‘It gives us closure’

Rosie
Rosie Mullaley
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Emotional cries of relief from victim’s family after David Folker found guilty of second-degree murder

Cries of joy were heard throughout the courtroom the moment the jury foreman stood and uttered one word — guilty.

On Friday, more than three years after Ann Marie Shirran was killed, David Folker — her boyfriend and the father of her young son — was convicted of second-degree murder.

It was the moment Shirran’s family members and friends had longed to hear and they couldn’t help but rejoice and express feelings of relief.

“I’m glad of the outcome today,” Shirran’s father, Jon Baggs, told reporters outside Newfoundland Supreme Court minutes after the jury rendered the verdict.

“It gives us closure, but what closure can you have?”

Baggs — who lost a son to a drunk driver in 2007 — said he will still feel the pain of losing his daughter.

“People say the hurt gets better in time, but it doesn’t. The hurt don’t go away. You just learn to accept it more, but it never goes away. There were nights and nights I cried going to bed,” he said, almost breaking down in tears.

There were plenty of tears inside the courtroom after the verdict. Once proceedings ended, about a dozen of Shirran’s family members, including her mother, Diane Baggs, and friends hugged each other.

Folker showed no emotion when he heard the verdict.

He was also found guilty of interfering with a dead human body, which he had already conceded.

It took the eight women and four men of the jury a little more than a day of deliberations to reach their decision, after being sequestered since lunchtime Thursday.

Court resumed at 5:15 p.m. Friday to heard their verdict.

They already knew Folker was guilty of killing Shirran. Their only challenge was to decide which charge he was guilty of — second-degree murder or manslaughter.

In closing arguments earlier this week, the defence told the jury that Folker is guilty of manslaughter. On the second day of the trial in early October, Folker admitted that Shirran died as a result of a physical altercation between them. He testified that on the night of July 18, 2010, she attacked him, prompting him to grab her by the throat and throw her. But he insisted he didn’t intend for her to die.

Folker also admitted he disposed of Shirran’s body in Cappahayden after she died.

For more than three years, Folker lied and denied he had anything to do with it, but made the admissions on the second day of the trial.

He said he only came forward at that time because he knew he was facing jail time and knew he wouldn’t regain custody of his son.

As a result, the jury had to figure out whether Folker intended to kill Shirran or if he knew his actions would lead to her death.

Baggs never doubted he did.

“Not for a second,” said Baggs, who didn’t miss a day of the trial or the preliminary hearing earlier this month.

Defence lawyer Jason Edwards had argued that Folker’s version of what happened was valid. He said there wasn’t enough evidence presented at trial to contradict otherwise.

However, prosecutor Lloyd Strickland pointed to several holes in Folker’s story, as well as his lack of credibility, after lying for so long.

In the end, the jury sided with the Crown and found Folker guilty.

“It was a long time coming,” Strickland told reporters.

“The RNC conducted a thorough and comprehensive investigation and despite the defendant’s changing story, we decided to put all the evidence to the jury and let them decide. We’re satisfied they paid close attention to the evidence.”

Edwards and defence co-counsel Scott Hurley declined comment after proceedings.

However, Edwards later told The Telegram they were disappointed and will review the matter with Folker to see if there are grounds for an appeal.

“Ultimately, that’s a decision Mr. Folker will have to make,” he said.

Folker — who had been free on bail for the past few years — was taken into custody after the verdict.

Shortly afterwards, Shirran’s aunt approached Folker’s mother and aunt at the back of the courtroom to give best wishes.

Shirran’s father said it’s been a long road for all of them.

Baggs commended the prosecutors as well as the defence lawyers.

When asked if he thinks the guilty verdict was justice for his daughter, he replied, “Well, we’ll say it is. It’s the most we can expect in our law, in Canada.”

Second-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison, with eligibility of parole between 10 and 25 years.

After the verdict, Justice Wayne Dymond asked the jury if they had any recommendations about how long he should set parole. The judge does not have to follow it, but can take it into consideration during sentencing.

The jury left for 15 minutes to consider it.

When they returned, the foreman indicated to the judge that they did have a recommendation. However, Dymond opted to keep it sealed until sentencing.

The judge and lawyers will hold a meeting Dec. 4 to set a date for the sentencing hearing.

Baggs and his family already know what they want Folker to get.

“He shouldn’t be allowed to get parole at all,” Baggs said.

“I think when they put him in, they should throw away the key.”

rgillingham@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TelyCourt

Geographic location: Canada

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