A jury in Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada has found Raymond Cormier not guilty of second-degree murder in the death of a Native American girl named Tina Fontaine.
Cormier, 56, did not react as the verdict was read aloud and pandemonium erupted in the courtroom.
Fontaine was only 15 when her 72-pound body was found in the Red River, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down with rocks. Cormier was charged a year later with the crime.
The Crown had no forensic evidence or eyewitnesses directly linking Cormier to Fontaine's death, and the cause of her death was undetermined.
The prosecutors only had a very flimsy circumstantial case and they relied on secretly recorded statements made by Cormier, along with testimony from witnesses who said they saw Cormier and Tina together in the days before she disappeared from the Best Western Charterhouse hotel in downtown Winnipeg on Aug. 8, 2014.
In short, the prosecutors were able to show that Fontaine was an underage prostitute and the Cormier was likely a customer.
Prosecutors were unable to prove that the cause of death was murder, despite the suspicious manner in which her body wrapped and weighed down when it was found.
Crown prosecutors Jim Ross and Bretta Passler argued that statements made by Cormier in those recordings constituted admissions of guilt. In these recordings, Cormier seemed obsessed with Tina's killing, saying he wanted to find her killer but also making statements about her death. The defense was able to show that those statements were not necessarily proof that Cormier killed, only that he was obsessed with her death.
Jurors must acquit in weak cases such as this and the Canadian jurors did exactly what they're supposed to do. When the state fails to meet its burden of proof, the defendant must walk free.