Levi Cayen has been found guilty of manslaughter in the death on Alexander Norwegian during a botched drug robbery in December 2017 on an isolated road on the Kátł’odeeche First Nation.
A jury returned the verdict on Saturday evening, declining to convict the Hay River man of first-degree murder. Cayen pleaded guilty to robbery at the start of jury selection on February 7.
The jury began deliberating at midday on Friday and returned its verdict at 5:30pm on Saturday.
Of the four people – all cousins – charged in connection with the incident, only James Thomas has been convicted of murder. Thomas was also convicted of robbery.
Norwegian, 25, was supposed to meet up with a female friend of his to sell crack cocaine. Instead, Cayen and Thomas showed up and the dealer was beaten, interrogated and robbed.
Norwegian was left for dead in the cold in a badly vandalized vehicle.
Sasha Cayen, 26, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 43 months. Tyler Cayen, 33, admitted being an accessory after the fact to manslaughter and was sentenced to two years less a day. Both were sentenced in January 2019 and both testified against Levi Cayen.
In sentencing Thomas on December 15 last year, Justice Andrew Mahar said he found Thomas guilty of second-degree murder because “his decision to leave Alex Norwegian” crossed the line “between manslaughter and second-degree murder.”
In Levi Cayen’s case, Edmonton defence lawyer Alan Regel suggested to the jury there were problems with the RCMP’s original investigation. Regel offered alternative theories of what might have happened.
“I’ll be asking you to interpret the evidence in specific manner, and make inferences. It’s your choice to determine if the evidence leads to the conclusions that I suggested,” Regel told the jurors. “Levi didn’t cause the death. I suggest it’s a waste of time for me to be talking about that and wasting your time … Levi was not involved in the homicide.”
At the start of Levi Cayen’s trial, Justice Shannon Smallwood told the jurors: “You should not think [that] because Mr Cayen has pled guilty to robbery, that means he is guilty of first-degree murder. That is not the case. He is presumed innocent to first-degree murder and you must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt, after considering all of the evidence, that all of the elements of first-degree murder have been proven by the Crown before you can find Levi Cayen guilty of first-degree murder.”
It was one the largest jury trials in the NWT since the pandemic started two years ago. Jurors had to wear face masks and attempted to maintain some distance from each other.
During the lengthy trial, some pandemic public health precautions were eased, which saw the removal of large Plexiglass screens surrounding the Crown and defence tables.
In an odd twist, two vehicle fires in the partially enclosed parking lot beneath the courtroom forced delays in proceedings.