A jury has rejected Keishawn Mitchell's claim he acted in self defence when he fatally stabbed 32-year-old Justin Silicz during a street fight.

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A jury has rejected Keishawn Mitchell's claim he acted in self defence when he fatally stabbed 32-year-old Justin Silicz during a street fight.

Members of Silicz's family trembled with relief and dabbed tears from their eyes as the jury convicted Mitchell of second-degree murder after 5 p.m. Tuesday.

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

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

Sitting in the prisoner’s box dressed in a charcoal suit, Mitchell stared straight ahead and showed no change in emotion.

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

Mitchell, 22, admitted he stabbed Silicz, but argued he acted in self-defence and was too intoxicated to form the intent to kill.

The minimum sentence for second-degree murder is life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 10 years. After delivering their verdict, jurors provided the court with recommendations for parole ineligibility ranging from 15 years to 25 years, the maximum allowed by law.

Mitchell will be sentenced following the preparation of a pre-sentence report and victim impact statements.

Outside court, Mitchell's lawyer said the law entitles a person to defend himself. "We argued (Mitchell’s) actions were reasonable given the predicament he found himself in," Mike Cook said.

 

Silicz’s family declined to speak to reporters following the verdict.

Jurors heard testimony Silicz and friends Tony Hajzler and Andrea Bosnjak 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 casual banter escalated into an exchange of insults and threats, Hajzler testified. Mitchell, Hajzler said, walked 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.

In testimony last week, Mitchell painted Hajzler and Silicz as the aggressors, claiming matters escalated after Hajzler hurled a homophobic slur at his group.

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, adding he punched Hajzler in the face, thinking: "If I don’t hit him, he is going to hit me."

Hajzler returned the punch, Mitchell claimed, at which point Silicz charged at Mitchell, "swinging his arms, throwing a lot of punches." 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 out a knife and "poked" Silicz two times in the side before walking away.

Prosecutor Chantal Boutin said Mitchell wasn’t defending himself, he was "putting his muscle where his mouth was."

"You started it, you escalated it, and you made sure you finished it," Boutin said.

In a strange coincidence of timing, as jurors were deliberating Mitchell’s fate, jurors in an adjacent courtroom began deliberations in the case of three men accused of killing one of the men who accompanied Mitchell the night he stabbed Silicz.

Javaid Wahabi, Abdullahi Mohamed and Munachehr Haroon are on trial, charged with first-degree murder in the November 2019 killing of 20-year-old Rig Moulebou.

Prosecutors allege the three men targeted Moulebou for death, after he shot and killed Wahabi’s brother, Jamshaid Wahabi, two days earlier at Citizen Nightclub in Winnipeg.

dean.pritchard@freepress.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.