A teen convicted Sunday of killing 16-year-old Ashlee Hyatt cried after the verdict was delivered by the jury.
The teenager, who can't be named because she's a minor, was found guilty of manslaughter after the six-man, six-woman jury deliberated over the weekend.
The jury was asked Friday to decide whether Hyatt was stabbed to death by accident or deliberately killed in a drunken brawl.
They heard both versions as lawyers delivered their final arguments at a trial that has pitted Hyatt’s friends against the now-18-year-old girl who had been charged with her second-degree murder.
The girl, who testified in her own defence last week, suggested a third girl was holding the knife as the three of them fought outside a Peachland house two years ago.
Other teens testified only the accused held the knife as she exchanged punches with Hyatt alone.
Donna Turko, defending, argued other girls bullied the accused at the unsupervised house party.
After the fight erupted, no one saw the accused plunge the knife into Hyatt’s neck, and witnesses conspired to frame her by co-ordinating their stories afterward, Turko suggested.
“They’re adopting each other’s versions,” she said. “There was bias and anonymity . . . You must be suspect of what people are saying.”
Turko blamed the girl hosting the party and her younger sister for contributing to Hyatt’s death. She said the sister slipped the knife to the hostess as she and Hyatt fought with the accused.
“Something terribly wrong accidentally happened and Ashlee was tragically stabbed,” Turko said.
“It was much more an accident that happened in the hands of these young girls than anything else.”
For the prosecution, the dynamics were simpler.
The accused pulled out the knife at a consensual fist fight because she was angry Hyatt wouldn’t let her clear up a misunderstanding with her boyfriend, suggested Crown counsel Murray Kaay.
“[She] took the fight to another level,” said Kaay. “She could have walked away . . . Her decision to produce a knife and . . . ultimately use that knife was an unnecessary and disproportionate use of force, considering the circumstances.”
About 20 teens showed up at the house in June 2010 after the accused and hostess had been drinking whiskey out of the bottle while four-by- fouring with friends.
Hyatt and the hostess scolded the accused after someone said she kissed a boy while her boyfriend was nearby.
Michael Baxter, the only sober teen at the party, showed up shortly before neighbour Jackie Sutherland broke up the gathering.
Baxter testified at last year’s preliminary hearing that the accused was trying to talk to her boyfriend as Hyatt tried to get him away.
Hyatt and the accused started pushing each other and “going at it,” rolling on the ground, hitting each other and pulling hair, Baxter said.
The accused reached into her purse, held it and told Hyatt “I’ll stab you” from two metres away on the road, Baxter said.
Baxter said the two fought again and Hyatt saw blood on her hand.
“I can’t believe you cut my hand,” Baxter quoted her as saying.
The two went after each other once more until Hyatt stopped fighting, held the side of her neck and collapsed on the ground, Baxter continued. She died of blood loss soon after.
The hostess and the accused then squared off, said Baxter, adding that a neighbour pried the knife from the accused girl’s hand and tended to Hyatt as the two continued fighting.
Turko dismissed Baxter’s evidence as unreliable.
Baxter died in a crash last month, so lawyers can’t analyze his evidence, she said.
He was biased against the accused and willing to adopt what everyone else was saying. She pointed to the fact there was no cut on Hyatt’s hand.
“Michael Baxter was just making up evidence based on bits and pieces of what he’s heard,” Turko said. “He says he heard the words ‘I’ll stab you’ . . . No one else heard that statement.”
Hyatt bled considerably, and yet only a small amount of her blood fell on the accused, Turko said. She wondered how Hyatt’s blood appeared on the front of the hostess’s shirt.
Jackie Sutherland, the neighbour who tried to separate the accused and hostess, testified that the hostess told her: “I’m fighting for my life — she’s got a knife.”
Kaay argued that proves the hostess believed the accused was armed.
He said the accused girl walked to an old boyfriend’s house without shoes on and told him there was a knife at the party and people said she had it.
When the boy asked her if anyone was hurt, he testified she said: “I don’t think so — why would I hurt anybody?”
Kaay wondered if the accused girl’s version was true, why would she withhold the fact that Hyatt was hurt?
“She didn’t tell him how she had to defend herself. She didn’t tell him about that night’s events, despite the fact she trusted him,” Kaay said.
“Yet she said she was irritated that no one would listen to her all night.
“She was confused because she had yet to figure out what story she could tell. The story she has told you is one you should not believe.”