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Accused killer only attacked to protect himself, defence argues in closing statement

Defence says if jury determines Tyler Sels was acting in self-defence or to protect Theresa Grasley, they must acquit him of second-degree murder
Sudbury Courthouse. (File)

Closing arguments are taking place today and tomorrow in the second-degree murder trial against Tyler Sels.

The trial is well into its fourth week, with final evidence presented Tuesday. A handful of witnesses were recalled Tuesday, with both the Crown and defence seeking clarification on several pieces of evidence following Sels’ testimony last week.

In his closing statement, defence lawyer Michael Puskas said the Crown is charged with proving without a reasonable doubt that Sels is guilty of second-degree murder.

In this particular case, Puskas said, there's only a few major issues the jury is being asked to decide. 

“One of those major issues is when Tyler Sels inflicted the wounds he did upon the people that you already know about (which ultimately led to the death of Charles St. Jean), he was acting in self-defence or he was acting in defence of Ms. (Theresa) Grasley. If you determine Tyler was acting in self-defence or in defence of Ms. Grasley, then he was acting lawfully, then you collectively must deliver a verdict of not guilty.”

Puskas said Sels “sits here today, and he's an innocent man.” He told jurors that during their deliberations, Sels remains an innocent man. 

“The only time Mr. Sels could become guilty of anything is if all of you collectively decide that the Crown has persuaded you beyond a reasonable doubt. You've all watched movies, you've all watched TV, but you have to forget everything you think you know about what a reasonable doubt is.”

Reasonable doubt is based on reason and common sense, Puskas said. 

“That's why our system values juries,” he said. “We trust that you have reason, we trust that you have the common sense from your experiences, and that you'll apply those (here).”

The question, Puskas said, is whether Sels believed on reasonable grounds that force was being used against him or against Theresa Grasley?

Sels testified that he got to the threshold of the doorway of Grasley’s apartment, Puskas said, and looked out onto the deck and saw two women attacking Grasley and identified one of them as Stephanie Martin, but couldn’t identify the second woman.

Puskas said Sels gave evidence that he observed both of them punching Grasley, and, as a result, he testified that he pushed aside St. Jean and Martin to get to Grasley, pulling her back into her apartment.

“If you believe that to be the evidence, that is an application of force against Ms. Grasley,” Puskas said.

Sels also testified that once he did get Grasley out of harm’s way, the crowd of people that was out in front of her apartment door turned to face him and started advancing.

“He was afraid,” said Puskas, pointing out Sels’ background of being bullied almost on a daily basis as a teenager. “He turned, he looked around and saw a knife and he grabbed it.”

There's no doubt that Sels used force, said Puskas. Sels has admitted to stabbing all three complainants. 

“He's admitted that his stab wounds caused the death of Mr. St. Jean, so there's no doubt that Mr. Sels used force,” said Puskas. “The question is, was he using that force to defend himself from a force or threat of force? Was he acting in self-defence, or was he being the aggressor?”

Puskas asked the jury to consider the reasonableness of Sels’ apprehension and fear from this group.

“He's just seen someone striking Ms. Grasley. She's older compared to them, frail. She’s intoxicated to the point where it's embarrassing, and Mr. Sels just witnessed some of this group assaulting her. Now this group is heading towards him. Is it reasonable for him to assume that they're either trying to continue the assault on Ms. Grasley? Or that they might take it out on Mr. Sels for his protection? Was that reasonable for him to assume? Do you have a reasonable doubt that it was reasonable for him?”

In his closing argument, Puskas singled out the testimony of Marc-André Leduc, one of the first Crown witnesses to testify in the trial. He said the Crown is “hanging its hat” on Leduc’s testimony, which he said was riddled with “flat-out lies that he told on the stand, under oath.”

In his testimony, Leduc said Grasley lunged at him, taking his hat and flipping it off.

“He was asked, did you see any other violence between anyone on that deck? He emphatically said ‘no, I said I was right there. If there had been violence, I would have seen it’.”

However, Leduc is the only witness to testify that no other violence had taken place that night, whereas, other witnesses testified there was a fight between Grasley, Martin and another woman.

He also testified that after he was stabbed, he retreated only a few steps, but was still able to see Sels emerge from the doorway to stab St. Jean.

Two other witnesses testified that after Leduc was stabbed, he joined them by a truck in the driveway and was showing them his wound when St. Jean was stabbed, and only went back up the deck when someone yelled St. Jean had been stabbed. 

The Crown will give their closing arguments on Thursday.