Christopher Garnier found guilty of murdering Catherine Campbell
Halifax jury deliberates less than 5 hours before reaching verdict in off-duty officer's death
A Halifax jury has found Christopher Garnier guilty of second-degree murder in the death of off-duty Truro, N.S., police officer Catherine Campbell and of improperly interfering with her dead body.
The 12-member jury reached its verdict this afternoon in Nova Scotia Supreme Court after deliberating for less than five hours following a four-week trial.
Campbell's body was found on Sept. 16, 2015, in thick brush near Halifax's Macdonald Bridge. The Crown alleged Garnier, 30, had punched and strangled the 36-year-old woman at a Halifax apartment five days earlier, just hours after they met for the first time at a downtown bar.
Members of Campbell's family wept after the jury announced its verdict. Garnier sat hunched over the defence table and his girlfriend, Brittany Francis, sobbed loudly in court. Garnier's family reacted with tears as well.
A conviction for second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence. Parole eligibility can range from 10 to 25 years. Four jurors recommended Garnier serve 10 years before being eligible for parole and one recommended 12 years. Seven did not offer any opinion.
Justice Josh Arnold sentenced Garnier to life in prison and will deal with parole eligibility at a May 7 court hearing. His lawyer has asked for a pre-sentence report. Sheriffs' officers have taken Garnier into custody.
Jury rejected rough sex defence
Garnier acknowledged when he testified at trial that he loaded Campbell's body into a green compost bin and wheeled her to the bridge, but said he couldn't remember doing so.
Defence attorney Joel Pink had argued Campbell's death was a tragic accident during rough sex she had initiated, and there was no evidence to support the Crown's assertion that Garnier lost control and murdered Campbell.
The prosecution argued Campbell's death was a crime and Garnier "threw her away like a piece of garbage."
Lengthy trial, short deliberation time
Crown attorney Christine Driscoll said she was satisfied with the verdict.
"We're very pleased that the jury reviewed the evidence and came to the conclusion that they did. We're very pleased for the Campbell family who've conducted themselves with dignity throughout this entire thing and pleased they have justice for their daughter," she said.
She did not appear to be surprised by the short time the jury took to reach a decision after the lengthy trial.
"We have faith in the jury, that they took their oath seriously and took the appropriate steps to review the evidence and are pleased with their decision."
The Crown will research sentences for the two charges before making recommendations about the length of Garnier's prison term, Driscoll added.
Campbell family relieved
In an interview outside court, the murdered woman's parents said they were relieved by the verdict.
"All I want to say is that for almost 2½ years, we've sought justice for Catherine. And today we feel we have justice for Catherine and we'd like to thank everyone that supported us — the Crown, the police … we're just glad it's over," Susan Campbell said.
"They did an excellent job. Thank you, everybody," Catherine's father Dwight said.
Campbell's aunt Amanda Wong said the verdict also sends a message about violence against women.
"Hopefully, this will help go towards people realizing they can't just commit violence [against] women and not pay for it."
Garnier's family refused to make any comments about the verdict Thursday.
Garnier 'shocked' by outcome
It is too early to say if the defence will file an appeal of the verdict, Garnier's lawyer said.
"We still have to prepare for a parole and eligibility hearing," Pink said.
Both his client and his client's family were "shocked" by the verdict, he said. "But that's something to be expected."
He had little to say about the briefness of the jury's deliberations.
"The jury considered the evidence, they came to the decision and they decided they only needed 4½ hours. It's not for me to criticize the decision," Pink said.