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Crown argues self-defence no explanation for fatal stabbing of Winnipeg bus driver
The Crown presented its closing arguments Wednesday morning in the trial for a man accused of killing a Winnipeg Transit operator nearly two years ago.
Brian Kyle Thomas, 24, has pleaded not guilty to second degree murder in the stabbing death of bus driver Irvine Jubal Fraser, 58, in the early morning hours of Feb. 14, 2017.
Crown attorney Keith Eyrikson told jurors self-defence isn’t a reasonable explanation for what happened to Fraser.
“Does the conduct of Mr. Fraser really demonstrate that the accused was justified in stabbing him six times?” Eyrikson asked the jury. “The accused’s actions are not reasonable.
“There is no way stabbing Mr. Fraser six times is a reasonable, proportionate response considering the circumstances.”
Thomas’s defence lawyer, Evan Roitenberg, said he doesn’t see the evidence the same way.
“It’s a heavyweight against a lightweight if I ever saw one,” Roitenberg told the jury Wednesay afternoon in his closing arguments. “The gum was spat, the driver took off like a shot after Brian was backing away.”
Roitenberg conceded in front of the jury Thomas stabbed Fraser but he argued the Crown has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt Thomas did so unlawfully.
“This is not a whodunit,” Roitenberg told jurors. “Brian Thomas caused the death of Mr. Fraser.”
Roitenberg argued the evidence shows Thomas was only acting in self-defence.
“He was asking for assistance and was physically bent backward,” Roitenberg argued. “If you look at the evidence you will return a verdict of not guilty.”
The jury has heard Fraser died after being stabbed six times outside his bus which had just made its final stop on the University of Manitoba campus.
The only two people on board were Fraser and Thomas.
Security footage from inside the bus shows Thomas repeatedly asking Fraser to drop him off elsewhere at around 1:45 a.m. Fraser told Thomas to get off the bus several times because it was his last stop.
“He asked him over 25 times to leave the bus,” Eyrikson said to the jury. “He asks him to leave over and over and the accused, frankly, does not listen to him.
“What happens then, happens quickly.”
The driver eventually forcibly removed Thomas from the bus leading to an altercation in the entrance of the bus with Thomas outside the bus and Fraser still on board. Eyrikson told jurors the evidence shows Thomas was looking for a fight.
“He says ‘(expletive) you, man. Come outside and fight.’ He taunted Mr. Fraser throughout, calling him a (expletive),” Eyrikson told the jury. “What does Mr. Fraser do? Nothing. He just tries to avoid being struck. Dodging blows.
“At that point he suffers the indignity of the accused spitting right in his face.”
The altercation spills out on to the sidewalk.
Jurors were shown security footage from a bus parked behind Fraser’s. Eyrikson played portions of the video multiple times for the jury which he argued shows Thomas making a swinging motion.
“He wanted payback for being kicked off the bus,” Eyrikson argued. “He wasn’t afraid of the bigger bus driver because he had a knife and he was going to exact his revenge.”
Roitenberg argued the evidence shows no sign Thomas showed any aggression toward Fraser while on the bus.
He suggested to the jury the video evidence in the case shows Fraser was the one who initially had a weapon, drawing the jury’s attention to a shadow of Fraser’s left hand which Roitenberg argued shows an object in Fraser’s hand.
He suggested to jurors that’s the weapon Thomas used to stab Fraser.
“We say that the shadow casts a very large shadow of doubt as to whether Brian produced the knife,” Roitenberg argued. “This begs the questions of what exactly happens off the bus.
“He comes up swinging with what he has picked up. It’d been knocked there during the struggle when the driver had introduced it to the fray.”
Roitenberg suggested Fraser grabbed the object from a compartment on the bus.
Eyrikson argued the six stab wounds suffered by Fraser all happened within 15 seconds of Fraser and Thomas getting off Fraser’s bus and disappearing from camera view — timing he argued is critical to the case.
“We know the individual planned to use the knife when he got off the bus,” Eyrikson told jurors. “This is not a situation where the stabbing occurred at the very end of this altercation. It happened at the beginning.
“This is a far cry from what the accused wants you to believe in that this was a life and death struggle and that he had to stab Mr. Fraser six times to defend himself.”
He told jurors a knife found on the south bank of the Red River near where Fraser’s blood was found following the stabbing is most likely the weapon used in the killing.
Roitenberg told the jury to be mindful of a pair of scissors which were found on the U of M campus – scissors which he pointed out were never introduced as an exhibit in the case.
“You have been robbed of the opportunity of assessing the value of that evidence and that shouldn’t sit well with anyone,” Roitenberg told jurors. “If you have a reasonable doubt as to whether Brian produced a knife doesn’t that strike you as a pathway to an acquittal?”
Eyrikson argued evidence demonstrates Thomas crossed the frozen Red River to get rid of the knife after stabbing Fraser.
“If you defended yourself lawfully don’t you explain to the police what you did,” Eyrikson asked jurors.
Roitenberg told jurors the evidence Thomas left the knife on the river bank or even crossed the river in his intoxicated state doesn’t add up. Roitenberg suggested officers who testified about arresting Thomas told court Thomas was walking toward the south river bank, not away from it and that it was extremely difficult and treacherous to cross the river given the unseasonably warm weather and melting ice.
“You’d think of the blood on his hands was Irvine Fraser’s you’d have that evidence. Do you?” Roitenberg asked the jury. “You can’t just make the leap the Crown is asking you to make without you having the evidentiary foundation.”
Eyrikson told jurors Fraser’s actions don’t justify in any way, shape or form what happened to him.
Court heard Thomas had $25 on him when he was arrested, money the Crown told jurors he could’ve used to take a cab or hop on a different bus. Eyrikson told the jury Fraser was at the end of his shift and just wanted to go home.
“The accused does not have a right to stay on the bus,” Eyrikson told jurors. “I’m not justifying Mr. Fraser’s actions but I just want you to put yourself in his shoes for a moment. He’s not a diplomat or a crisis worker he’s a bus driver working a night shift.”
Court has heard Thomas was intoxicated but Eyrikson argued he was sober enough to plunge a knife into Fraser six times and should’ve known bad things would happen.
“He had the dexterity and coordination to stab Mr. Fraser multiple times.”
Eyrikson asked jurors to use the security video and eyewitness testimony to help with their decision.
“The criminal actions of the accused caused the death of Mr. Fraser,” Eyrikson told court. “This amounts to second degree murder.”
The judge will instruct the jury Thursday morning before jurors begin deliberations.