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Judge accepts self-defence argument, acquits man in 2020 Duncan death

Andrew Steve Alphonse not guilty of manslaughter in the January 2020 death of Richard Henry
Andrew Steve Alphonse has been found not guilty of manslaughter in the 2020 of Richard Henry in Duncan. (Citizen file)

Andrew Steve Alphonse has been found not guilty of manslaughter in the January 2020 death of Richard Henry in Duncan.

Alphonse was arrested and charged in March, 2020, following a fight at a house party on Jan. 20 that left 53-year-old Henry dead.

British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth McDonald acquitted Alphonse following a trial that began in August of 2023 and wrapped up Friday, April 5. In her decision, posted online, McDonald said that she accepted Alphonse’s argument of self-defence in the case.

The decision cites testimony from witnesses and the accused that establishes that the two men separately attended a house party on the night of Jan. 19 to Jan. 20. During that party the deceased repeatedly tried to pick a physical fight with Alphonse, who refused to engage. Henry was ejected from the party for his behaviour towards Alphonse at the request of his girlfriend, who tried to de-escalate the situation.

Later that night Henry returned to the home having stated to other witnesses that he still wanted to beat up Alphonse. He found Alphonse in the living room of the home on a cot. Alphonse woke when the deceased arrived, but pretended to be asleep, until Henry punched him. Alphonse then got up to try to leave but the two wound up in a physical fight. Henry received serious injuries that killed him. Alphonse said he does not fully remember the fight.

The Crown argued that Alphonse could have done more to avoid the confrontation, that Alphonse knew Henry was heavily intoxicated and not a real threat and that the blows he inflicted on Henry went beyond a reasonable attempt to protect himself. Forensics showed that Henry “sustained multiple severe recent blunt force injuries, primarily involving the head and neck, with multiple skin tears, bruises and bleeding.”

In coming to her decision to acquit Alphonse of manslaughter, the judge noted that Alphonse was afraid of Henry and had reason to be, as the two were relatively evenly matched physically, and Henry had stated he wanted to fight Alphonse.

“I find that the deceased was in an uncontrolled state of anger when he came into the living room and started to strike the accused,” the decision said. “I find that over the course of the evening of January 19, 2020, the deceased was single-mindedly and persistently focussed on physically fighting the accused. I find that the deceased’s anger was due, at least in part, to some jealousy and resentment he felt towards the accused.

“The accused knew that the deceased had behaved violently towards his romantic partners and that he was a jealous, tough fighter, especially when he was drinking alcohol. I believed the accused’s evidence that he was extremely fearful of the deceased. As well, I also found the accused’s testimony about being fearful of the deceased on January 19th to be consistent with the evidence of how other witnesses perceived the deceased at the time.”

The judge found that Alphonse made reasonable attempts to avoid the confrontation and that he could not have known how intoxicated Henry was as Henry had continued to consume alcohol after leaving the house party.

She also found that the fight progressed quickly, as recounted by both Alphonse and another witness who was in the room at the time, and it’s difficult to pinpoint when the deceased would have stopped being a threat.

“When I consider whether the accused knew the deceased was not a threat as the accused stood up and twice raised his knee before kicking or stomping the deceased, I am unable to find that such acts were not defensive. The fact that the accused continued speaking to the deceased saying he did not want to fight, raises a reasonable doubt as to whether the deceased had really stopped moving and acting aggressively towards the accused at this time,” the decision said.

“I find the entire incident happened very quickly. At some points, both of the parties were throwing punches and it was a rapid and dynamic interaction between them. I find that given the speed of the incident, the accused had very little time to think or weigh options,” the decision said.

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Andrea Rondeau

About the Author: Andrea Rondeau

I returned to B.C. and found myself at the Cowichan Valley Citizen.
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