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Jury convicts man of murder

Andrew Raven
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (July 01/05) - After nearly three days of deliberation, a jury convicted reputed crack-cocaine dealer Gerald Delorme of second degree murder yesterday.

Reputed crack dealer Gerald Delorme (left) is escorted from the Yellowknife courthouse moments after being convicted of second degree murder. - Dorothy Westerman/NNSL photo

The verdict capped a sensational month-long trial that featured a parade of forensic experts, police investigators and drug dealers.

"This was a lengthy and complex case," Crown attorney Noel Sinclair said outside the courthouse following the verdict. "The Crown is definitely very satisfied with the outcome."

Delorme, 40, was convicted of strangling fellow crack-cocaine dealer Justin Hai Van Vo with an extension cord on June 16, 2003. Vo was killed in a downtown crack house and his body burned on the outskirts of Yellowknife.

Originally charged with first degree murder, Delorme stared straight ahead and showed little emotion as the verdict was announced. The 11-member jury began deliberations Tuesday afternoon. One member of the jury was excused from duty last week.

Sentencing hearing next

Delorme faces an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole for at least 10 years. A hearing will be held Aug. 24 where Supreme Court Justice John Vertes will hear arguments over how long Delorme should wait before he can apply for parole.

Defence attorney Catherine Rhinelander said she was "disappointed" by the verdict and did not rule out an appeal.

"We will review our options and see what happens," she said.

The jury decided against arguments from the Crown to find Delorme guilty of first degree murder - a crime that carries a minimum of 25 years in prison without parole.

They also rejected defence suggestions that Delorme could not fully appreciate what was happening during the attack on Vo because he was high on crack-cocaine.

Delorme becomes the fourth man to be convicted in connection with the slaying.

Fellow crack house resident and key prosecution witness Francis Yukon pleaded guilty to manslaughter earlier this year and is serving a five-year sentence.

Richard Tutin, who provided possibly the most damning testimony, pleaded guilty to accessory to murder and was sentenced to three and half years in jail.

Another man, Dale Coutoreille, also pleaded guilty to accessory to murder and received three years in jail.

The trial cast a spotlight on the city's crack-cocaine trade. Arrests for the drug have quadrupled during the last four years.

Witnesses made several revelations during the proceeding, including:

* Vo and Tutin were making between $5,000 and $10,000 daily selling crack-cocaine from their apartment;

* Vietnamese and Chinese gangs from southern Canada are partially behind the flow of drugs into Yellowknife; and,

* Dealers actively scouted downtown real estate in hopes of setting up crack houses.

Sinclair told reporters he would ask Vertes to consider the social impact of crack-cocaine during Delorme's sentencing hearing.

Delorme chatted briefly with his lawyers and nodded goodbye to family members before being led from the courtroom by two police officers.

The last time a first degree murder trial took place in Yellowknife was 1995.