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Jody Druken

Crown reviewing Druken verdict

Jody Druken

The Department of Justice has not decided if it will appeal the acquittal of Jody Druken on a charge of first-degree murder.

"We have 30 days to decide whether or not to file an appeal," said David Wells, director of communications for the department.

Until then, the Crown Attorney will be meeting with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary to review the case and see if there are grounds for an appeal.

Druken, 30, was cleared Sunday of a first-degree murder charge, and the lesser and included offence of second-degree murder, after a Newfoundland Supreme Court jury deliberated over nearly four days.

He had been charged in connection with the death of his brother, Derek Druken, 33, who was shot twice in a downtown parking lot in broad daylight in 1996.

Having initially confessed to the crime, Jody Druken had been in custody since the death on Nov. 20, 1996, despite later withdrawing his confession.

"Only time will tell where we go from here," said Supt. Robert Shannahan, officer in charge of the Criminal Investigation Division and responsible for investigating the Druken case.

In reviewing it so far, Shannahan said he believed the investigators and the Crown did a good job. However, the probe is continuing.

"Certainly, as a result of the verdict, the investigation remains open," said Shannahan. "We will continue to go in whatever direction we feel is necessary."

He refused to comment on possible suspects.

Responding to allegations by family members that the police have tunnel vision when it comes to the Drukens, Shannahan said decisions or investigations would never be based on a family name, be it good or bad. He said everybody is treated equally.

"I can assure the Druken family, and anyone else for that matter, that we deal with facts and we deal with evidence. We don't investigate people based on their previous history."

Jurors hear tapes again

After two full days of deliberations and a 20-minute walk, Jody Druken's jury is still unsure about some key testimony they heard during his six-week trial.

The Newfoundland Supreme Court jury deliberating on a verdict regarding the first-degree murder charge against him has now listened to taped testimony from three witnesses.

Druken, 30, is accused of shooting his older brother, Derek Druken, in broad daylight with a .22-calibre handgun.

The 33-year-old victim was shot twice in the upper body by on Nov. 20, 1996 in the parking lot of Theatre Pharmacy on Queen's Road.

Jody Druken was arrested shortly after the shooting and confessed to being the one who pulled the trigger. However, two days later he said he didn't do it.

Two of three eye witnesses at the scene that day couldn't confirm Jody Druken was the shooter. The third identified him in a photo book.

On Friday morning, the jury asked to hear again some of the evidence given by Tina French, a former secretary of Dr. Colin Brown who's office was located upstairs of the pharmacy.

She testified that Derek Druken had been in the office when his brother and brother-in-law Gary Reid came in that day.

A short time later, all three ran downstairs and Derek Druken was found lying in the parking lot.

Late Friday, the jury again requested to hear more taped evidence. The testimony of Kim Coffin, a bystander who had been walking to her car at the time of shooting.

She told the court she saw three men in the area, one was in the parking lot, Derek Druken, and the other two were on the sidewalk. She said Derek Druken was facing the two men.

"He had a jacket in his hand and was facing the two men. I only saw him for a minute because he fell to the ground," she testified at the time.

"The man with the gun just lifted his arm and shot twice, pointing at the man in the parking lot. There was no pause, he lifted his arm and shot twice," Coffin said.

At the time of her testimony she was asked if the man who fired the weapon was sitting in the courtroom. She said she couldn't say.

On Thursday, the jury sent a note to Justice Keith Mercer which read, "we have some doubts/concerns about Harry Strickland's evidence. We would like to hear his examination and cross-examination."

Strickland was also at the scene at the time of the shooting. He told the court that he saw the man holding the gun.

"He was holding the pistol straight out. I heard the first shot and looked in that direction. He sort of leaned a little bit and looked back up, pointed the gun downward and fired another shot," Strickland said demonstrating.

He was later shown two photo books by police to try and identify the shooter. One book didn't contain a photo of Jody Druken, the other did.

Out of the first book Strickland picked a photo of a man who he said, "looked like the shooter." It wasn't Jody Druken.

However, from the second book he did point to a photo of the accused.

Jody Druken

Not open and shut case

It appears the case against Jody Druken wasn't as open and shut as everybody thought.

The 30-year-old St. John's man who confessed to shooting his older brother in broad daylight only to recant days later, walked out of the courtroom Sunday a free man.

He was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Derek Druken, but a Newfoundland Supreme Court jury acquitted Jody Druken after deliberating for almost four days.

"I really don't know what to think," said an overwhelmed Jody Druken, who has been in custody since his brother's death on Nov. 20, 1996.

When the jury returned to the courtroom Sunday afternoon, the foreman was asked what verdict they reached on the first-degree murder charge.

"Not guilty," he said.

His response created a wave of relieved gasps. When he was asked how the jury stood on the lesser and included offence of second-degree murder, he again said not guilty.

Jody Druken's head fell to his knees as his lawyer jumped to his feet to congratulate his client.

The jury had been deliberating since late Wednesday and had asked to hear taped testimony from four key witnesses before rendering its verdict.

Three of the witnesses were eye witnesses, two of whom couldn't identify Jody Druken as the shooter and one who said he was. The other witness was the secretary of a doctor whose office was on the top floor of Theatre Pharmacy.

Derek Druken, 33, was shot twice in the upper body by a .22-calibre gun in the parking lot of the pharmacy.

Dr. Colin Brown's secretary previously told the court he had been in with the doctor that day when Jody Druken and brother-in-law Gary Reid came into the office.

The secretary said following a brief exchange between the three men they all ran downstairs and the next thing she knew Derek Druken had been shot.

Jody Druken said it's difficult being accused of killing one's own brother, but he said he thanks God and everyone who stood by him for the past two and a half years for their support. Especially his lawyer.

Defence lawyer Jeff Brace said he's always believed that his client was not responsible for his brother's death.

"There's not a great deal that can be said (about the verdict) other than they heard the evidence and concluded he was not responsible for this crime," Brace said.

"People have to realize with regards to the Druken family the name - unfortunately and quite falsely as is obvious today - is quite synonymous with guilt from the perspective of certain law enforcement people in this city," he said.

He said there comes a point time that the mere fact that a person has had trouble in their past does not mean that they have done everything that someone suggests they did.

"We also have to recognize that tunnel vision is very much a part of law enforcement in this city and it's clearly reflected here today," Brace said.

Some of Jody Druken's family members agree with Brace's submission.

Older brother Paul Druken, who was present for the verdict, told reporters police should take another look at their investigation involving both his brother's death and the charge laid against his younger brother.

He said the police had the wrong person standing trial for the death of Derek Druken.

The boys' mother, Shirley Druken, also said the police have tunnel vision when it comes to her family.

"It's time for the police to start to wake up and realize that once they get a Druken they can't stop the investigation. It all comes back to tunnel vision with the police and they can't concentrate on anyone else for doing something," she said.

Shirley Druken said once the police suspected her youngest son of shooting his brother they didn't even look for anyone else.

"They should start to investigate again because Derek didn't shoot himself. There was other people there who weren't even put on the stand and it makes me wonder why," she said.

In the meantime, while she said she still feels sad for the death of Derek Druken, she is relieved that Jody Druken has been cleared of having been the person who killed him.

Now that Jody Druken is a free man he said he'll be trying to get his life back.

"I had a life before I got locked up, I was starting to get into a bit of real estate, but had to sell my share of the house because lawyers cost money. But I'll to start all over again," he said.

Crown prosecutor Paul Adams would offer no comment on the outcome of the case and it is not known if an appeal will be launched.

Brace said he's sure Adams will review the case, but whether he files an appeal or not will remain to be seen.

"We hope they will see the error of charging Mr. Druken, but I don't believe there's any realistic grounds in this particular case," he said.

"Justice (Keith) Mercer was very careful with the decisions he made and the decisions made were done in consultation with counsel on every occasion," he said.