As Crown and defence lawyers took their seats in front of him, Philip Butler sat in the prisoner’s dock to await the jury’s verdict Saturday morning, head bowed and hands folded.
Butler stood as the jury entered, trembling.
Minutes later, as the jury forewoman declared him not guilty of the death of his brother, George, Butler broke down in tears and appeared to say a silent prayer.
After nine hours of deliberations on Friday and nearly two hours Saturday morning, the jury — which started with 12 members and finished with 11, after a male juror was dismissed Friday evening — cleared Butler, 38, of both second-degree murder and the lesser charge of manslaughter in the May 2018 death of his brother.
While prosecutors Scott Hurley and Alana Dwyer had argued Butler was guilty of strangling his brother and then making up a convenient story to explain it, defence lawyers Karen Rehner and Tim O’Brien submitted Butler had acted in self-defence against George, who was beating him in a crack-cocaine fuelled rage.
The court heard during trial that the two brothers had been drinking and doing crack at Butler’s C.B.S. home the evening of May 20, 2018. Butler fell asleep on the couch and was later woken up by the sound of George trashing his bedroom in search of a document containing the address of their other brother, Jonathan.
George had it out for Jonathan, the court heard.
Butler testified he went into the bedroom, where George threw two smashed dresser drawers at him before pushing him into a second bedroom and beating him in the head. George then left the room and went into the bathroom, where he began injecting more crack cocaine.
Butler said he changed into pyjamas before trying to escape the house, but George caught him and dragged him into the living room, throwing him on the couch. That’s when Butler put George in a chokehold.
Butler told the court the next thing he remembered after hitting the floor with his brother was waking up the next morning and finding George dead.
Butler told Jonathan he had killed George, letting him know “You don’t have to worry any more,” the court heard. Butler later called police and turned himself in.
There were shouts of relief in the courtroom from Butler’s girlfriend and two other supporters, who hugged him as Justice Valerie Marshall told him he had been cleared of all charges and was free to go.
Butler left the courthouse crying as he called loved ones on his cellphone.