By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on January 27, 2024.
There’s no question that Linden Blair Grier died from an altercation with Cullen Drake Tailfeathers nearly three years ago, Calgary lawyer Jim Lutz acknowledged Friday during his closing arguments in the accused’s manslaughter trial. But, he suggested, Tailfeathers was only defending himself.
Lutz told court that when the two men came face to face in a Fort Macleod home during the early morning hours of May 24, 2021, Grier raised his fists in an invitation to fight, and Tailfeathers, who was fearful and felt threatened, threw the first punch. From there the two men swapped blows until Grier was knocked unconscious and fell into the toilet, resulting in his death.
“The offence itself has been proven,” Lutz told Justice Kristin Ailsby. “Now, the aspect for this court to consider, is whether or not the offence is self defence would be applicable in this case. That’s the real issue. Mr. Tailfeathers agrees that he engaged in an altercation with Mr. Grier, and Mr. Grier died as a result of it.”
The Crown contends that Tailfeathers, in a fit of jealousy, went to his girlfriend’s home to confront Grier, and when he saw the smaller man he immediately began beating him about the head while Chantelle English tried to make him stop.
Court heard during the trial this week that the relationship between English and Tailfeathers was deteriorating, and during the evening of May 23 Chantelle sent Tailfeathers insulting and hurtful text messages. She also posted a Snapchat picture of herself and a shirtless Grier drinking together.
Tailfeathers drove from Cardston to English’s home, and according to English, he walked into the house, demanded to know who else was there, then charged into the basement where he met Grier standing near the bottom of the stairs.
“He just started beating the sh-t out of him. He was punching him in the head multiple times, and I was yelling and screaming, trying to tell him to stop.”
English stood between the two men, but she couldn’t stop Tailfeathers, who is six-foot six inches tall, from reaching over her and punching Grier.
After Grier was knocked unconscious, Tailfeathers left.
The accused’s version of events differ drastically. Tailfeathers said that when he arrived at the apartment, English opened the door. He went downstairs to collect some of his belongings and was met by Grier. Tailfeathers admitted he threw the first punch after they met, then the two began to fight.
“He approached me like he wanted to fight,” Tailfeathers said.
The combatants then took turns hitting each other in the face and head, first Tailfeathers then Grier. Several blows later Tailfeathers hit Grier under the right ear, causing him to stumble back. When Grier recovered and appeared about to re-engage, Tailfeathers hit him again above his left eye.
“At this point he became unconscious and he fell back into the toilet.”
Tailfeathers said he didn’t want to fight and was only hitting Grier to “get him off me.” He added Grier was breathing when he left the home moments later.
Lutz said English’s version of the events are not credible because she was highly intoxicated at the time, and testified that “everything seems like a blur” and “my mind is all mixed up.” Some of her evidence also contradicted that of her children who also testified and said they didn’t see any signs that Tailfeathers had been hit in the face.
Lutz also suggested English manipulated both men with her text messages, and although Tailfeathers is solely responsible for Grier’s death, English is responsible for the two men confronting each other.
“This is really a pretty well calculated ability to manipulate someone…and again, the consequences are awful. Mr. Grier didn’t deserve that, didn’t deserve to be caught up in any of this. This is not his fight, this is not his problem. He is truly the victim in this case.”
Lutz suggested all the evidence supports Tailfeather’s account of the events, and self defence should apply.
Crown Prosecutor Clayton Giles called the case “classic domestic violence” and said Tailfeathers drove to English’s apartment specifically to confront Grier.
“This was a conflict which the accused knew was likely, which he was prepared to initiate,” Giles said.
“The Crown’s contention is that the evidence…demonstrates that Mr. Cullen Tailfeathers drove from Cardston to Fort Macleod with the express intent of disrupting his intimate partner’s evening by attending at her home in the middle of the night, catching her in a compromising position with a romantic rival and to assault that romantic rival.”
Giles said that’s exactly what Tailfeathers did, resulting in Grier’s death.
Justice Ailsby is expected to give her decision on May 2; the earliest she and the lawyers are all available on the same day.