After 17 days of trial, the Crown closed its case in the case of R. v. Borutski last week. Basil Borutski did not mount a defence, did not call witnesses and did not testify, bringing this case to its final stages in a much shorter time frame than the 17 weeks for which it was originally set.
Borutski has represented himself throughout the trial, during which he has been almost entirely silent and, apparently, disengaged from the process. He maintained that silence last week as the Crown concluded its case and Justice Maranger asked him if he planned to challenge the evidence presented by the Crown.
The Crown, and possibly Borutski or the lawyer appointed by the court to be his amicus curiae, will make closing arguments today (November 21). After that, the judge will instruct the jury and explain what is meant by “beyond a reasonable doubt.” And then, the case will be handed over to those six men and six women, who have the job of determining beyond a reasonable doubt whether or not Basil Borutski is guilty of three counts of first-degree murder.
The evidence against Borutski is considerable. In his initial statement to the police, the only time he has spoken at any length about what happened on September 22, 2015, he admitted to killing the three women. However, he has taken the position that these killings were not murder because the women were, in his mind, not innocent.
In a letter apparently written by Borutski and received by his probation officer a few days after the killings, he said he was “getting out” and taking those who have abused him with him.
In a text message sent from his cell phone just before he was captured by the police, he said that the guilty had paid.
Personal items of his were found in Carol Culleton’s car, which he took from her driveway after she was killed.
The shotgun retrieved by police during Borutski’s arrest after the killings was found to have fired the shells that killed Anastasia Kuzyk and Nathalie Warmerdam.
Beyond a reasonable doubt
No matter how obvious the evidence may seem, the jury can only reach a verdict of guilty if they unanimously believe Borutski is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, a concept that can be difficult to understand or explain.
For some assistance, we can turn to the case of R. v. Lifchus, a 1997 Supreme Court of Canada case in which the court discussed what should be contained in a judge’s instructions to a jury about what “beyond a reasonable doubt” means. The Supreme Court wrote that the concepts of beyond a reasonable doubt and the presumption of innocence are inextricably intertwined, that the burden of proof rests entirely with the Crown, that reasonable doubt is based on reason and common sense and not on sympathy or prejudice. According to Lifchus, reasonable doubt is logically connected to the evidence or the absence of evidence. It does not require proof to an absolute certainty; but if the jury thinks only that an accused is probably guilty, it must acquit.
Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest standard of proof in Canadian law.
Assuming closing arguments and the judge’s instructions to the jury are completed on November 21st, in all likelihood the jury will deliver its verdict before the end of the week. As discussed in an earlier post, at this point, if Borutski has been found guilty, the Crown could raise the issue of whether he may not be criminally responsible by reason of mental disability.