Judge John L. DeMarco declared Daren Venable not guilty of intentional murder in the second degree in the Jan. 15 fatal stabbing of fellow UR student Jeffrey Bordeaux, Jr.
The verdict was delivered before a packed courthouse of about 100 people on Thursday, April 21 after nearly two weeks of non-jury trial proceedings.
Judge DeMarco began by stating that the court is not required to provide a “reasoned decision” when pronouncing a verdict, but stated that in this case he would briefly elaborate on the court’s decision making process.
After summarizing the salient points of the prosecution and the defense, DeMarco stated that, “based on the record before me, I find Daren Venable not guilty of murder in the second degree” and that there would be “no need to consider lesser offenses.”
DeMarco stated that Venable’s actions were justified, and that he would not consider the lesser charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter.
Venable’s bail has been exonerated and DeMarco said that the $50, 000 cash bail would be returned to his family.
DeMarco’s verdict means that he believed Venable to have reasonably believed that deadly physical force was being used, or was about to be used against him. According to the law of justification, a reasonable person in Venable’s position would have held the same belief.
DeMarco explained his decision by stating that no witnesses testified to the fact that Venable and Bordeaux, Jr. fought physically while standing. Coupled with the presence of blood on Venable’s clothing, DeMarco said that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Venable was not justified in his actions.
Upon delivery of the verdict, Bordeaux’s family members in the courtroom erupted in screams and had to be forcibly escorted form the room.
They continued to shout in angry hysterics outside the courtroom, citing the failures of the justice system.
“It was the appropriate verdict,” defense attorney James Nobles said in a statement. “There was no evidence introduced that indicated he wasn’t guilty.”
“Obviously a huge burden has been lifted off his shoulders,” Nobles continued. “He is thinking about the next phase of his life.”
“No one who was not in the courtroom throughout the entire proceeding can fully appreciate the full extent of evidence that was presented to Judge DeMarco,” UR President Joel Seligman said in a statement released to the University. “The overarching tragedy remains that our student, Jeffrey Bordeaux Jr., has died. Let me again articulate my sadness and empathy for both families. Regardless of the trial verdict, the death of Jeffrey Bordeaux will weigh heavily on Daren Venable the rest of his life.”