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Key Witness in Halifax Murder Trial Had a Very Bad Day in Court

The Crown’s star witness in the Jimmy Melvin murder trial had his criminal past examined.
Photo by Christian Laforce

The defence attorney for James "Jimmy" Melvin Jr., who is accused of first-degree murder in the death of Terry Marriott Jr., lambasted the credibility of the Crown's key witness in a Halifax courtroom today, painting a portrait of a drug-addled "professional criminal" who would say anything to "get out of trouble" and avoid jail time.

Melvin Jr. is accused of murdering Marriott Jr. in February 2009 while Marriott was sleeping off a rough night at a friend's house. Derek MacPhee, the Crown's star witness, told the court that while Melvin was on a coke-fuelled rage, he insisted on killing Marriott—so MacPhee drove Melvin to their friend's house on his ATV and waited while Melvin went into the house to shoot Marriott five times as he slept. MacPhee said he then helped Melvin get away.


On Monday, MacPhee broke into tears during his testimony. "You know how when it's foggy in Halifax, everything is muffled? That's what it was like," he said. "I couldn't believe how loud [the gunshots were]."

MacPhee said that Melvin and Marriott—both of whom he was friends with—had an ongoing beef and that he unsuccessfully tried to reconcile the two.

MacPhee is a protected witness who is financially supported by the Halifax Regional Police. He was speaking in exchange for immunity for charges related to a home invasion in 2015, where a man, woman, and 13-year-old child were all allegedly tied up and robbed at knife point.

Much of Patrick MacEwen's cross-examination of MacPhee focused on that home invasion, where MacPhee says he stole a car for his associates to drive to the scene of the crime, and arranged a getaway for them in his vehicle's trunk.

MacPhee said he "tried to talk them out of it." But because his friends were short on money, adamant about their plan, and "not the brightest bunch," he decided to step in to help.

Nonetheless, "they fucked up" and the whole crew got caught, he said.

"The plan was not to go near the kid's bedroom," MacPhee said on Tuesday.. "I have morals around children… But it wasn't an innocent family."

MacEwen suggested that MacPhee also wanted a cut of the loot from the invasion. MacPhee denied that, but said he was owed rent money from one of the guys involved.


"You actually wanted to do this so you could get your rent," MacEwen confirmed.

Shortly after they drove away, MacPhee was pulled over by police driving a suspicious vehicle in the neighborhood with his girlfriend, he said. So he called a detective who had been asking him for years to come forward with information about Marriott's death. "Situation like that, I knew I was fucked," he said. "I just called him up and said, 'You want to know that story?'"

MacPhee has an extensive rap sheet, including possession of stolen property, theft, arson, and assault. He also spoke of hundreds of car thefts, along with monthly break-and-enters in order to obtain rent money, for which he was not convicted—along with trafficking cocaine with Marriott, his friend, so they could both support their drug habit.

In 2010, MacPhee was sentenced to five years in prison for shooting his friend Regan Henneberry in the leg after Henneberry broke his nose in a fistfight outside a Sambro convenience.

MacPhee said he drove around for hours trying to "cool off," while convincing Henneberry on the phone to meet him so that he could get his revenge. They later reconciled in a Canadian Tire.

"I just want to make clear that you have no problem shooting one of your friends," said MacEwen. MacPhee responded that rather than a friend Henneberry was a mere "associate" and that he wouldn't care "if he got hit by a bus."

MacEwen later moved on to a discussion of a statement MacPhee made two weeks after Marriott's death, where he said he had been "mad" and "twisted" because Marriott and his friends had come by throwing snowballs at his house. MacPhee said that he could not remember the statement as he was "so high" when he spoke to police that time. "I think I knew I was going in for an interview so I took a lot of drugs first," he said.

Speaking earlier to the Crown attorney, MacPhee said that whenever he had been asked about Marriott's death he would lie and give them "misdirection" to obfuscate the truth. He figured one day he or Melvin would be in court for what happened. And when that happened, he said, he wanted the story to be "so messed up" that no jury "would be able to believe anything."

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