The argument that Bernard Mason needed to be shot is something that “might be a defence in Texas,” prosecutor Mike Murray told the court Wednesday, “But not in Canada.”
Murray, in his closing submissions to the judge at the shooting trial of 21-year-old Jesse Lewis, acknowledged that Mason, 33, was the author of his own misfortune in some respects when he was shot in the knee last year. However, Murray said, the issue at hand is whether or not Lewis had the legal right to shoot him.
“It may be appropriate to shoot someone in some situations, but not here,” Murray argued, saying Lewis shot Mason deliberately, with advance preparation, even though other options for self-defence were available.
Lewis has pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated assault, possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose, careless use of a firearm, pointing a firearm, driving while disqualified and breaching court orders in connection with the shooting, which took place outside Lewis’s Avondale home in April 2017. As evidence in the trial concluded last week, Lewis’s lawyer, Mark Gruchy, indicated he would not contest the driving charge.
Through the testimony of police officers, witnesses, and Mason and Lewis, the court heard the two men had a long and troubled history. Twelve years older than Lewis, Mason said he had known the younger man as a kid, “keeping him out of trouble.”
In recent years, their friendship had turned hostile, each of them having had relationships with the other’s girlfriend.
Lewis has a criminal record that includes multiple driving charges, court order breaches and assaults. The court heard Mason has a reputation for being violent when intoxicated.
The night before the shooting, Mason had reportedly shown up at Lewis’s home, threatening to break his legs and wanting to fight. Lewis’s uncle sent him away.
The court heard that the next night, Lewis’s girlfriend had been driving when she met Mason on the road. He wanted her to come to his house, she said, and began tailgating her. She said she called Lewis, who told the court he knew at that point Mason was going to show up at his house.
Lewis said he was scared of Mason and kept a shotgun for protection when he knew Mason was in town. When he looked out his window and saw Mason approaching the house, fists swinging, he got the gun out from under his bed, he said.
The court heard Mason entered the home, telling Lewis he was going to “finish this once and for all.” Lewis and another man reportedly asked Mason to leave, while Lewis’s girlfriend attempted to calm him down. At one point, Mason smashed his head through a kitchen cupboard, injuring himself and leaving blood at the scene. After Lewis left the home through the front door, the woman used her body to block it in an attempt to keep Mason from following; Mason tried to smash through the wall instead, damaging the gyproc.
After making it outside, Mason threatened Lewis with a garbage can before either jumping or falling down the steps, the court heard. When he attempted to get up, he was shot.
Mason told the court he didn’t remember much about the incident, but had not entered the home despite the blood found inside. He had required two surgeries to repair the damage caused by the shotgun shell, and pellets still find their way out through the skin of his leg now and then, he said.
Lewis said that after he realized Mason was injured, he, the woman and two other males piled into the woman’s vehicle and left the scene, making it as far as Terra Nova before turning around. Police eventually used a spike belt to stop the vehicle near Whitbourne.
In his closing arguments, Gruchy said the case hinges partly on the issue of self-defence, pointing out that a person has, by law, the right to defend themselves against assailants in their own home. The rationale, he said, is that a person’s home is already their last line of defence.
Gruchy pointed out Lewis had acquired the gun because he was scared of Mason, who had threatened him and had attempted to fight him multiple times in the past, as recently as the previous night. Lewis had tried to avoid Mason and had asked him to leave many times, Gruchy said, but by putting his head through a cupboard and attempting to smash through a wall, Mason had proven he was violent and wasn’t about leave things alone.
“Were other means available to respond to (Mason’s) use of force? I think he had used them all,” Gruchy argued. “Bern Mason didn’t have a weapon through a lot of this, but Bern Mason didn’t need a weapon. Bern Mason was the weapon.
“The only thing in this scenario that stopped Bern Mason was a shotgun blast to the knee, so the question becomes, what would have happened (if he hadn’t been shot)? Something terrible.”
Murray pointed out Lewis could have called the police or neighbours, or left the home in the woman’s vehicle, but didn’t. The gun was loaded, Murray said, and Lewis had taken it out from under the bed when he knew Mason was going to show up.
“The totality of the evidence suggests Mr. Lewis’s intention that day was to deal with Mr. Mason by any means necessary. It’s clear in the evidence that Mr. Lewis intended, if Mr. Mason did show up and resisted demands to leave, he’d shoot him,” Murray said. “That’s the kind of outlaw mentality that precludes self-defence.
“Mr. Gruchy talks about how there are laws in place to prevent people from using self-defence as a shield for more nefarious acts. It’s the Crown’s submission that that’s what happened here.”
Justice Alphonsus Faour will deliver his verdict Tuesday morning.