THAT a person likely committed a criminal act is not proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
And it's this well-established legal rule -- combined with gaps in the Crown's evidence -- that prompted a provincial court judge to clear Edmund Wescoupe on Monday of manslaughter for the fatal stabbing of Adam Nattaway, 39, at a West End apartment block.
"While I believe the accused is likely guilty, I cannot say on the evidence that was and was not before me that I am satisfied of the accused's guilt," said Judge Brian Corrin.
"The reality is, the evidence before me bespeaks a volatile mix of intemperate alcohol consumption and personal self-interest," Corrin said in acquitting Wescoupe, 50.
Court heard Wescoupe was one of five people police found inside a blood-spattered Sherbrook Avenue suite while probing a possible stabbing on the evening of Oct. 26, 2012.
He gave a fake name to investigators, a feature of the case the Crown said was a compelling indicator of his guilt.
Nattaway had fled out the back door of the suite after being slashed in the neck and headed into a nearby restaurant to get help but didn't make it.
The Crown asked Corrin to infer from eyewitness testimony given by two women present and drinking beer at the suite that Wescoupe was Nattaway's killer.
One of the witnesses was the mother of Nattaway's cousin, Leonard Nattaway, who was also present at the party. He was not called by the prosecution to testify.
Corrin said he made an "adverse inference" against the Crown for failing to produce him as a witness, given he was there when the stabbing happened.
One of the women told court Leonard, Adam and Wescoupe were seen arguing and the men pushing at each other. At some point after that, she saw blood on the floor and started "freaking out."
Leonard Nattaway's mother testified she heard Wescoupe utter a threat at some point in the evening, one along the lines of "I'll do you in."
Corrin said he was "less than impressed" by her testimony because of her ties to Leonard and she was evasive about how much she had been drinking.
She may have had a "vested interest" in shielding her relative from potential suspicion in the case, Corrin said.