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Jury deliberations continue in murder trial of Halifax medical student

William Sandeson's defence team, Brad Sarson (right) and Eugene Tan, attend court as jurors deliberate in the murder trial of Sandeson at the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax, on June 16, 2017.

Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The 12-member jury in the trial of Halifax medical student William Sandeson — accused of killing a physics student during a drug deal as part of a plan to alleviate his debt — is expected to return to deliberations on Saturday.

Sandeson is charged with the first-degree murder of 22-year-old Taylor Samson, whose body has never been found.

The jury of six men and six women had deliberated for a total of about 11 hours before taking a break on Friday evening.

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They were scheduled to return to Nova Scotia Supreme Court Saturday at 9:15 a.m. to continue discussions.

Justice Josh Arnold gave jurors his final instructions before deliberations began at about 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

Arnold told the jury there are four possible verdicts in the case: Sandeson could be found guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, or he could be found not guilty.

He told jurors their verdict must be unanimous, although they do not have to arrive at a conclusion in the same way.

The trial heard Samson went to Sandeson's apartment on Aug. 15, 2015, to sell him nine kilograms of marijuana for $40,000.

Court heard Samson was last seen alive on video walking into Sandeson's apartment shortly before 10:30 p.m.

DNA matching Samson's was recovered from a bullet, gun, duffel bag and other items seized from Sandeson's Henry Street apartment in Halifax and his family's farm in Truro, the jury heard.

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During his instructions Thursday, Arnold read both the Crown and defence theories of what happened.

Arnold said the Crown believes Sandeson lured Samson to his apartment as part of a drug deal.

"He made a plan to get more money for himself by killing Mr. Samson," Arnold said Thursday of the Crown's theory.

"Very shortly after Mr. Samson arrived at his apartment, Mr. Sandeson shot him in the back of his head with his gun while Mr. Samson was seated at the kitchen table. He secretly disposed of Mr. Samson's body to try to conceal what he had done."

The Crown argues Sandeson cleaned up his apartment and sent a text to Samson's phone to cover up the murder, Arnold said.

It argues Sandeson stole the drugs Samson brought to his apartment and put them in his brother's basement so he could sell them later, he said.

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Crown lawyer Kim McOnie had argued Sandeson — who was slated to start medical school at Dalhousie within a week of his arrest — was motivated by money, noting he was in debt roughly $70,000.

Arnold said the defence's theory is that Sandeson was a drug dealer, was put into contact with Samson and the two had reached an agreement for Samson to sell Sandeson marijuana.

The defence says they initially met on Aug. 13, 2015, but agreed to complete the sale two days later, Arnold said.

"Mr. Samson was also a drug dealer and had at that time some drug debts and appeared to be anxious to conclude the sale," Arnold said of the defence's theory.

"While at Mr. Sandeson's residence, a violent incident occurred that involved a third party, who left through the north window in (Sandeson's roommate's) bedroom."

Arnold said the defence says Sandeson did clean up the apartment following the incident, "and this was the extent of his involvement."

"As a further result of his panicked state, Mr. Sandeson hid drugs at his brother's apartment and materials associated with his cleanup at his parent's farm in Truro."

Arnold said the defence position is that the Crown has been unable to prove the elements of the first-degree murder charge.

Defence lawyer Eugene Tan said in his closing arguments Monday that Sandeson is not a "criminal mastermind" and that the Crown twisted evidence in the case to fit its theory.

Tan asked the jury to acquit Sandeson.

Sandeson — who has a slim build and closely cropped hair — has listened intently during his trial, often referring to a computer and jotting down notes.

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