Warning: This story contains details that may disturb some readers. Discretion is advised.
A B.C. man accused of shooting his pregnant ex-girlfriend in the stomach, causing her to lose her baby, has been found not guilty of attempted murder.
Carleton Stevens had pleaded not-guilty to the charge, as well as a second charge of possession of a prohibited firearm contrary to a court order.
On Wednesday, Justice Jennifer Duncan ruled that Stevens did indeed fire a shot that struck his ex.
But the judge found there was a reasonable doubt that Stevens had intended to shoot the woman, rather than another man who was in the room.
Outside the courthouse, defence lawyer Chandra Corriveau called the circumstances “incredibly tragic,” but said the judge was right to conclude the shot was fired in the course of a struggle, rather than with intent.
“He’s not walking free on an attempted murder,” she said. “Attempted murder, by definition, is a specific intent offence. You have to prove the intent to kill. It’s built right into the nature of the charge.”
Corriveau noted the judge couldn’t conclude Stevens had intent to kill because the baby was also his.
“The person who actually caused harm is the person we should be concerned with catching,” she said.
When asked who that is, Corriveau shrugged and declined to comment.
Stevens remained in custody as he awaits to face his outstanding charge, which also stems from the shooting.
A trial date for that charge has not yet been set.
The attack happened on May 18, 2018, while the 31-year-old victim — identified only as J.Y. due to a publication ban — slept in a loft above a print shop in East Vancouver.
Prosecutors alleged that Stevens was consumed with jealousy and rage at perceived infidelity on J.Y.’s part.
The court heard that he had made repeated threats to kill her, her child, and her friend Taj Lovett.
Lovett was asleep beside J.Y. at the time of the attack.
J.Y. had testified that she awoke the day of the shooting to see Stevens standing above her and assembling a gun.
“I saw the gun, Carleton putting the gun together,” she said. “I turned to run. I got shot… right on my stomach. The bullet went through the umbilical cord and it’s still in my spine,” J.Y. testified.
Evidence presented to court showed the bullet severed J.Y.’s baby’s umbilical cord.
Four witnesses, including the print shop’s owner Jeff Grayston and an employee, Dollie Middleton, testified earlier in the trial to seeing Stevens at the scene with a gun.
Middleton also testified that she saw Stevens fire a shot at her. However, no witness testified to seeing Stevens shoot J.Y.
A garbage truck operator testified that the he found the weapon, a 70-centimetre .22-calibre makeshift gun, under a dumpster along with a mask near the crime scene, four days after the shooting.
Defence maintained its position throughout the trial that someone else fired the shot.
Defence called no evidence during the trial, and Stevens did not take the stand.
—With files from Rumina Daya and Grace Ke