A three-week murder trial scheduled to start yesterday will not go ahead as planned after one of two accused pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder charge Friday morning and charges were stayed against the other.
Christopher James Robinson and Marcus Brandon Parry were charged with second-degree murder several days after emergency crews found Brittany Elsie Baird, 22, dead on Milford Crescent near Selby Street May 25, 2011. Efforts to revive her failed.
The trial was scheduled to start Monday, but the matter was called to Supreme Court in Nanaimo Friday instead so both accused could make two brief appearances: first to re-elect to have their trial by judge alone rather than by judge and jury and again a short time later so Robinson could enter a guilty plea to the charge.
Crown counsel stayed proceedings against Parry.
The matter returns to court March 21 for Crown to provide a summary of the evidence and for Crown and defence lawyers to make submissions about the appropriate parole eligibility period – a second-degree murder conviction comes with a mandatory life sentence and a minimum parole eligibility period of 10 years.
Friday’s court proceedings did not go into any of the details of the case, but Crown and defence lawyers spoke to the media outside the courthouse about the last minute developments that resulted in Robinson’s guilty plea.
Crown counsel Frank Dubenski described Friday’s proceedings as an “unusual turn of events.”
He said Crown lawyers were notified two days before Robinson’s plea that the co-accused (Parry) had received a written confession from Robinson – the two men had been in custody together for about 22 months while awaiting trial – which contained information that cast doubt on the Crown’s case against Parry.
The Crown investigated and decided not to proceed with charges against Parry and instead planned to request he attend trial as a witness, until learning a short time later that Robinson had expressed a desire to plead guilty.
Peter Hertzberg, Robinson’s lawyer, said his client was advised of some recent developments in the community regarding Baird’s family and those circumstances caused him to instruct Hertzberg to resolve the matter before the trial.
“It would have required the family of Brittany Baird to suffer further agony, having to hear again, in more detail, some of what they had heard at the preliminary inquiry,” he said. “My client made it clear to me that he didn’t want the family to suffer any more.”
Stephen Taylor, Parry’s lawyer, said he hopes his client can now put this all behind him.
“Marcus was friends with the accused and after the tragedy and the murder of the young girl, he was with the accused and in fact got involved with the knife that was believed to be used in this case and disposed of it,” he said.
“Mr. Parry was named as a murderer in this matter and wasn’t even present when the young victim was killed, wasn’t even there. He was nearby but not present.”