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Edward Penner murder trial hears from driver

Clarence Haryett testified that the suspect and victim got out of his car, but only Penner returned
Clarence Haryett, also known by his DJ name “C-Dog,” took the witness stand all day Sept. 9 and was the fourteenth Crown witness to testify during the first-degree murder trial of Edward James Penner. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

A Whitehorse man told a jury Sept. 9 that two men he knew as “Tanner” and “Adam” got out of his car in late June 2017, but, after he heard a single shot, only one came back.

Clarence Haryett, also known by his DJ name “C-Dog,” took the witness stand all day Monday, the fourteenth Crown witness to testify during the first-degree murder trial of Edward James Penner.

Penner, a 22-year-old from British Columbia, is accused of killing Adam Cormack, 25. Cormack’s body was found on a dirt road off the Alaska Highway in Ibex Valley on June 28, 2017.

Haryett confirmed to Crown attorney Tom Lemon that he occasionally does “sober driving,” in which he basically serves as a private taxi service, and was doing so in June 2017.

He also confirmed that he was arrested for Cormack’s murder last December. However, he wasn’t charged and police released him after he gave a statement about driving Tanner, Cormack and a man named Bubbles about 20 minutes out of town to a spot off the Alaska Highway.

Haryett gave a police statement in November 2017 in which he claimed he didn’t know Cormack and knew nothing related to the murder.

“Did you murder Adam Cormack?” Lemon asked.

“No, I did not,” Haryett responded.

Asked if he saw Tanner in the courtroom, Haryett pointed at Penner.

Haryett testified that he had driven Tanner “a couple of times,” including to get off-sales.

One trip to the Airport Chalet was caught on security camera.

The video was date-stamped as June 27, 2017; Haryett said he had driven Tanner and Bubbles from a house party in Hillcrest to the Airport Chalet and back, but didn’t remember what else he did that night.

After being shown a photo by the Crown, Haryett confirmed that he had been to the area where Cormack’s body was found, testifying that he had driven Tanner, Cormack and Bubbles there.

While they came from the house in Hillcrest, Haryett said he couldn’t remember when they left or what time of day it was.

He testified that he driven there because his passengers said they wanted to smoke a joint.

Haryett said that his passengers got out of his car, and Cormack, who he only knew by first name, and Tanner walked up a trail.

Tanner had a gun, Haryett said, and after the men were out of sight, he heard a single shot.

About a minute later, Tanner returned to the car saying, “We gotta go.”

Haryett agreed that he wondered what had happened to Cormack, but didn’t ask any questions.

Haryett said the last time he drove Tanner was in late June 2017, when he gave Tanner, Bubbles, and two women named Justine and Juanita a ride from the Hillcrest to the Family Hotel.

He confirmed that he registered a room under his name for them because he was the only one with ID.

Defence lawyer Andre Ouellette challenged Haryett’s credibility during a lengthy cross-examination.

He suggested that Haryett was “tricked” by police into pinning the blame for Cormack’s death on Penner, noting that a police officer told Haryett after his arrest that Penner was already charged with murder and was brought up from British Columbia for “enforcement.”

Haryett confirmed that, at the time, he had recently regained custody of his son, and agreed that staying out of jail to keep his son was the most important thing.

Ouellette suggested Haryett blamed Tanner in order to save himself.

The lawyer also questioned whether Haryett had deeper ties to drug users and dealers than he was letting on, and asked if he had been helping Tanner or others run drugs.

Haryett denied that.

As well, Ouellette pushed Haryett on how he couldn’t remember seeing Tanner’s gun at any point before or after he walked up the trail with Cormack, and why he had lied to police in his first statement.

The court also heard from two witnesses on Sept. 10 ⁠— forensic pathologist Jason Morin, who conducted Cormack’s autopsy, and Yukon RCMP Const. Emma Leslie, who examined Facebook messages to and from an account under the name of “James Tanner.”

Morin testified that based on the autopsy, which took place in Vancouver of June 30, 2017, Cormack died from the gunshot wound to his head with no other factors contributing to his death.

Based on the gun-powder stippling around the entrance wound and the trajectory of the bullet, Morin said the gun was an “intermediate” distance from Cormack’s head ⁠— about two to three feet, roughly ⁠— and pointing down slightly when the bullet was fired.

Morin said that the fractures in Cormack’s skull as well as damage to soft neck tissue caused him to believe that Cormack was probably shot with a high-power firearm, although he confirmed in cross-examination it was impossible to tell if the gun was a powerful handgun or a rifle.

He also testified that gunshot wounds to the head typically do not result in much bleeding.

Leslie, meanwhile, took the jury through a tome of printed-out Facebook messages between “James Tanner” and at least six other people.

Messages from the Tanner account dating from June 9 to 26, 2017, say, among other things, that the person using the account is “Penner;” that he’s in Whitehorse or travelling to Whitehorse; and that he obtained a “full auto” AR-15 for $2,500.

Leslie testified that based on the account’s profile photo, as well as photos sent in the messages, she believed “James Tanner” was Penner.

She agreed with defence lawyer Kelly Labine, though, that while the messages were sent from the “James Tanner” account, there was no way to tell who wrote the messages.

The trial continues.

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