Jury finds Pirko guilty

UPDATE: 1:50 p.m.

After a jury convicted Steven Pirko of second-degree murder Saturday morning, he's expected to be sentenced later this summer. 

The jury delivered the verdict after a day and a half of deliberation. Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no eligibility of parole for at least 10 years. On Saturday, the jury recommended Pirko be ineligible for parole for at least 12 years. 

The sentencing decision ultimately lies with Justice Allan Betton, but he'll be taking the jury's recommendation into consideration. Pirko's next court date is scheduled for July 2, when a sentencing date is expected to be set. 

Ausman's mother Annie Hutton, who's attended almost all of the trial dates, was relieved the jury convicted the man who killed her son. 

Pirko's defence counsel Jordan Watt said he was surprised with the murder conviction. 

"It's a tragic situation for (Pirko) and obviously for the Ausman family, so it's been a horrible experience," Watt said. "There were many issues that the jury had to deal with ... Obviously when you've got alcohol and drugs that influence your behaviour, unfortunately things like this happen."  

Watt added Pirko has been holding up "horribly" after the conviction. 

ORIGINAL: 11:10 a.m.

Seven weeks after Steven Pirko’s second-degree murder trial began, the 12-person jury delivered a guilty verdict Saturday morning. 

The conviction comes 31 months after Pirko was arrested and charged in Chris Ausman’s death, and a day and a half after the jury began deliberating. 

As the verdict was read, Ausman’s mother Annie, who attended almost every trial date, wept. Pirko’s mother Carrie wiped away tears as her son was convicted of murder.  

Throughout the trial, the jury heard Pirko and his friend Elrich Dyck were walking east along Highway 33 in the early hours of Jan. 25, 2014 after leaving a birthday party. Both were intoxicated. 

Pirko testified that Dyck had been looking to pick a fight with a stranger that night, and at 1:38 a.m., Ausman gave him the fight he was looking for. 

After Dyck began losing the consensual fight, Pirko says Dyck called out for help, and Pirko hit Ausman in the back of the head several times with a hammer he had been carrying. Ausman dropped to the ground and Pirko and Dyck ran from the scene. 

Ausman’s body was found by a passing police officer a short while later. 

While police identified Pirko as a suspect in the death within a few days, thanks to surveillance cameras in the area, he wasn’t arrested until almost three years later. He confessed to the killing soon after. Saturday’s conviction comes five and a half years after Ausman’s death. 

During the trial, Pirko said he was only trying to protect his friend when he hit Ausman with the hammer. The jury ultimately found Pirko’s actions weren’t reasonable under the circumstances. 

Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no possibility of parole for at least 10 years. 

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