Crown argues evidence overwhelming Winnipeg man fatally stabbed 3-year-old boy, but defence calls case circumstantial
WARNING: This report contains distressing details from evidence presented in a trial.
The fate of a Winnipeg man accused of fatally stabbing a three-year-old boy in his sleep will soon be in the hands of a jury.
Daniel Jensen, 34, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the November 2019 death of three-year-old Hunter Smith-Straight.
After a two-week trial, lawyers presented their final arguments in the case.
The 13-member jury heard arguments Jensen was enraged and furious at his partner Clarice Smith in the early morning hours of Oct. 30, 2019.
The Crown argued he came up with a plan while walking from the Northern Hotel bar to a home on Pritchard Ave. where Hunter, Clarice’s son, was sleeping in his bed.
“Hurt and angry at Clarice Smith, he decided to hurt her in the most cruel and permanent way: by taking her only child,” Crown attorney Jennifer Mann told jurors during closing arguments at Jensen’s trial.
The Crown argued the stabbing was planned and deliberate and Jensen had a motive. Mann directed the jury to video surveillance of Jensen’s movements and testimony from multiple witnesses who told the court Jensen and Smith had been arguing that night.
“There is no doubt that Daniel Jensen killed Hunter. None at all,” Mann told jurors. “The evidence against him is overwhelming.”
Jurors heard Jensen violently assaulted Smith at the bar before leaving and walking to the home.
The Crown pointed the jury to witness testimony that Jensen told Smith’s relative he was at the home to check up on Hunter around 2 a.m. Mann argued he wasn’t there long before leaving and didn’t alert anyone Hunter was hurt.
“Daniel Jensen was in that house for about five minutes, at most,” Mann told jurors. “That was enough time, though, to do what he set out to do: go upstairs, find a sharp knife in the kitchen sink, go into Hunter’s room and stab him six times.”
Relatives discovered Hunter stabbed with a blanket pulled up to his chin around 30 minutes later. Mann suggested no one heard Hunter because Jensen held his hand over the boy’s mouth and face.
Mann reminded the jury of evidence heard at trial blood on Jensen’s clothing matched Hunter’s DNA.
“It was on his t-shirt, it was on his hoodie, it was on his pants,” Mann told jurors. “That is not a coincidence.”
Jensen’s lawyer, Bruce Bonney, argued the case is circumstantial because no one saw Jensen stab Hunter. Bonney told jurors Jensen was at the home to get his things and suggested the blood on his clothes came from picking up Hunter to try and revive the boy after he’d been stabbed by someone else.
Bonney suggested to jurors one of Hunter’s older cousins who lived in the home and who was found with his own blood on his clothing is a viable alternative suspect.
“One of your duties is to ensure an innocent man is not convicted,” Bonney told the jury. “I would ask that you acquit Dan Jensen of all charges.”
Bonney also questioned why not all of the bloodstains and blood splatter found in the room where Hunter was sleeping underwent DNA analysis.
“I criticize the investigation,” Bonney argued. “I call into question why they did not test more in Hunter’s bedroom.”
The Crown argued the defence theory defies logic.
Mann asked the jury to find Jensen guilty of first-degree murder.
The jury is expected to begin deliberating Wednesday to come up with a verdict in the case.