Ac­quit­tal stirs emo­tions on both sides

Steven Neville cleared of mur­der, at­tempted mur­der charges

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - FRONT PAGE - BY TARA BRAD­BURY

Steven Neville blew out the long breath he had been hold­ing as he sat, for the first time since his trial be­gan three months ago, in the pris­oner’s dock and not in the seat next to his lawyers and heard him­self de­clared not guilty.

He broke into a grin, which quickly dis­ap­peared as he turned over his left shoul­der to look at the loved ones of Doug Flynn and Ryan Dwyer in the gallery, sob­bing for the same rea­son Neville was over­joyed.

Af­ter a New­found­land and Labrador Supreme Court trial that lasted nearly 11 weeks, and af­ter al­most nine full days of jury de­lib­er­a­tions, Neville, 27, was ac­quit­ted of charges of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der and at­tempted mur­der in con­nec­tion with the fa­tal stab­bing of 19-year-old Doug Flynn and a sec­ond man, Ryan Dwyer, in 2010.

A man sit­ting with Flynn and Dwyer’s fam­ily mem­bers got up and left the court­room as the ver­dict was an­nounced, while oth­ers con­soled each other and cried into tis­sues.

“Why?” one woman said to her­self, lean­ing over in her seat in tears.

Some mem­bers of Neville’s fam­ily had burst into tears, too, re­lieved that Neville was free to leave the court­house, cleared of the charges.

Af­ter court, Neville’s lawyer, Bob Buck­ing­ham, told mem­bers of the me­dia it was a day of re­lief for his client, but not a day to cel­e­brate.

“We still have an in­di­vid­ual in this in­ci­dent that died,” Buck­ing­ham said. “I know it’s dif­fi­cult for Mr. Flynn’s fam­ily. This is an un­for­tu­nate event that hap­pened with a bunch of young peo­ple many years ago, and Mr. Neville gets the op­por­tu­nity to get on with his life, and the other in­di­vid­ual does not. It’s un­for­tu­nate. It’s sad. But at the end of the day, Mr. Neville is not a crim­i­nal be­cause of what hap­pened here.

Buck­ing­ham and co-coun­sel Robert Hoskins main­tained through­out the trial that Neville acted in self-de­fence the night Flynn was killed and Dwyer stabbed mul­ti­ple times dur­ing an al­ter­ca­tion on a street in Par­adise.

They said Dwyer had “gone off the deep end” over an un­paid $65 loan his brother had given Neville, and he and Flynn had mounted a “cam­paign of ter­ror” against him.

In his open­ing and closing state­ments to the jury, Buck­ing­ham de­scribed in­ci­dents where Flynn and Dwyer had re­port­edly chased Neville in ve­hi­cles, threat­ened on so­cial me­dia to as­sault his mother and at­tempted to at­tack him with weapons such as brass knuck­les, a base­ball bat, knives and nunchucks.

On the night they were stabbed, Flynn and Dwyer had been on a “search and de­stroy” mis­sion when it came to Neville, Buck­ing­ham said.

Pros­e­cu­tors Jes­sica Gal­lant and Ja­son House pre­sented ev­i­dence at trial they said proved Neville had planned to mur­der Flynn and Dwyer, in­clud­ing text mes­sages he had sent to a friend on the day of the stab­bing, say­ing he was go­ing to stab the two men and that they were “dead, dead, dead.”

“This wasn’t a slam dunk, by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion, given we had a jury out for nine days,” Buck­ing­ham told re­porters of Neville’s ac­quit­tal.

Buck­ing­ham said he wasn’t sur­prised with the not guilty ver­dict.

“I’m the only one in town who would prob­a­bly say that, but no. My team will tell you that I was overly op­ti­mistic, pie in the sky, wasn’t in touch with re­al­ity,” the lawyer said. “But I was happy with the strat­egy we de­vel­oped.”

It’s been a long process for fam­i­lies on both sides of the case.

Neville was charged and orig­i­nally con­victed of sec­ond­de­gree mur­der by a jury in 2013, but that con­vic­tion was later over­turned by the Supreme Court of Canada, which took is­sue with as­pects of the orig­i­nal judge’s in­struc­tions to the ju­rors — specif­i­cally, his re­sponse to a jury ques­tion.

“We re­al­ize this may be a ridicu­lous ques­tion, but we would like to clar­ify that the le­gal def­i­ni­tion of ‘to kill’ is the same as ‘to mur­der,’ the jury asked. The coun­try’s high court ruled the judge should have an­swered the ques­tion in­stead of telling the ju­rors to re­view the in­for­ma­tion he had al­ready pro­vided.

A new trial was or­dered and Neville was even­tu­ally re­leased on bail, but not be­fore spend­ing 5 ½ years in prison. Neville was back in cus­tody briefly this past sum­mer, when he was charged with as­sault­ing a woman, dis­tribut­ing an in­ti­mate im­age of her and breach­ing his bail con­di­tions in Oc­to­ber and De­cem­ber of 2017. Those charges are still be­fore the court.

“There’s a bunch of non­sense charges be­fore the pro­vin­cial court that un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances would not be pros­e­cuted,” Buck­ing­ham said Fri­day. “We’ll deal with them in due course and hope­fully we’ll get rid of them.”

While his happy fam­ily mem­bers watched off-cam­era, Neville stood be­tween his lawyers and spoke to re­porters be­fore he left the court­house. He said he has cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in heavy equip­ment op­er­a­tion and was look­ing for­ward to get­ting to work, spend­ing Christ­mas with his fam­ily and friends, and hav­ing “a great fu­ture.”

“I went through a lot of stress with fam­ily mem­bers,” Neville said. “I just want to say that I’m re­lieved that it’s over and I’m ex­tremely happy with the ver­dict to­day and I’m glad that my in­no­cence has been proven.”

JOE GIBBONS/THE TELE­GRAM

Steven Neville (right) speaks to re­porters Fri­day out­side New­found­land and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John’s as one of his de­fence lawyers, Bob Buck­ing­ham, looks on.

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