Crown rests its case on Day 7 of Wayne Panipakoocho murder trial
Crown prosecutors rested their case against Wayne Panipakoocho on Tuesday, calling their final two witnesses in the 22-year-old's murder trial.
Panipakoocho is accused of first-degree murder in the 2019 shooting death of Hannas Braun. He has pleaded not guilty.
The court heard from Panipakoocho's aunt in the afternoon. It was at her apartment that Braun was shot. She was sleeping over at a friend's at the time, and was not home. Panipakoocho was staying with his aunt because she was his surety after he was released on bail in Iqaluit from his home community of Pond Inlet, Nunavut.
The court has heard throughout the trial how Panipakoocho had only moved in with his aunt a few weeks before the shooting. His aunt testified there were no issues with Panipakoocho during the short time he lived with her.
While the aunt's identity is not protected by a publication ban, CBC News is choosing not to name her, as per CBC's journalistic standards and practices, because she has not been charged with an offence relating to the night Braun was killed, nor is her name essential to the facts of the case.
"I was shocked"
Panipakoocho's aunt was in tears even before starting her testimony. As she recalled the morning of June 30, 2019, she told the court she was still at her friend's house nearby when someone began frantically knocking and ringing the doorbell.
It was Panipakoocho's cousin — who testified earlier in the trial as the only other person in the home when Braun was shot — who came to get the aunt after Panipakoocho allegedly shot Braun.
"I was shocked," she told the court through tears, adding the two started running back to the aunt's place about three to five minutes away. "I asked her where he got a rifle, because I don't have any. I don't own a rifle. I got nothing."
"We ran to my place. We got to the door and there was a man, lying there. I thought he was dead," she continued, her voice shaking. "You could see his eyes closed and his mouth open, not moving. I could see blood from the porch down the hallway."
The missing shell casing
She testified when she got to the house, she looked around the house for Panipakoocho, fearing he might have died by suicide.
"I just screamed. I was in shock. That's when it got real," she said.
Earlier in the trial, Crown prosecutors posed specific questions to RCMP officers about whether a shell casing was located at the scene, or nearby. Officers and investigators said they were unable to find one.
The aunt testified on Tuesday that she was the one who found a casing in the house.
"I threw it outside. I was angry," she said. "I was frantic, and shocked, and angry. I don't know. I just picked it up and threw it out. Just angry. Why would there be one in my apartment?"
It's still unclear what significance the missing shell casing has in the case, but under cross-examination by the defence, the aunt said it was "maybe" possible what she picked up wasn't a shell casing.
Earlier in the trial, the court heard testimony from officers who recovered the rifle alleged to have killed Braun, saying there was a live round in the chamber. The rifle recovered is a bolt-action gun, which means to load a new round in the chamber one would have to eject a spent shell.
However, the murder weapon itself may also be a matter of contention. On Monday, Panipakoocho's lawyers pressed his cousin about telling police she saw Panipakoocho holding a camouflage-coloured rifle, while standing near the back door after he allegedly shot Braun. The alleged murder weapon is a black rifle.
While cross-examining the aunt on Tuesday, Panipakoocho's lawyers also read back to her from police statements she made four days after the incident, in which she told police Panipakoocho's cousin had told her that Panipakoocho was trying to protect the cousin from Braun the morning of the shooting.
The issue of whether Panipakoocho's cousin needed protection, or if she wanted Braun to leave after flirting with her the morning of the shooting, appears to be another point of contention as the case moves closer to its closing arguments.
After the Crown rested its case, Panipakoocho's lawyers said they only intend to call one or two witnesses. Closing submissions are expected to begin on Thursday.