Two Prince Albert men are guilty of murder.
After less than a day of deliberation, a Prince Albert jury found Orren Johnson, 28, guilty of first-degree murder and Jordan Herron, 23, guilty of second-degree murder in the 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Clayton James Bear.
There was an emotional reaction in the courtroom when the verdict was read. Members of Herron’s family present on one side of the courtroom gasped and several burst into tears, while on the other side of the room Bear's family members hugged each other and wept.
Herron’s eyes filled with tears as he embraced his family members from the prisoner’s dock, while Johnson, who did not appear to have family present, showed little reaction to the verdict and held his head high throughout the proceedings.
Bear’s family said the decision came as a big relief.
“I don’t have anger,” Bear’s aunt Hilda Ross told reporters outside the courthouse. “I did at first, so did everybody else, but with a lot of thought and prayer and the closeness of my family I don’t hold nothing against them.”
Ross said her first reaction was to feel sympathy for Johnson and Herron's families.
“I actually felt bad for the other family,” Ross said. “They will be put away, and maybe that’s not what they want, but they have to understand that at least they’re here in person. For us, we’ll never see Clayton.”
Speaking to media from the courthouse steps, Johnson’s lawyer Lisa Trach said she was taken aback by the jury’s decision.
“I can’t even begin to speculate how they came to the conclusion that they did,” Trach said. “I was quite surprised by it, and I don’t think it was supported by the evidence.”
Herron’s lawyer Mary McAuley called the verdict “very disappointing” and said she will give serious consideration to appealing the jury’s decision.
“I was expecting, at the most, a manslaughter,” McAuley said. “It was very sketchy evidence, because all of the witnesses always said something different.”
McAuley emphasized none of the witnesses identified Herron as the shooter, while other testimony suggested Johnson was in possession of a gun.
Both men will receive life sentences, but the jury was given an opportunity to recommend the period of parole ineligibility for Herron. The jurors were split on recommendations, with seven recommending the minimum 10 years, one recommending the maximum 25 years and four abstaining. Johnson, guilty of first-degree murder, will not be eligible for parole for 25 years as mandated in the Criminal Code.
Herron’s sentencing hearing is set for tomorrow. Johnson will be sentenced March 22.
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