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Jurors find killers guilty of manslaughter

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A pair of separate Winnipeg murder cases have ended in identical fashion — with jurors finding the two accused killers guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Deliberations in both cases began Friday morning and ended before dinner.

Leonard Leslie Murdock, 25, didn't deny stabbing his victim to death but said he acted in self defence. He pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and urged jurors to acquit him entirely on the grounds his violent actions were justified.

Derek Robert Spence, 24, was fatally knifed in the 500 block of Manitoba Avenue in August 2010. Spence had gotten involved in a fight with Murdock’s friend over a $10 debt and was clearly getting the better of him, court was told.

That’s when he was attacked by the knife-wielding Murdock and stabbed once in the chest. He was rushed to hospital but could not be saved. Family and friends of Spence said he'd been working as a roofer, and he had an eight-year-old daughter and four-year-old son who did not live with him.

Jurors clearly accepted that the killing was not intentional in reaching the manslaughter verdict.

In the other case, Robert Prince, 46, also admitted killing his victim by slashing his throat. But he asked jurors to find him not guilty of second-degree murder on the grounds the attack was a tragic accident.

"This is clearly a case of manslaughter, of an unintended killing," defence lawyer Ryan Amy said Thursday in his closing argument. He urged jurors to convict his client of the lesser charge, which doesn't carry the mandatory minimum life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 10 years. They clearly agreed.

Darryl John Sinclair, 45, suffered fatal injuries during the January 2011 incident. Crown attorney Mark Kantor told jurors Thursday they should have no trouble finding Prince knew exactly what he was doing when he stuck the knife into the victim's throat.

Jurors heard that trouble began when Sinclair and his girlfriend joined Prince for a night of drinking inside a Manitoba Housing apartment highrise at 269 Dufferin Ave., where all three lived.

Sinclair wanted to leave the gathering at Prince's suite, but his girlfriend did not, court was told. Sinclair then struck the woman in the face before fleeing. That's when Prince grabbed a knife, followed Sinclair into the hallway and attacked him with the single stab wound.

"He acted on the sudden, before his passions had cooled," Amy told jurors Thursday. "If he meant to kill, why did he allow (the victim) to walk away? Why didn't he, pardon the crassness, finish the job?"

Police found Sinclair collapsed in a pool of blood in a stairwell after one of the other tenants in the building called police.


Updated on Friday, November 2, 2012 at 8:17 PM CDT: updates with verdict

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