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Bishop guilty on all murder charges

Kassina Ryder and Emily Ridlington
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 14, 2010

IQALUIT - Iqaluit jurors found Chris Bishop guilty June 8 of three counts of second degree murder and two counts of attempted murder stemming from a 2007 shooting in Cambridge Bay.

NNSL photo/graphic

Chris Bishop leaves the Nunavut Court of Justice after the first day of his trial on May 26, 2010. - Kassina Ryder/NNSL photo

The jury reached their verdict by 9 p.m. on June 8 after beginning deliberating in the early afternoon.

Keith Atatahak, 28, Kevin Komaksiut, 22, and Dean Costa, 29, died during the shooting Jan. 6, 2007. Antoinette Bernhardt and Logan Pigalak were injured.

"Loss of life eats
away at your heart."

"Bishop had pleaded not guilty to all charges.

"Justice was served," Antoinette's grandfather Ernie Bernhardt said outside the court. "Loss of life eats away at your heart."

During the trial, jurors heard that four men had broken into Bishop's home just before 3 a.m. on Jan. 6, 2007. When they tried to enter Bishop's bedroom, he opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle equipped with an illegal "banana" clip capable of firing 30 rounds of ammunition.

In his final submission to the jury on June 7, Crown prosecutor Paul Bychok said Bishop was not acting in self-defence but that the shooting was the "culmination of a feud."

He said a fight between Bishop and the deceased men had taken place days earlier. Bychok also suggested Bishop knew he would use his rifle if the men successfully broke into his home.

Bychok said Bishop had other avenues available to him when the men broke through his front door, including barricading the door with furniture. He said Bishop had called the police and only had to wait for them to arrive.

"All he had to do was buy a little time," Bychok told the jury.

After the men fled the house when Bishop began shooting, "the crisis was over," Bychok said.

"When they have their back to you, they are no longer a threat to you," he said.

"No one had to die."

But defence lawyer Scott Cowan argued Bishop had no other option but to shoot in self-defence.

"These men were out for blood," he said. "It's about the most basic human instinct - the will to live."

Bishop had called police at 2:50 a.m. Sgt. Louis Jenvenne was the first officer to arrive at 3:15 a.m. Cowan also pointed out that some witnesses who testified that none of the men had weapons while breaking into Bishop's house were related to the deceased.

"Two people who came into his bedroom to kill him and his response was called a criminal act. I don't know how that's possible," Cowan said outside the courtroom.

Bishop's lawyers called no witnesses during the trial. Bychok said he was still very surprised by that.

"This was the sort of case that quite allowed for an explanation," he said.

Bychok said he had been working on his cross-examination for the last three-and-a-half-years with more than 20 pages of notes that he never got to use.

Second degree murder carries an automatic sentence of life in prison, with a period of ineligibility for parole that can range from 10 years to 25 years.

After delivering the verdict, the jury, comprising seven women and five men, was asked to make recommendations on how long Bishop should remain in prison before eligibility for parole.

Nine of the jury members gave no recommendations while two suggested parole ineligibility after 20 years. One member recommended 10 years.

Sentencing is scheduled to take place at the Nunavut Court of Justice on Aug. 26. At the request of his lawyers, Bishop is being held in custody at the Baffin Correctional Centre until sentencing.

Cowan said it was too early to tell whether the defence will appeal the decision.

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