Jurors must review more than seven weeks of testimony from dozens of witnesses
The fate of a Paradise man who stabbed two men, killing one of them, is now in the hands of seven women and four men.
The jury in the murder trial of Steven Michael Neville began deliberations at around 5 p.m. Wednesday following a full day of instruction from Justice Carl Thompson at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s.
As in all trials, the judge gave a lengthy explanation of the charges to jurors and directed them in what they should and shouldn’t consider when coming to a decision on whether or not Neville is guilty.
“There’s no magic formula on how much of the testimony you should rely on,” he said.
Neville is charged with stabbing Doug Flynn and Ryan Dwyer on Oct. 9, 2010, on Carlisle Drive in Paradise.
Dwyer suffered knife wounds to his sides, arms and back, but recovered. Flynn died from knife wounds to the temple and chest.
Neville faces charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder.
His lawyers — Peter Ralph and Rosellen Sullivan — argued that Neville acted in self-defence against Flynn and Dwyer, who, they say, had been terrorizing Neville for months.
They said the men had been hunting him like prey.
‘Steven Neville does not have to prove anything,’ jury told
Crown prosecutors Robin Fowler and Jason House disputed that, saying Neville was the aggressor. They contended that Neville knew exactly what he was doing and had planned to kill the men.
Whether Neville did or not, Thompson made one thing clear to jurors — “Steven Neville does not have to prove anything.”
The judge stressed to them that Neville is presumed innocent and that it was up to the Crown to prove Neville didn’t act in self defence.
“Guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” Thompson said. “Even if you believe he’s probably guilty or likely guilty, that is not sufficient (to convict).”
For a defence of self defence, the judge said the jury must consider whether or not Neville felt he had no other choice but to do what he did in order to preserve his own life.
He said the jury must also ask whether Neville used more force than necessary to protect himself. However, Thompson added that in certain situations, it’s difficult for the person to measure the amount of force necessary. Therefore, they must consider Neville’s perception of the situation at the time.
The jury will also have the option of finding Neville guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree murder or manslaughter.
The judge explained that with first-degree murder, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that what Neville did was planned and deliberate — an element not needed for second-degree murder.
For manslaughter, the judge said, the jury must decide whether or not Neville was provoked or acted in the heat of passion.
“When Steven Neville killed Doug Flynn, did he lose the power of self control?” Thompson said, in pointing the factors to be considered.
The attempted murder charge could also be reduced to aggravated assault or assault. The jury must decide whether Neville meant to kill Dwyer.
In making its decision, the jury will have the unenviable task of reviewing seven weeks of testimony from more than two dozen witnesses, as well as written and videotaped police statements, several photos and thousands of text messages, which became pivotal in the case.
The jury — which was reduced to 11 members early last week, when one man couldn’t continue for personal reasons — retired at around 6 p.m. for the night Friday at their hotel to be sequestered.
Justice Carl Thompson spent a full day in Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John's instructing the jury on the law in the first-degree murder trial of Steven Michael Neville.
The jury of seven men and four women is now out to begin deliberations.
Neville had a plan to kill men: Crown
His lawyers say it was self defence
If Steven Michael Neville feared for his life, he didn't have to jump out of a moving car and confront two men chasing him, the Crown told a jury Tuesday.
Prosecutor Robin Fowler said Neville, instead, wanted to kill the men.
"When Steven Neville got out of that car, he got out of that car with a plan (to stab and kill Doug Flynn and Ryan Dwyer)," Fowler said in final arguments at Neville's trial in Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John's.
Neville is on trial for stabbing Dwyer and Flynn on Oct. 9, 2010, on Carlisle Drive in Paradise.
Dwyer suffered knife wounds to his arms and back, but recovered. Flynn was killed, having been stabbed in the temple and chest.
Neville faces charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder.
Neville's lawyers are arguing Neville acted in self defence against Flynn and Dwyer, who they say had been terrorizing him for months.
But Fowler dismissed the idea that Neville was trying to protect himself. His actions were not one of a man who felt his safety was in jeopardy, he said.
Testimony from various witnesses who testified during the three-month-long trial revealed Neville had been in a friend's car that was driving up Carlisle Drive when he was spotted by Dwyer and Flynn.
The two men chased the car. Neville got out of the car - which many said was still moving - and confronted them.
There have been different versions of what happened after that. Some witnesses said the men were first involved in a fist fight before the stabbing. Dwyer said Neville immediately began stabbing him.
After the men fell to the ground, Neville was seen running away screaming.
It was the culmination of what had been an ongoing battle between the men, which, many witnesses said, began when Neville took over a drug trafficking business from Dwyer weeks before.
According to friends, Dwyer and Flynn regularly threatened Neville, chased him and were set on "getting him" and anyone who associated with him.
On the night of the stabbings, Fowler said, Neville was angry about Facebook postings by Dwyer and Flynn.
Dwyer had changed his status, using a quote from rapper Notorious B.I.G.'s lyrics, which Dwyer changed slightly.
"Kick in the door, wavin' the .44, All you heard was Granny Neville, saying don't hit me no more." (Actual lyric is: "Kick in the door, wavin' the four-four, All you heard was Poppa don't hit me no more."
"Granny Neville" was said to have referred to Neville's mother.
Shortly after, Flynn changed his Facebook status to include lyrics from another rap song, "A-S-A-P" by T.I. - "I'm a blow him off the map A-S-A-P."
When questioned on the stand, Dwyer shrugged it off, saying they had both just been listing to rap that night.
But Fowler told the jury that this is what triggered Neville to text a friend saying, "They are dead, dead, dead. I'm stabbing them until they are squirting blood."
Fowler said Neville was the aggressor and set out to kill the men.
"In this case, we actually have the plan and deliberation in writing," he said.
When Neville was in the car and saw Flynn and Dwyer, Fowler said, "opportunity struck."
Fowler said if Neville was concerned for his safety, there were other options he could have taken - stayed in the car, called friends for backup or called the police.
"On the night of Oct. 9, Steven Neville took matters into his own hands," Fowler said.
Fowler told the jury that if they step back and look at the testimony as a whole and use "common sense," they would see Neville is guilty.
But defence lawyer Peter Ralph insisted Neville - who has the presumption of innocence - did act in self defence and said the Crown failed to prove he didn't.
Ralph said for weeks leading up to the incident, Neville was the "prey" and Dwyer and Flynn were "the predators" who hunted Neville down and tried to flush him out of hiding.
Various texts from Dwyer and "his associates" indicate their intentions to attack Neville, Ralph said.
Ralph said on the night of stabbings, Neville did not intent to kill anyone.
"Clearly it was not wise to jump out of a car, but that was not a crime," he said.
He said Neville felt outnumbered and thought he saw a knife in Flynn's hand, and that's why he fought back.
He said the texts show that Neville was being hunted and would shape what Neville's perception of what would happen to him.
"It led him to reasonably believe his life was in danger," Ralph said.
Ralph said Dwyer was the one who was conspiring against Neville to get him out of the drug business and he got other people to "do his dirty work."
He said Dwyer was a "master manipulator" who did all he could to enlist the help of other people to turn against Neville.
"He manipulated police and he tried to manipulate you," Ralph told the jury. "And he's doing it for the same reason he started the hunt - to get Steven Neville."
Ralph said the Crown's witnesses were unreliable.
He said most of the witnesses at the scene were drunk, some admitted they lied, while others conceded they relied on other people's recollection of what happened.
All in all, he said, there is definitely reasonable doubt.
"I suggest (the Crown's) case for first-degree murder and attempted murder is based on speculation," Ralph said.
Justice Carl Thompson will begin instructing the jury today. The seven men and four women will then begin their deliberations.
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