Trial of Fort Sask. dad accused of murdering baby continues with judge alone after jury dismissed

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Jurors hearing the case of a Fort Saskatchewan dad charged with murdering his infant son were dismissed Tuesday afternoon after a failed mistrial bid from the defence.

Damien Starrett began a second-degree murder trial last week for his role in the death of his one-year-old son Ares, who was killed in the family home on Nov. 23, 2019.

The name of the accused was previously under a publication ban intended to protect the identity of his surviving daughter, who testified during the trial but no longer uses his surname.

A media consortium including CBC and Postmedia successfully fought to overturn the ban Tuesday morning, with the support of the children’s mother.

Separately Tuesday, defense lawyer Rory Ziv sought a mistrial over photos of Ares’s body which the Crown tendered as evidence.

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Ziv argued his client’s right to a fair trial had been compromised by the Crown’s decision to show the jury the “disturbing” images, saying their prejudicial effect outweighed any probative value they might have.

Justice John Henderson disagreed, saying the photos were relevant and helped the jury better understand the evidence of the medical examiner who conducted Ares’s autopsy.

Ziv subsequently asked for his client to be tried by Henderson alone for the remainder of the trial — a move to which the Crown consented.

Henderson thanked jurors, who heard none of the arguments regarding the publication ban or the mistrial. I have acknowledged some of the evidence jurors heard during the trial was “very difficult.”

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‘Lost all of his blood’

During his opening address last week, Ziv claimed a series of sleep disorders caused his client to behave as an “automaton” who could not have intended to kill his son.

Starrett had visited sleep specialists on 28 occasions in the years before Ares’s death, Ziv said, adding one of his physicians recommended Starrett discontinue one of his medications shortly before the killing.

Starrett’s daughter, who he is accused of assaulting the same night he killed Ares, testified earlier in the trial via a video link. She said her dad de ella awoke from a nap in a rage after she tickled him.

In a video interview shortly after her father’s arrest, the girl said Starrett “stepped” on Ares’s back, punched him, then grabbed him by a leg and threw him onto the couch.

She said her baby brother had gone to heaven because he “lost all of his blood.”

The remainder of Tuesday’s hearing was taken up with testimony from an RCMP blood-spatter expert.

The Crown’s final witness is expected to testify Wednesday

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