PICTOU – Christopher Alexander Falconer has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the murder of Amber Kirwan.
It took the jury less than eight hours to reach their verdict after beginning deliberations yesterday afternoon, following a three-week trial.
Falconer has been sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility of parole for 25 years.
Pictou Supreme Court Justice Nick Scaravelli gave the jury a two-and-a-half-hour charge Monday morning and officially told them to begin deliberating the evidence a little after 2 p.m.
They had more than 45 exhibits to consider as well as testimony from more than 35 witnesses in the trial that began with jury selection on Jan. 6. Falconer is guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 19-year-old Amber Kirwan who went missing Oct. 9, 2011, Her remains were found in Heathbell, Pictou County, on Nov. 5, 2011.
Scaravelli told the jury during the morning's instruction there were three possible verdicts it could consider when deliberating the evidence – guilty of first-degree murder, guilty of second-degree murder or not guilty.
"When you go into the jury room, you must consult with each other, based on facts when you find them," said the justice. "You have several things provided for you during deliberations. Exhibits will be sent to the jury room and you may look at them in any order you wish."
In order to be convicted of first-degree murder, the jury had to find that Kirwan was kidnapped and forcibly confined by Falconer, which led to her death in a series of events. If they couldn't determine she was kidnapped or forcibly confined, then they could consider second-degree murder if they found that Falconer caused Kirwan's death. If there is any reasonable doubt with either charge, they had to find the accused not guilty.
Scaravelli told the jury members to not pay any attention to any comments they might have heard in the past or any media reports they might have heard while not sequestered.
He told the jury they were welcome to ask questions or have answers played back if they needed clarification on the issue. He also stressed the onus is on the Crown to prove its case and the defence does not have to present evidence.
"Any reasonable doubt is not far-fetched doubt," Scaravelli said. "It is doubt based on reason and common sense. It logically arises from the evidence or lack of evidence. It is not enough for you to believe that he is probably guilty. Probable guilt is not guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, it is difficult to prove anything beyond absolute certainty."
The Crown argued that at 1:45 a.m. on Oct. 9, Kirwan started walking to meet friends and was overcome by Falconer in downtown New Glasgow. He bound her hands with duct tape and forced her into his vehicle after which he took her to the Hardwood Hill camper. Once there, he forced Kirwan to digest Tylenol 3 and cut off Kirwan's clothing and bound her wrists with her own shirt, sweater and towel.
The Crown says Falconer wore a black tank top that night and killed her by stabbing her. However, the stabbing didn't occur in the camper, but between the camper and the burial site in Heathbell.