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Comox youth guilty of second-degree murder

Aug 02 2012

A 17-year-old Comox Valley youth has been found guilty of second-degree murder after a two-week trial in June.

The teen used a four-inch knife to stab 19-year-old James Denton twice during an altercation that took place after a music festival on July 23, 2011. Denton was rushed to hospital, but was pronounced dead.

The youth, who was 16 at the time, cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Supreme Court Justice R.B.T. Goepel delivered reasons for his judgment in court Wednesday.

The judge said two groups of young men met up and the accused got into a verbal altercation and a pushing match with Denton, who was stabbed once in the left armpit and once in the left side of his back.

The accused was arrested 30 minutes later. Police found a folding knife with Denton's blood on the blade in his pocket.

During his arrest, the teen told police that he was scared and acted in self-defence, but Goepel said his "angry and aggressive" actions were not consistent with that claim.

The judge also dismissed the accused's claim that he pulled out the knife during the verbal exchange with Denton.

"The knife required two hands to open. If the accused had pulled out his knife in the midst of his verbal confrontation with [Denton], it is inconceivable that none of the witnesses would have seen it," Goepel wrote.

The judge said he accepted evidence from a friend of the accused that they had discussed the consequences of stabbing someone earlier in the day.

Crown prosecutor Gordon Baines had argued that Goepel could assume that the accused had meant to cause bodily harm likely to result in death when he stabbed Denton twice.

Defence lawyer Michael Mulligan argued that his client lacked the intent to kill Denton and should therefore be convicted on a lesser charge of manslaughter if not acquitted altogether.

Mulligan argued his client was too intoxicated and too young to make the connection between his actions and Denton's death, thereby raising a reasonable doubt of intent.

Goepel rejected both claims. "I find that when the accused plunged his knife twice into the torso of Mr. Denton, he had the intent to cause bodily harm which he knew was likely to cause death, and was reckless whether or not death ensued," he wrote.

For David Denton, the victim's father, the verdict was "the right decision."

"We think about James everyday," said George Denton, the victim's uncle. "We wake up and it's a sad day. And we carry on."

Goepel ordered pre-sentence and psychological reports. Sentencing is not expected to occur until Nov. 26.

The Crown is seeking an adult sentence.

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