Judge convicts North Preston man of second-degree murder

Published on January 28, 2014
Demarco Smith heads into Halifax Supreme Court.
Metro Halifax/Jeff Harper

HALIFAX - A Supreme Court judge has rejected the argument that Demarco Smith was acting in self-defence when he stabbed a younger, lighter, unarmed and intoxicated man through the heart at a house party almost four years ago.

Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Patrick Duncan convicted Smith, 28, of second-degree murder in the death of Casey Downey, 19.

“(Smith) controlled that anger sufficiently so he was not going to be the aggressor, but that he would prepare himself for when Mr. Downey came after him,” said Duncan, after a review of the evidence and case law that lasted more than two hours on Monday.  “In a sense, he was lying in wait for Mr. Downey to attack him.”

Several witnesses testified that Downey started an argument with Smith early on Feb. 7, 2010, over helping to clean up after a house party on Downey Road in North Preston.

Smith admitted to pulling a knife twice during the dispute, and claimed that when Downey eventually charged at him, Smith raised his hands in self-defence – forgetting about the open knife he was holding.

Although he accepted that Downey was the aggressor, Duncan said Smith never testified that he feared for his life, and wasn’t justified in arming himself with a lethal weapon.

“I’m satisfied that in the circumstances… the use of the knife was significantly more than was necessary to ward off any threat that might have been posed by Mr. Downey,” said Duncan.

The judge also rejected the argument that the stabbing was unintentional, noting forensic evidence that the wound track was inconsistent with an accidental impalement.

“The blade of the knife pierced three layers of clothing, scalloped a rib and continued…through pulmonary arteries and veins and into the heart chamber,” said Duncan. “It is not credible to say the force associated with Mr. Downey colliding with the accused…would account for this type of wound.”

Crown attorney Roland Levesque said he wasn’t surprised the judge rejected the self-defence argument.

“Relying on the Crown’s version of facts and especially the autopsy results and the degree of violence that was used in inflicting the wound, he came to the only reasonable conclusion that it was an intentional act that was carried out,” he said.

Duncan imposed the automatic sentence of life imprisonment as Smith’s supporters gasped and sobbed in the public gallery.

Smith’s parole eligibility will be decided April 14.