Folker defence would be OK with manslaughter conviction

Jurors at the David Folker second-degree murder trial in St. John's heard closing arguments from the Crown prosecutor and the defence at Supreme Court on Wednesday.
The Crown and the defence made their final arguments on Wednesday in the David Folker trial. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

The Crown described David Folker Wednesday in final court arguments as a lying killer who brutally murdered Ann Marie Shirran in July 2010, while the defence told the jury that it cannot find Folker guilty of second-degree murder.

Lawyers for the prosecution and defence painted very different portraits of Folker, 42, during summations at Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

The defence, though, opened the door to a less-serious verdict of manslaughter. 

The 12-person jury was told that when they go behind closed doors on Thursday, following instructions from Justice Wayne Dymond, they will mainly be deliberating intent.

Folker's co-counsel Jason Edwards told the court that his client is not guilty of murdering Shirran, his girlfriend and the mother of his son. 

But Edwards gave them another option. 

"I'm confident you will see he is not guilty of second-degree murder, but is guilty of manslaughter,” Edwards said. 

Edwards conceded that Folker was also guilty of his second charge, performing an indignity to a human body.

Folker, 42, reported Shirran missing from the couple's apartment in the Kilbride neighbourhood of St. John's on July 19, 2010. Throughout the course of the two-month search and investigation into Shirran's disappearance, Folker maintained that he had no idea where the 32-year-old was.

Edwards argued on Wednesday that Folker did not intend to kill Shirran in July 2010, and that there is no evidence to prove otherwise. 

Folker told jurors last week that he threw Shirran out of his way the night she died in order to get to their baby, who Folker said was in danger of falling out of his crib. 

He also said when he was taking Shirran's body out of the apartment, he tripped and dropped the corpse.

Chief medical examiner Dr. Simon Avis testified during the trial that Shirran died of blunt force trauma to the head.

In the first week of the four-week trial, Folker admitted that Shirran died as a result of a fight the two had, and that he dumped her body in a wooded area on the Southern Shore. 

He also conceded to hiding Shirran's belongings off Blackhead Road in St. John's, and then lied to police about the whole thing. 

Onus on the Crown

The jury, made up of eight women and four men, listened intently as Edwards explained to them that it was up to the Crown to prove Folker's guilt, and that he believed the prosecution has failed to do so.  

Edwards told jurors that the verdict cannot hinge on sympathy for Shirran's friends and family. 

"Some of the things you heard were hard to listen to, but that's not evidence," Edwards said.

"We have heard things that are distasteful, some of the stuff he (Folker) did was horrible."

Edwards said no matter how much the jury may dislike Folker, they must have no doubt that he caused her death intentionally for a second-degree murder charge.

"There was no evidence of a beating. There was no evidence of a prolonged attack," Edwards argued. 

Post-offence conduct

Folker's credibility was been called into question more than once during his murder trial after he admitted that he lied to Shirran's family and friends and the police for more than three years about what actually happened to her before coming clean.

However, Edwards explained to the court that the evidence the jury was presented during the trial, which showed the elaborate lies Folker told in order to conceal his guilt, are not evidence that can be used in finding him guilty or innocent of second-degree murder. 

Edwards said Justice Dymond would explain to the jury that the testimony about the search for Shirran and what Folker did after her death cannot be used as evidence against him.

"You will hear him (Dymond) explain that you cannot use it to determine if he intended to kill Ann Marie Shirran," Edwards said.

"You can use it to determine his credibility, but it cannot be used by you to determine murder or manslaughter."

'Just a string of lies'

Crown prosecutor Lloyd Strickland's final arguments to the jury were much shorter than that of the defence.

Strickland told jurors that they cannot trust any testimony given by Folker because of his proven tendency to lie.

"His interviews with RNC Sgt. Pat Roche was just a string of lies," Strickland said.

"He (Folker) even went so far as to name another person as a suspect."

Strickland said that Folker's story of what happened between he and Shirran in July 2010 was "self-serving," and that he attacked Shirran with the intention of killing her in order for him to gain sole-custody of the couple's son. 

Strickland told the jury that Folker murdered his partner because he feared she would take away their child.

"When that man delivered those blows, he intended to kill," Strickland said.

"He intended to make his darkest wish his reality."

Justice Dymond is expected to give instructions to the jury on Thursday, after which they will be sequestered.

CBC News reporter Ariana Kelland filed updates from the courtroom in our live blog. 


With files from Ariana Kelland and Glenn Payette