KELOWNA, B.C. — Cory Van Gilder sobbed tears of relief when a Kelowna jury declared him not guilty of manslaughter Tuesday afternoon.
Van Gilder, 26, was charged in the February 2016 death of 30-year-old Zachary Gaudette outside a Kelowna restaurant.
The jury began deliberations Monday afternoon, after a one-week trial, and came to a unanimous decision at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
On Feb. 17, 2016, Van Gilder had been at a Cactus Club with a group of friends, celebrating a birthday.
Court heard that, upon leaving the restaurant, Van Gilder’s attention was drawn to Gaudette, who was coming toward them.
Gaudette was yelling he was going to fight anyone and everyone, taking off layers of clothing as he walked toward them.
“He was crazy, insane. He was very mad. I wasn’t sure why,” Van Gilder said in court last week. “No one was provoking him or saying anything as far as I could tell.”
Van Gilder stepped forward and punched Gaudette in the neck, knocking him to the ground.
“I wanted him to leave everyone alone,” he said.
Gaudette died two days later from a ruptured vessel that caused bleeding in the brain.
Crown counsel Andrew Vandersluys argued Van Gilder had other options besides punching Gaudette, including walking away.
“Mr. Van Gilder was not justified in punching Mr. Gaudette,” Vandersluys said during the trial.
“It was an unlawful act. He committed manslaughter. Mr. Van Gilder had options other than a right hook to Mr. Gaudette’s left neck.”
But the jury accepted the defence’s argument that Van Gilder was acting in defence of himself and others and so did not commit an unlawful act.
“He did the right thing to protect himself and other people,” said defence lawyer Jeff Campbell.
On hearing the verdict, Van Gilder’s family said they were relieved and that it was the decision they had been expecting.
Van Gilder was charged with manslaughter in July 2016 and had been in custody since his bail was revoked in December.
(Kelowna Daily Courier)
Andrea Peacock, Kelowna Daily Courier, The Canadian Press
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