The fate of Steven Pirko now rests in the hands of seven women and five men from the community.
Evidence in Pirko's second-degree murder trial wrapped up last Friday, and after closing arguments were delivered by defence and the Crown this week, Justice Allan Betton delivered his final instructions to the jury Thursday.
Through the six weeks of trial, the jury learned Pirko and his friend Elrich Dyck were walking east along Highway 33 in Rutland just before 2 a.m. on Jan. 25, 2014.
Pirko testified Dyck had been trying to pick a fight with others as the pair walked to the 7-Eleven from a nearby birthday party, but Dyck denied he had been yelling at strangers.
Surveillance footage shows Chris Ausman ran across the street towards the pair at 1:38 a.m., and Dyck and Ausman engaged in a fight.
Pirko testified Ausman immediately got the upper hand, hitting Dyck repeatedly in the face. He said Dyck called out for help, so he first hit Ausman in the back of the legs with a hammer he had been carrying, before hitting Ausman several times in the head. However, a forensic pathologist testified there was no evidence of injuries to Ausman's legs.
The blows to the head dropped Ausman, and Pirko and Dyck ran from the scene. Pirko quickly returned to retrieve an iPod he had dropped, and he said he also checked to see if Ausman was OK.
“That's when I realized he was dead,” Pirko testified. “You could see the blood.”
While Pirko was identified by police as a suspect in Ausman's death within a few days, he wasn't arrested until almost three years later, on Nov. 18, 2016. After two days of interrogation, Pirko admitted to the killing.
On Thursday, Justice Betton summarized Pirko's defence arguments, which include intoxication and protection of another person. Pirko testified he had drank alcohol, smoked cannabis and snorted a line of speed on the night Ausman died. He said his intoxication level was “8.5 out of 10.”
Additionally, he claimed he never meant to kill Ausman when he struck him in the head with a hammer multiple times, and that he was only trying to protect his friend. It's now up to the jury to decide if Pirko's actions were "reasonable under the circumstances."
Crown prosector David Grabavac said Pirko “was able to foresee the natural and probable consequences of hitting Mr. Ausman in the head with the hammer.”
Defence counsel Jordan Watt, meanwhile, characterized Pirko as a “drunk, scared, skinny 21 year old with an injured hand” who didn't intend to kill Ausman.
If the jury accepts the defence that Pirko was justified in protecting Dyck, Pirko will walk free. If the jury only accepts the defence of intoxication, Pirko would still be convicted of manslaughter.
The jury's verdict could come later Thursday evening, or deliberations may continue Friday.