Steven Pirko was found guilty on Saturday in his second-degree murder trial in Kelowna.
The trial, which lasted weeks, came to a conclusion just before 11 a.m., when the jury found Pirko guilty in the death of Chris Ausman.
Pirko was accused of killing Ausman with a hammer during a late-night street fight along Rutland Road and Highway 33 in January 2014.
The victim’s family sobbed as the verdict was announced. Pirko buried his face in his hands.
Pirko will face life in prison for second-degree murder. The jury of seven women and five men recommended that he be ineligible for parole for 12 years — but that decision is ultimately up to the judge.
The case will be back in court on July 2 to fix a date for sentencing.
WATCH BELOW (Aired June 3, 2019): Pirko takes the stand at his 2nd degree murder trial
Pirko’s lawyer, Jordan Watt, said he was “very surprised by the verdict. It’s a tough situation.
“You guys have heard the evidence, obviously, talking about an altercation that happened, and there are many issues that the jury had to deal with.”
Asked what verdict they were looking for, Watt said “not second-degree murder.”
“Obviously there were other verdicts that were available that the jury could pick, but they didn’t.”
During his testimony, Pirko said he was intoxicated on the night Ausman died, and that he hit Ausman on the back of the head to protect his friend, Elrich Dyck.
On that night, Pirko said he and Dyck were walking along Highway 33, when Dyck and another man on the other side of the street started yelling at each other.
Pirko testified that the next thing he knew, the man — Ausman — was running across the road, and a fight between Ausman and Dyck started.
WATCH BELOW (Aired June 6, 2019): Crown says Kelowna man intended to kill victim
Pirko said he stood back and watched the two fight. When Ausman started winning the fight, Pirko said Dyck started yelling for help.
Pirko said he grabbed a seven-inch hammer he had in his knapsack and hit Ausman twice in the legs. When that didn’t work, Pirko testified that he then used the hammer to hit Ausman in the head twice.
The defence argued that Pirko never intended to kill Ausman.
The Crown countered that Pirko had plenty of time to think about his actions, as the fight went on for approximately a minute before his intervention.
“What did Mr. Pirko do? He resorted to a weapon immediately,” Crown counsel David Grabavac told the jury during closing arguments on Thursday.
“He’s sitting there, watching the fight. He’s got time to be thinking: ‘What happens if my big brother starts to lose?’ But what did he do? He went for a weapon immediately,” Grabavac said.
Watt said “obviously we’re very upset with the reaction from the jury,”
“It’s been horrible. He’s had this hanging over his head for three years. It’s a tragic situation for him and, obviously, the Ausman family. It’s been a horrible experience.”
Asked if there will be an appeal, Watt said “that’s something we’re going to have to look at down the road. Obviously we’ll be looking at that, yes.”
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