verdict of not guilty.

When the verdict was read from the jury on Monday, there were gasps heard across the St. John's courtroom from members of the Stacey family and relatives of stabbing victim Cliff Comerford. 

Justice Garrett Handrigan thanked the jury for its work and then told Stacey he was "free to go."

Family on both sides kept their emotions in check inside the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court. Additional sheriffs officers were brought in for the proceedings.

Clifford Comerford, 41, is the man Stacey was found not guilty of killing in January 2015. (CBC)

After the verdict, Stacey simply sat in a chair, as if absorbing what had just happened. 

Wants to get on with his life

He testified during the trial Comerford attacked him in the back of a van that was picking them up for work on Jan. 11, 2015.

Stacey, 25, said it was Comerford who had a knife, and that he didn't stab Comerford.

The other people in the van testified they didn't see a stabbing.

Ray Stacey shows relief in Supreme Court Monday. His lawyer says he just wants to get on with his life (Cecil Haire/CBC)

"Obviously after two years of this being on Ray's shoulders, this is a relief … Hopefully he can now get on with the rest of his life," said defence lawyer Bob Buckingham.

"I'm not sure what the deciding factor was but I think the aggression of the deceased was a deciding factor. Who knows what went on in that jury room."

'We can't get into the head of the jury'

"Difficult time for the family," said Crown prosecutor Shawn Patten, speaking of Comerford's family, outside the courtroom.

"We respect the jury's decision. Like all files we will review it, to see if there are any matters we want to revisit."

Patten would not speculate on what swayed the jury in the direction of the verdict of not guilty.

Photos of this white van, where Clifford Comerford was allegedly murdered, were entered into evidence during the second-degree murder trial. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

"We can't get in to the head of the jury. This is the thing with 12 people you don't know what's going through their heads," said Patten. 

On Sunday, the jurors returned to the St. John's courtroom and asked the judge for the legal definitions of unlawful death, state of mind for murder, self-defence and manslaughter.

No comment from families

Stacey and Comerford, 41, worked together as chicken catchers, and were heading to a night shift at a barn near Harbour Grace where Country Ribbon chickens are raised.

No weapon was ever found although police searched the Mount Pearl neighbourhood where Comerford died, and took evidence from Stacey's home.

During the trial, Stacey said under cross-examination, "I never stabbed Mr. Comerford … I never had no intention of stabbing Mr. Comerford."

Crown prosecutors argued Stacey was angry about a previous incident involving Comerford which left him seeking vengeance.

No one from the Stacey or Comerford families would speak to reporters as they left Supreme Court on Monday.

With files from Stephanie Kinsella