PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. – A Cape Breton lobster fisherman has been found guilty of manslaughter in the death of a man at sea.
Joseph James Landry, 67, of Little Anse, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the death last year of Phillip Boudreau. He was found not guilty of that charge.
Landry’s wife wiped her eyes, crying, after Saturday’s verdict but Landry showed no visible reaction as he heard the verdict and was remanded into custody with a sentencing hearing set for Jan. 29.
The 43-year-old Boudreau’s body hasn’t been found but Crown attorney Steve Drake has told the jury his death was the result of a sustained attack by a three-man lobster fishing crew that included Landry — one of four people charged in the case.
During the trial the prosecutor said the Twin Maggies rammed Boudreau’s boat three times at the mouth of Petit de Grat harbour on June 1, 2013. Prosecutors also said Landry fired four shots from a rifle, and one hit Boudreau in the leg.
Drake had alleged that Boudreau’s boat overturned after it was rammed the third time and he was then hooked with a gaff and dragged out to sea.
Defence lawyer Luke Craggs said the verdict was a victory for his client, as he would have faced a much more severe sentence for a second-degree murder conviction.
“Mr. Landry will be able to return to the community, say he did his time and he can move on,” the lawyer said outside court.
Prosecutor Shane Russell said outside court he wasn’t sure why the jury rejected the Crown’s view that a second-degree murder had occurred.
“The Crown put forward a case that we thought and felt strongly would prove second-degree murder. It had all the elements of the offence itself,” he said.
Boudreau was last seen by his brother near the Petit de Grat wharf on June 1, 2013, just before 6 a.m.
Boudreau took his red and white speedboat out on the water and it was found overturned without its motor by a local fisherman about one hour later.
Videotaped interviews played during his trial heard Landry initially tell police he shot and rammed Boudreau’s boat after he cut his lobster traps and threatened to set his house on fire.
At first, Landry maintained his innocence but later changed his story, saying he fired a rifle at Boudreau four times and intended to kill him, adding he took the wheel of the Twin Maggies and ran over his boat.
“I wanted to destroy him,” says Landry, who accused Boudreau of taunting him for years. “I was seeing black. I was so mad.”
He told police he later told the Twin Maggies’ crew he had made a mistake.
“I regret it,” he tells an RCMP investigator. “I told you the truth. It’s all over now.”
The defence told the jury to discount the videotape, saying Landry was trying to take the blame for what happened to protect others on the Twin Maggies, and came after police told him younger crew members still had their lives ahead of them.
Craig Landry, a deckhand on the Twin Maggies, testified that he did not watch as the Twin Maggies ran over Boudreau’s boat three times, though he heard three thuds.
He said Boudreau pleaded for Joseph James Landry to stop firing at him, yelling, “Stop, James. Stop.”
Craig Landry, who is Joseph James Landry’s third cousin, was previously charged with second-degree murder but that was withdrawn. He now faces a charge of accessory after the fact.
The captain of the Twin Maggies, Dwayne Matthew Samson of D’Escousse, also faces a second-degree murder charge. His wife Carla Samson, who owns the lobster boat, faces a charge of accessory after the fact.
She is also the daughter of Joseph James Landry.
Those three accused have yet to stand trial.