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Brandon Phillips guilty of second-degree murder

Brandon Phillips has been found guilty of second-degree murder.

Phillips was charged in the shooting death of Larry Wellman at the Captain's Quarters hotel in St. John’s on Oct. 3, 2015.

The the six women, six men jury returned the verdict this morning at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s on the fourth day of deliberations. The jury found him not guilty on the charge of first-degree murder, coming to consensus of guilt on second degree murder.

Phillips lowered his head and looked to the floor as the verdict was announced. He was standing in the prisoners' dock for the first time since his trial began about a month ago — until now, he had sat with his lawyers, Jeff Brace and Mark Gruchy.

Behind him, in the front row of the gallery, sat his mother Debbie Phillips and other supporters. On the other side were the wife and children of Larry Wellman. 

Second-degree murder carries a life sentence with a set minimum 10 years before Phillips will be able to apply for parole. However, normally in these cases the jury will be asked if they wish to suggest a greater number of years before eligibility for parole.

Whether the jury does or does not make a recommendation, the Crown and defence lawyers will make arguments for the minumum number of years to set before Phillips can be eligible to apply for parole, with Justice Valerie Marshall to ultimately decide.

On Wednesday the jury had returned to the courtroom to ask a question, but the nature of that question is not known as the public, including members of Wellman's family and the media, were banned from the courtroom while the question was addressed.

Phillips, 29, was accused of first-degree murder and armed robbery, among other charges, in connection with the shooting death. Second-degree murder and manslaugher are the included offences in the murder charge.

Wellman was in the hotel bar with his wife, having a drink and playing the VLTs just before midnight when Phillips entered, wearing a mask and armed with a loaded, sawed-off shotgun. He demanded money from the bartender before turning his attention towards Wellman, who attempted to stop the robbery. After an altercation — in which Phillips is heard on surveillance video telling Wellman he was going to shoot him, and telling his wife "Save your husband, save his life" — Phillips shot Wellman in the groin, hitting his femoral artery. Wellman died in hospital hours later.

Until now, Phillips had no criminal record.

Phillips' father, Eric Squires, is also serving a murder sentence: he was sentenced in 1998 to life in prison on first-degree murder for the stabbing death of Nina Walsh two years prior.

The case will be called back in court next Friday to hear arguments on the number of years to be set for eligibility for parole.

In a media scrum after court adjourned for the day, defence lawyers Brace and Gruchy said they were optimistic about the parole issue for Phillips. 

Brace said, "I can't underestimate my disappointment" with the verdict.

The Crown lawyers were happy with the verdict but noted it was not a happy day for anyone, since it doesn't bring Wellman back. 

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