After four days of trial hearings and one day of deliberation, a Moose Jaw jury has found Tony Lawrence Warken guilty of manslaughter in the death of Gordon Errol Gregson.
The verdict was delivered by the 11-member panel just before 9 p.m. Friday, May 25 at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Moose Jaw.
Gregson was found dead at his home in Bengough, Sask., on Nov. 1, 2009. Warken, also a resident of Bengough, was charged in his death nearly a year later.
His sentencing hearing has been set for June 15; he will be remanded in custody until then.
Defence counsel Merv Shaw said his client is still grappling with the circumstances of Gregson’s death. Warken stated during the trial that he and Gregson were involved in a homosexual relationship for more than 12 years.
“My client can’t believe that he could have done this to his best friend,” said Shaw. “All things considered, he’s holding up quite well.”
He would not speculate on the possibility of an appeal, saying he would rest for the weekend and speak with Warken again next week.
“I think the matter was fairly straightforward,” said crown prosecutor Rob Parker, crediting forensic pathologist Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lin with establishing the cause of Gregson’s death.
Gregson’s body was discovered next to a homemade hot tub in his home with signs of physical trauma. Warken was allegedly the only witness to his death.
Brooks-Lin —whose earlier testimony was replayed for the jury on Friday afternoon — stated that Gregson’s death resulted from neck compression.
Both men were reportedly severely intoxicated at the time of Gregson’s death. The dead man’s blood alcohol level was recorded at more than three times the legal limit for drivers.
The accused took the stand during day four of the trial.
During the course of questioning from Warken’s legal aid and Crown prosecution, a considerable amount of time was spent discussing the accused’s self-confessed alcoholism.
Warken told his legal aid he believed he consumed around eight beers and half a mickey of rye whiskey leading up to the death of Gregson.
Warken’s accounts have constantly shifted or been nonexistent since Nov. 1, 2009, when he first told RCMP Const. Regan Uliski he had consumed 10 to 12 beers. Crown prosecutor Rob Parker said he believes Warken is a self-professed alcoholic who is probably telling the truth when suggesting that, due to alcoholism, he may not be able to recollect the night of Gregson’s death.
The defence and prosecution delivered their closing statements to the jury once questioning with Warken was complete.
“He didn’t leave him in the tub. He didn’t flee. He stayed when his brother came. He didn’t hide the fact. He told him,” Shaw told the jury as he delivered his summation.
Parker reminded the court of Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lin’s testimony.
“Dr. Brooks-Lin gave a distinctive cause of death — compression of the neck.” Parker then went into the fine details of the forensic pathologist’s report.
Despite Shaw’s questioning and desire to find out his client’s explantation for Gregson’s death, Warken was unable to recollect the events of Nov. 1, 2009.
Cpl. Eric Lane of the RCMP major crime unit in Regina was present for Friday’s hearing. As one of the leading officers in the investigation, he has served as a contact between the police and Gregson’s family.
“I’ve been keeping them appraised,” he said, adding that minutes earlier, he had contacted them to inform them of the jury’s verdict.
The case had been a difficult one for investigators, due in part to the shortage of witnesses.
Lane said the pathologist’s testimony, while somewhat “overwhelming” for those without medical knowledge, filled in some of the blanks as to the circumstances of Gregson’s death.
Friday began with Chief Justice Martel Popescul’s charge to the jury, delivered just after 9:15 a.m. and lasting more than 70 minutes. The judge advised the panel as to the importance of their role.
“As jurors, you have a direct and decisive voice in the administration of justice,” he said, explaining that while they were required to protect innocent persons from unjust accusations, they were also charged with protecting the safety of the community.
He also reminded them to restrict themselves to the evidence that had been presented, “without sympathy, prejudice or fear.”
“Deciding the facts is your job, not mine,” said the judge. “You, not I, decide what happens in this case.”
The jury’s deliberations continued throughout the day.
Previously-presented evidence was played back; the panel returned from a dinner recess around 7:30 p.m. and reached its verdict shortly afterward.
— With files from the Moose Jaw Times-Herald