Ermine takes the stand in her own murder trial, claims self-defence

Robyn Ermine at Prince Albert's Court of Queen's Bench after her testimony on Monday. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald

Accused killer Robyn Ermine testified in her own defence Monday, telling the court that her fiancé was choking her when she struck him with what she thought was a blunt sharpening rod.

“I wanted to hit him,” she said. “I didn’t want to hurt him the way I did.”

Ermine, facing trial for second-degree murder for the death of Evan Bear, sat wearing a black pantsuit, wiping away tears as she spoke. She said her and Bear argued several times over the course of February 20, 2015. In the early morning hours of February 21, she testified, she threw his shoes outside to make him leave their home. That’s when things became physical.

“Evan was mad. He pushed me,” she said. “When he grabbed me, he hit me, and that’s when we started going after each other.”

She said he grabbed her by the throat.

“I was scared; I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “I wanted him to let go of me – I wanted him to leave.”

Under questioning by her lawyer, Adam Masiowski, she said she reached back on the counter for something she could defend herself with.

“I don’t recall what I grabbed, but I grabbed something and I swung at him. I was trying to hit him in the face.”

She said she wanted to grab a canister, but found something with a handle instead. She said she thought it was a rod for sharpening kitchen knives. Masiowski reminded her that forensic pathologist Shaun Ladham testified earlier that the rod in her home couldn’t have made the wound that cut Bear’s subclavian artery. He asked if it could have been a knife.

“It could have been a knife, yes,” she said.

Masiowski tried to portray her as a battered woman, who’d sustained multiple injuries during physical altercations with Bear. He asked if the fight that left him dead was their first altercation.

“No,” she said, and claimed they’d had at least five physical conflicts.

She talked about a time when Bear allegedly threw her to the ground after she stopped him from driving drunk. She said it prompted a miscarriage. Another incident caused bruises, she claimed, and a third left her with a black eye.

As she spoke, Bear’s family shot her icy stares. A woman in the front row shook her head repeatedly, looking appalled at the accusations.

Masiowski then endeavoured to clear up incriminating bits of eyewitness testimony from Crown witness Shelinda Vallier. Vallier told the court that, as she struggled to save Bear’s life, Ermine paced around the room and mopped up her fiancé’s blood.

Ermine admitted it could be true. She said she may have “blacked out” or gone into shock. She said she later snapped out of it and helped Vallier control the bleeding. She also said she called 911 herself and only left the premises when she noticed an ambulance nearby.

Crown prosecutor Jeff Lubyk began his cross examination by assailing Ermine’s past.

“You have a criminal record,” he said. “You have been convicted of assault, theft under $5,000… assault causing bodily harm.”

He later turned his attention to the object, still unknown, that killed Evan Bear.

“You will agree with me that, when you grabbed on to the handle, you knew that felt different than grabbing a canister,” Lubyk insisted.

“Yes,” Ermine admitted.

“So when you realized you didn’t have a canister in your hand, you didn’t drop it,” he said.

He showed her pictures of her kitchen’s utensils, pressing her on the difference between knives and sharpening rods. He was leading to his big question.

“In fact, you knew that you grabbed a knife and you made a stabbing motion,” he said.

“I wasn’t sure what I grabbed, I just wanted to hit him,” she said.

Lubyk showed her more photos, portraits taken after her arrest.

“No black eyes,” he said. “No broken bones… You weren’t stabbed.”

Then he turned to intent.

“Now when you grabbed that object, did you raise it in a threatening manner, saying look I’ve got this?” he asked.

“No,” she said.

“You just swung it,” Lubyk said. “I’m submitting to you, Ms. Ermine, that when you struck Evan, you meant to hurt him.”

“Not the way it happened, no,” she replied.

“I don’t understand, how did you think it was going (to happen)?”

“I thought I would hit him in the face,” she said. “I didn’t think I would puncture him.”

Ermine’s mother, Leona Bear, later took the stand to support her daughter’s claims about past abuse. She said she saw signs on Ermine’s body and witnessed verbal mistreatment.

With that, the the defence closed its case. Justice Sherman sent the public out of the courtroom to hold a charge conference – where he, Lubyk and Masiowski will decide on the appropriate charges to submit to the jury. Sherman scheduled closing arguments for Tuesday afternoon, and said he will send the jurors away to reach a verdict the next day.