Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Jury deliberates in Lalonde trial

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A Winnipeg jury is now secretly deliberating whether two city teens who brutally beat an innocent man to death should be found guilty of second-degree murder or the lesser crime of manslaughter.

They were each 15 years old when they accosted Joseph Lalonde's daughter outside a Dufferin Avenue home in August 2011 and then brutally attacked Lalonde, 48, when he stepped in to protect her.

Every bone in Lalonde's face was broken.

One teen repeatedly bashed him with a wooden baseball bat while the other kicked him on the side of his body during the roughly 60-second assault, court heard at trial.

Lalonde never regained consciousness and died in hospital a few days later.

Neither Lalonde nor his daughter, who was pregnant at the time, had any connections with street gangs.

The youths had ridden their bikes to his home hoping to settle a score with a gang rival who wasn't there when they arrived.

After they attacked Lalonde, one of the teens went to a home up the street and hid the bat under some stairs. Both were arrested by police about 15 minutes later.

Prosecutors argue it's a clear-cut case of murder committed by gang-involved teens bent on inflicting as much damage to Lalonde as they could.

Defence lawyers counter that evidence the teens were drinking heavily prior to attacking Lalonde and his daughter shows the Crown hasn't proven they had the necessary state of mind to commit murder.

In order to convict on the murder count, the jury must unanimously find the teens either specifically intended to kill Lalonde or meant to cause him bodily harm they knew was likely to cause his death.

Either way, jurors were told they must return a finding of guilt.

"There are going to be only two verdicts available to you … guilty of murder or guilty of manslaughter," Court of Queen's Bench Justice Rick Saull told them in his final instructions this morning.

A murder finding would have a major impact if the teens are sentenced as adults down the road, as they could face mandatory life sentences.

Jurors only decide the facts of the case and have no input on what punishment the teens may receive.

There is no mandatory minimum sentence for manslaughter.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

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