Closing arguments wrapped up today in the murder trial for 26-year-old Corey Wolfe Swite.
He is the man previously convicted of first-degree murder in the death of an 85-year-old Penticton woman in 2006, but was awarded a retrial due to procedural issues with the original jury.
On Monday, BC Supreme Court Justice Ian Josephson found him not guilty of first-degree murder and instead accepted a guilty plea to the lesser charge of second-degree murder, which also carries a mandatory minimum life sentence.
In their submissions, defence counsel Kevin McCullough based his argument around the intellectual inability of Swite during the offence and questioned his IQ, stating Swite was a product of a poor environment and an operating alcoholic since his early 20’s.
While this does not remove intent from the crime committed, it shows Swite’s decision-making was materially affected, explained McCullough, who rhetorically asked Justice Josephson what type of killer they were dealing with – a premeditated killer or a killer with a combination of circumstances including a high level of intoxication and a low level of intellectual capacity.
McCullough also brought up the loss of Swite’s mother in 2003 and other family members who died violently in front of him.
Crown prosecutor Rob Bruneau countered with evidence from the crime scene which supported that Swite knew what he was doing and wore gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints. He also questioned the level of Swite’s intoxication at the time of the offence and his level of remorse in the years since the crime was committed.
The most difficult part of each submission centred on the possibility of credit given to Swite due to his First Nation ethnicity.
Both counsels agreed that it’s a point which must be taken into consideration by Justice Josephson, but one that doesn’t mean an automatic reduction in sentencing.
Both first- and second-degree murder charges carry a mandatory life sentence; the only difference is how soon someone becomes eligible for parole.
Bruneau is seeking 15 years in prison before the eligibility of parole, while defence would like to see 10 years.
A decision is expected on Nov. 23.