Fearing he was about to be on the receiving end of a violent, two-on-one assault, Keishawn Mitchell “poked” Justin Silicz two times in the side with a knife, never thinking it would kill him, a jury was told Thursday.

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Fearing he was about to be on the receiving end of a violent, two-on-one assault, Keishawn Mitchell "poked" Justin Silicz two times in the side with a knife, never thinking it would kill him, a jury was told Thursday.

"I thought if I did get him, he would go to the hospital, get a couple of stitches and recover," Mitchell testified.

Justin Silicz, 32, died after being stabbed in 2019. (Facebook)</p>

Justin Silicz, 32, died after being stabbed in 2019. (Facebook)

Silicz, a 32-year-old Winnipeg lawyer, died June 2, 2019, after he was stabbed while walking to his car from an after-hours club with his friends.

Mitchell, 22, is on trial for second-degree murder. Mitchell admits he stabbed Silicz, but argues he acted in self-defence and was too intoxicated to form the intent to kill.

On Wednesday, jurors heard from Tony Hajzler, who told court he, Silicz and Andrea Bosnjak, a woman Silicz had been dating, were walking back to their car on Winnipeg Avenue around 4 a.m. when they saw three males walking in the same direction a short distance ahead of them.

After one of the males shouted to ask Bosnjak for a cigarette, what started as playful, casual banter escalated into an exchange of rude insults and threats, Hajzler testified. Mitchell, Hajzler said, walked straight up to him and as Silicz tried to de-escalate the situation, punched Hajzler in the face.

Hajzler testified Silicz charged at Mitchell and the two men exchanged several punches before Silicz was stabbed and fell to the ground.

Mitchell and defence lawyer Mike Cook described a different scenario Thursday, painting Silicz and Hajzler as the aggressors.

In his opening address to jurors, Cook described Mitchell as a "skinny, 19-year-old basketball-playing kid," and Silicz and Hajzler, both then 32, as "two much older and drunk and larger men who were acting as one team."

Keishawn Mitchell</p></p>

Keishawn Mitchell

Mitchell, who said he had been drinking for several hours before the stabbing, told jurors that when Bosnjak asked for a joke in return for cigarette, he shouted out: "Your ass."

"I was trying to be funny," but Hajzler " took offence to it," Mitchell said.

"He said something back to us. He said: ‘Three guys and no girls, must be faggots.'"

Mitchell said he and Hajzler continued to "chirp" and swear at each other and as he walked toward Hajzler, Silicz was at his side.

"I was starting to feel a little serious that a fight was going to happen," Mitchell said.

Justin Silicz's brother Michael Silicz holds a photo of the two of them at a press conference after his brother's death. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p>

Justin Silicz's brother Michael Silicz holds a photo of the two of them at a press conference after his brother's death. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Mitchell said he punched Hajzler in the face, thinking "if I don’t hit him, he is going to hit me," he said.

Hajzler returned the punch, at which point Silicz charged at Mitchell, "swinging his arms, throwing a lot of punches," he said. As the two men exchanged punches, Hajzler moved to join the fight, Mitchell alleged.

"At that point, I was really scared I would be jumped by two guys." Mitchell testified he pulled a folding knife from his pocket. "I panicked and wanted to defend myself."

Mitchell said he "poked" Silicz two times on the left side of his body.

"He went down and got right back up," Mitchell said, leaving him to think he wasn’t injured. "I didn’t see any blood and he seemed alright to me… I thought it was over and I walked away."

Mitchell said he was "shocked" when he was arrested three weeks later and learned Silicz had died.

"I feel regretful," he said. "I hope his family will forgive me."

dean.pritchard@frepress.mb.ca

Dean Pritchard

Dean Pritchard
Courts reporter

Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.