A former amateur boxing champion has been acquitted of all 28 charges, including three counts of attempted murder, he faced from a home invasion and triple shooting in Cole Harbour that left a young woman paralyzed from the chest down.
Markel Jason Downey, 21, of Cole Harbour stood trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax beginning Jan. 9.
Justice Michael Wood gave his oral decision Tuesday and followed it up with a written decision released Thursday.
Four masked individuals entered a home on Arklow Drive in Cole Harbour on the evening of Nov. 30, 2014. Within a few minutes, one of the intruders had shot the three occupants.
The Crown alleged Downey was the gunman. In addition to attempted murder, he was charged with robbery, break and enter, various firearm offences and breaching a court order.
In his decision, Wood said the sole issue at trial was the identity of the shooter.
Prosecutors relied on the testimony of Ashley MacLean, whose spinal cord was injured in the shooting. She said she recognized Downey’s voice from her previous contact with him.
The only forensic evidence against Downey consisted of one particle of gunshot residue found on his right hand more than three hours after the incident.
The judge said the Crown’s evidence failed to prove Downey’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
“My concerns with respect to the reliability of Ms. MacLean’s identification evidence remain, and the single particle of gunshot residue found on Mr. Downey’s hand does not remove my doubt,” Wood said.
“There are simply too many possible sources of gunshot residue to allow that piece of evidence to overcome the weaknesses in Ms. MacLean’s identification of Mr. Downey as the shooter.”
Downey was just 15 when he won a gold medal in boxing at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax. He was 18 at the time of the home invasion.
“Mr. Downey has maintained that he was not responsible in any way for the home invasion or shooting,” defence lawyer Patrick MacEwen told Local Xpress on Thursday.
“While the injuries sustained by these three individuals, most notably Ms. MacLean, are tragic, Justice Wood was alive to the fact that the intruders were masked and the conditions were less than optimal.
“We are happy with the decision and believe it is the correct decision in these circumstances.”
MacEwen said that after more than two years in custody, Downey is eager to spend time with his family and supporters.
Police also arrested three 17-year-old boys whose cases were dealt with in Halifax youth court. They each pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault and single counts of break and enter and wearing a mask in the commission of an offence.
The young offenders were sentenced in the fall of 2015 after spending a year on remand at the Nova Scotia Youth Facility in Waterville. Each received about six more months in custody and three months of strict supervision in the community, followed by a year’s probation.
The judge also ordered the teens to provide DNA samples and prohibited them from having weapons for 10 years.