Defence lawyer Bob Buckingham’s first words to the jury as Steven Neville’s murder trial got underway Thursday were a sort of introduction to his client.
“You can call him Steve, you can call him Steven, you can call him Mr. Neville. But you cannot call him guilty,” Buckingham told the six women and six men who will spend the next 10 weeks hearing evidence in the case.
Neville, 27, is charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of 19-year-old Doug Flynn in October 2010. He’s also charged with attempting to murder Ryan Dwyer by stabbing him during the same altercation, which took place on the street in a subdivision in Paradise.
Buckingham painted for the jury a picture of what he called a “terror campaign” against Neville by Flynn and Dwyer. Neville had borrowed $65 from Dwyer’s brother, Buckingham said, resulting in a falling out between the men.
“Ryan Dwyer went on a ballistic campaign to harass, threaten, intimidate and terrorize Steven Neville and anybody he hung out with,” Buckingham said, explaining that Dwyer had recruited Flynn to help.
Buckingham described incidents in which the two men had terrorized Neville on social media and in person, with weapons like knives, a baseball bat, nunchuks and brass knuckles, sometimes involving high-speed chases. The night he was killed, Flynn had made a post on social media threatening to break into Neville’s house and assault his mother, Buckingham said. The pair implemented what the defence lawyer called a “search and destroy plan” and tracked Neville to a party in Paradise.
Flynn and Dwyer had two things on their minds that night: “They were out to get hammered, and they were out to get Steven Neville,” Buckingham said.
Buckingham acknowledged his client was no saint, saying, “He was certainly not a Nobel Prize winner for diplomacy,” and noting some of the text message evidence set to be presented at trial would show Neville having written some “vile, nasty, vulgar, politically incorrect” things; he implored them, however, to keep an open mind when it came to the context in which the text messages had been written.
Prosecutor Jason House quoted from one of the texts, allegedly sent by Neville to a friend the day of the stabbings.
“This is it, they’re dead, dead, dead. I’m stabbing them until they are squirting blood,” Neville is said to have written.
House said Flynn and Dwyer had tried to meet Neville that night for a fistfight, and were trying to run away when they were stabbed.
“Evidence will show that Mr. Neville jumped out of a moving car and put his plan into action,” House told the jurors. Dwyer ended up stabbed multiple times in the arm as he tried to defend himself, House said, as well as three times in the side.
Neville stabbed Flynn in the arms and chest and, “ultimately in a roundhouse motion, stabbed Doug Flynn in the left temple, entering the brain,” House said. “This was the fatal injury. He fell to the ground.”
House noted Neville had never called police to report harassment from Flynn or Dwyer, but took matters into his own hands. Neville lied in his initial statements to police about what had happened, House said.
“This cannot be viewed as a case where he had no choice but to stab Ryan Dwyer and Doug Flynn,” House said. “His actions were contemplated and intentional.”
This is Neville’s second time on trial for murdering Flynn and attempting to murder Dwyer, who is expected to testify. A jury originally convicted him of second-degree murder in 2013, but the conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada two years later. The court found there were problems with the trial judge’s instructions to the jury, and ordered a new trial for Neville.
The presiding judge for the new trial is Justice Robert Stack, who opened proceedings Thursday morning with instructions to the jurors, telling them not to speculate on the reasons for the retrial and what had happened at the first one.
“That trial has nothing to do with this one,” Stack explained.
The Crown called its first witness, an RNC officer, Thursday afternoon. The trial will continue Friday.