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'Use your common sense': Judge advises jury at Calgary triple- murder trial

Last Updated Feb 15, 2017 at 11:40 pm EST

Douglas Garland is escorted into a Calgary police station in connection with the disappearance of Nathan O'Brien and his grandparents in Calgary, Alta., Monday, July 14, 2014. The judge in a triple-murder trial advised jurors Wednesday to use common sense and reminded them that the accused's guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt if they wish to convict him.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY – The fate of a man charged in the deaths of a Calgary couple and their five-year-old grandson has been handed over to the jury.

Justice David Gates spent more than four hours giving instructions to the jury, then the nine men and three women began deliberations at 5:13 p.m. Wednesday.

But no verdict was delivered by 9 p.m. when the jury’s deliberations ceased for the night.

Douglas Garland, 57, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and their grandson Nathan O’Brien.

Gates advised jurors to use common sense and reminded them that the accused’s guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt if they wish to convict him.

He said they can use as much or as little of the evidence as they want from four weeks of testimony, but not to resort to speculation.

“Sympathy can have no place in your deliberations. Speculation is guessing or making things up,” Gates said.

“You may rely on the exhibits as much or as little as you see fit. Use your common sense or experience. If you are not sure Mr. Garland committed the offences … then you must give the benefit of the doubt to him and find him not guilty,” he said.

“It is not enough for you to believe an accused is probably or even likely guilty.”

Gates said the Crown doesn’t have to prove guilt with an “absolute certainty” but it has to be beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Mr. Garland doesn’t have to prove anything.”

Garland was charged after the couple and their grandson disappeared from the couple’s Calgary home on June 30, 2014. Their bodies were never recovered — only bone fragments, burned flesh and teeth in the ash from a burning barrel on Garland’s farm. There was also ample DNA evidence recovered at the property.

“You can come to the conclusion that these three individuals are dead,” said Gates.

The Crown argued during the trial that Garland stewed for years about a dispute with Alvin Liknes over a patent for an oilfield pump they had both worked on.

The judge noted that motive is not an essential element the Crown must prove.

Gates also warned the jury not to place too much weight on Internet searches found on a hidden hard drive from Garland computer or on books found that were found at the farm.

The hard drive contained articles on how to do autopsies and dispose of the dead. There were also numerous photos of dead and dismembered bodies. The books were on poisons and ways of killing.

“You may not infer from the evidence, or how unpleasant you may find it, or however much you may disapprove of Mr. Garland’s alleged Internet browsing choices that Mr. Garland is a person of bad character and likely would have committed the offences charged,” Gates said.

“You are here to decide if the Crown has proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, the offences charged in the indictment … nothing more, nothing less.”

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

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