Nova Scotia

Credibility of Crown's star witness key in Shawntez Downey murder trial

Crown and defence attorneys at the trial of the man accused of murdering Tylor McInnis agreed Wednesday during closing arguments that's it's up to the jury to decide whether the prosecution's star witness, Ron Sock, is credible.

Tylor McInnis was 26 when he was found dead in trunk of car in North Preston, N.S., in 2016

Tylor McInnis was found dead in the trunk of a stolen car in 2016. (Facebook)

Crown and defence attorneys at the second-degree murder trial of Shawntez Neco Downey agreed Wednesday during closing arguments that's it's up to the jury to decide whether the prosecution's star witness is credible.

Downey has been on trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax, accused in the shooting death of Tylor McInnis, 26, whose body was found in August 2016 in the trunk of a stolen car left in a cemetery in North Preston, N.S.

Crown attorney Cheryl Schurman argued the testimony over three days from a key witness, Ron Sock, of what happened that night is corroborated with independent evidence, including cellphone records.

The Crown has alleged that McInnis had gone to North Preston that night intending to trade drugs for a gun, but that Downey decided to rob him instead. Sock testified he helped restrain a friend who had come with McInnis, and later heard a gunshot.

"Ron Sock wasn't an angel; neither was Tylor," Schurman told the jury.

In the defence's closing arguments, lawyer Eugene Tan agreed the case rests on Sock's testimony, but argued the bulk of it is not supported with other evidence.

The jury is expected to receive final instructions Thursday from Justice Denise Boudreau before beginning to deliberate a verdict.

'Man with a plan'

Along with the murder charge, Downey is also facing charges of attempted murder, kidnapping and forcible confinement involving McInnis's friend, Liam Thompson. Downey's younger brother, Daniel Romeo Downey, is charged with kidnapping, forcible confinement and being an accessory.

Schurman reminded the jury that Sock testified Shawntez Downey said he didn't intend to trade a gun for drugs. Schurman said Downey planned to rob and kill McInnis.

"Shawntez was the man with the plan," said Schurman.

The prosecutor said there were no eyewitnesses to the shooting, there is sufficient evidence for the jury to reasonably infer what happened that night.  

Tan said Sock was wrong about key elements, including the calibre of ammunition used in the shooting. He also said Sock was a willing participant in what happened to McInnis.

"Ronald Sock is just simply not a person you can put any trust in," Tan told jurors.

Other victim tied with dog leash

Last month, McInnis's girlfriend, Tyelisha Voeltz, told the court she had an odd phone conversation with him around 10 p.m. the night he died. McInnis told her he was sending his younger brother to their home to pick up his gold jewelry to sell that night.

The jury heard during the trial that Thompson and McInnis went to North Preston to meet Downey. Sock testified he saw Downey knock a cellphone out of McInnis's hand and then hit him with a gun.

The coroner said there was a fresh wound on McInnis's head, Schurman reminded the jury.

Sock testified that after Downey hit him, McInnis ran into the woods. Sock said he stayed with Thompson and tied him up with a dog leash while Downey pursued McInnis.

Tan said neither Thompson nor Sock recognized the dog leash found in the car and reminded jurors there was no DNA on it.

Armed with vegetable peeler

Schurman said there were gaps in the usage of McInnis's two cellphones during the time "Tylor was running for his life."

Sock said he was sober that night. But Tan argued Sock was an alcoholic who drank two pints of hard liquor every day and that it was "convenient" he claimed not to be drinking on Aug. 22, 2016, the night McInnis died.  

Sock armed himself with a vegetable peeler that night.

"No one who is sober and in his right mind" would do that when preparing for trouble, argued Tan.

Sock testified he and Downey's brother put Thompson in the back seat of Thompson's car and drove a short distance. Sock said at that time he heard a single gunshot, Schurman told the jury. McInnis died of a single gunshot.

Sock testified that Downey and others put McInnis's body in the trunk of Thompson's car. McInnis's body was wrapped in the kind of heavy plastic that would wrap a new mattress, Sock said. A search of a nearby home found a new mattress, Schurman said.

Police were at the St. Thomas Baptist Church cemetery in August 2016 as they investigated Tylor McInnis's death. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

Sock said Downey later opened the trunk of the car and fired three shots from an AK-47. Sock said he was shot in the foot at the time.

The court saw photos of the wound to Sock's foot and of bullet fragments found in the North Preston cemetery. Tan said the bullet wound to Sock's foot didn't match what he said happened and argued he probably lied about how he was injured.

Thompson testified he woke up the next day in his car and walked to the home of nearby relatives. Tan said that because Thompson remembers very little of what happened, much of Sock's evidence wasn't corroborated by anyone else.

Schurman said Sock was proven right too many times for the jury to dismiss what he saw and heard that night.

Tan told jurors if they have any hesitation accepting Sock's evidence, then they would have difficulty convicting  Downey.

Blair Rhodes live blogged from court.