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The jury in the second-degree murder trial of Philip Butler completed its first day of deliberations Friday and lost a juror in the process.
One male juror was dismissed for an unknown reason shortly before 6 p.m., at which point the 11 remaining jurors retired for the night.
The panel began their deliberations around 9 a.m. and had returned to the courtroom just once until the end of the day, to request a clarification from Justice Valerie Marshall on some specific points.
The jury will remain sequestered - spending the day at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's in deliberations and staying overnight in a local hotel accompanied by sheriffs and without their phones, internet or TV - until they reach a verdict in the case.
They are tasked with deciding whether Butler, 38, acted in self-defence or is guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter in relation to the May 21, 2018 death of his brother, George.
For a second-degree murder verdict, the jurors will have to be satisfied that Butler deliberately killed his brother without planning. For manslaughter, they will have to accept that Butler intended to cause George harm and was reckless in his actions, which he would have known could kill.
A second-degree murder conviction carries a life sentence with a minimum of 10 years before parole eligibility, while manslaughter, in this particular case, would carry no minimum sentence.
Last week the jury was told they were being excused for four days while Marshall and the Crown and defence lawyers discussed a legal issue. That issue, which was banned from publication until the jurors were sequestered, was an application by the defence for a directed verdict in the case.
A directed verdict is generally made by the defence once the Crown has finished presenting its evidence and has closed its case. It's a request for a dismissal of a charge on the grounds that the elements of the offence haven't been proven.
Butler's lawyers wanted Marshall to take a potential second-degree murder conviction off the table because they believed prosecutors hadn't introduced proof of Butler's intent to kill his brother. The judge dismissed the application.
Defence lawyers Karen Rehner and Tim O'Brien have argued Butler was only trying to defend himself against his brother, who was beating him in a crack cocaine-induced rage, when he put him in the chokehold that allegedly killed him.
Prosecutors Scott Hurley and Alana Dwyer have argued Butler strangled his brother on purpose in anger and then came up with a convenient story in an effort to hide the truth.
The jury will resume deliberating Saturday morning.