Twelve jurors were locked away Wednesday to decide the fate of Robyn Laura Ermine, marking the closing hours of a trial that has shaken the family of her slain fiancé.
Evan Tylan Bear died from massive blood loss after Ermine stabbed him in their Muskoday home on February 21, 2015. Speaking in front of Prince Albert’s Court of Queen’s Bench, Bear’s brother Darcy said the most difficult part of the trial was hearing those waning minutes recorded on a 911 call.
“For me that was the moment, right there. That’s probably where he left us – his physical being was done,” he said. “That for me was the hardest part.”
Hours after Justice Scherman sent the jury away to reach a verdict, they asked to hear that tape again. It records the efforts of eyewitness Shelinda Vallier to save Bear’s life, and casts light on Ermine’s actions in the moments after the stabbing.
Darcy, who serves as an officer with the Prince Albert Police Service said he stayed out of the courtroom during Ermine’s testimony. He said he knew she “wouldn’t take responsibility for her actions.”
“I couldn’t face her,” he said. “If I heard it, I probably wouldn’t be able to bite my tongue hard enough, as I’ve been doing for the last two weeks.”
He said he never “held any anger toward Robyn.” But that changed as he heard about her mopping up blood at the scene of the crime and then watched her construct a defence that painted his brother as an abuser.
Justice Scherman touched on Ermine’s self-defence argument during his instructions to the jury. The defence argues that Evan Bear grabbed her by the throat during an argument, and that she feared for her life. After she stabbed him in the neck, Vallier testified, he slammed her head against the kitchen floor.
“You need to consider whether retreat was in fact an option,” Scherman said. “If Evan Bear had her by the throat, you need to consider whether swinging an unknown object that might have been a knife was reasonable in the circumstances.”
That, he said, was the “fundamental question.”
To answer it, he said, the jury should pour over “all the evidence”: the path of the weapon, testimony that Ermine was cornered, the mere seconds it took for the fight to escalate. He also said they can consider “previous use of force.” The defence claims that Evan Bear assaulted Ermine in the past.
Darcy admitted that the relationship was “abusive, toxic and gross,” but he said that Ermine was frequently the aggressor.
“There’s not a chance that he was choking her; there’s not a chance that he was violent in any way, shape or form,” Darcy said. “When he did get violent was when he realized that he was stabbed. That part I agree with. Who wouldn’t react like that?”
The family, he said, is angered by her allegations.
“She hasn’t portrayed what actually happened,” he said. “None of us were there for the incident, but past experience shows that Evan would not have done what she’s painting him out to be. We know that – in our heart of hearts we know that. So our family’s reaction is anger, disbelief.”
If the jury rejects the self-defence argument, Scherman pointed out, it will automatically mean Ermine committed an unlawful act. But it doesn’t have to be murder. He told the jurors they can convict her of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
“To determine whether the Crown has proven whether Robyn Ermine had the intent required for murder, you must consider all the evidence,” Scherman said. “You may infer, as a matter of common sense, that a person usually knows what the predictable consequences of his or her actions are, and means to bring them about.”
But he said that isn’t always the case, and then launched into a lengthy discussion about alcohol.
“You have heard evidence that she was consuming alcohol,” he said. “As a result of consuming alcohol or drugs a person may not have the required intent.
“However, the mere fact that a person’s mind is affected by alcohol or drugs, so that they lose inhibition and act in a way they would not have done had they been sober, is no excuse.”
Darcy thanked everyone who participated in the trial – the lawyers, the media, the RCMP officers who investigated his brother’s killing. He also thanked the jury, and said he hopes they will keep his brother in mind as they try to reach a verdict.
“I just hope that they take into consideration the glorified victim that Robyn is trying to portray herself as, and take into consideration that my brother was a human being that she took away from everyone.”