Lawyers sum up their cases

| 17/07/2009

(CNS): Following the defence’s decision not to call any witnesses on its behalf, both legal teams spent the eighth day of the trial of William Martinez-McLaughlin for murder presenting their closing speeches. Solicitor General Cheryl Richards first put the Crown’s case against McLaughlin, pointing to the testimony of the principal witness, Jason Hinds, and the forensic evidence given by expert witnesses. She was followed by defence lead counsel, Mark Tomassi, who focused on the possibility that the Crown’s case was flipped and that Hinds not McLaughlin was the man who struck the fatal blows to Brian Rankine-Carter. (Left: defence counsel Mark Tomassi and Nick Dixie)

The jury heardRichards place the last seven days of evidence in context as she pointed out why the Crown believed Jason Hinds’ testimony and why they believed the forensic evidence also pointed against McLaughlin.  She reminded the jury of Hinds’ testimony that McLaughlin was “chopping and chopping” at Rankine and had even had to stop to catch his breath during what Hinds had described as a nightmare. Richards noted how Hinds had taken responsibility for the van from the very start and given a more truthful account of the night when he first encountered the police, implicating himself immediately. Voluntarily showing the police where he had buried his clothes, he had given an account that also found him guilty of the crime of accessory after the fact. She asked the jury, if Hinds was lying why he would not lie to further remove himself from the crime.

With Hinds and McLaughlin both at the scene, she said it was McLaughlin who the Crown believed was the man who committed the murder.

She warned the jury to be careful of the distractions thrown up by the defence and reminded them that suggestions were not evidence. Richards pointed to the forensic evidence placing McLaughlin very “close, closer and closest”  to the body at the time Rankine was bleeding, including his boots recovered from bushes in East End and the hat found at the scene which conclusively belonged to him.

The solicitor general noted that most of the blood in the van was on the passenger side where McLaughlin was and that Rankine’s blood on his wallet and belt.

She said that despite the suggestions of the defence, the clothes that Hinds had admitted to burying, which he wore on the night, were not covered in blood and, as the expert witnesses had said, there were some transfer patterns consistent with Hinds’ story that he had made attempts to pull McLaughlin away from Rankine.

Holding up the t-shirt, she asked the jury if it could possibly be the garment worn during the administration of the 48 wounds to Rankine. She asked the jury to think hard and ask what makes sense as she said it was easy to throw mud and for innuendo to take the place of hard facts. Richards conceded that mistakes had been made in the investigation by the police but there was no evidence of collusion or corruption. In the end, when the machete found at Hinds’ house was tested it had no blood on it. She did caution the jury about Hinds’ evidence as she explained that escaping murder charges was a powerful incentive to lie. However, she said if they accepted his evidence then there could be no doubt of McLaughlin’s guilt.

When defence counsel Mark Tomassi took to his feet, he presented another possibility for the jury to consider. He suggested that the roles were reversed and that the police, for whatever reason, had taken Hinds as the innocent man and his client as the murderer when it could have been the other way around. “Why could the case not be looked at the other way around?” he asked.

He reminded the jury that if they were in any doubt at all they must return a not guilty verdict. He pointed to his suggestions of a conspiracy, the missing machete, the conflicting police stories and what he suggested was the special treatment of Hinds. He accused the police of not doing all they could to really investigate Rankine’s murder and said that, while one cannot weight the importance of someone’s life, the police did that.

Whether it was “a cock up or a stitch up”, Tomassi said the results were the same that the police had not investigatedthe case properly.

He said the jury must try the defendant on the evidence and they did not have to come up with their own homespun theory. He said that, while there were many unanswered questions, there would be no more evidence to come. If the jury did not believe Hinds, and he had undoubtedly lied, then they could not find his client guilty, he said. Recounting what had allegedly happened, he suggested to the jury that it must be obvious it was all about drugs and that Hinds had lied about his drug use.

Tomassi said the presence at the scene of the crime was not enough to convict McLaughlin, as both men had gone to the car park in McField Lane and both men had got out of the van. The presence of blood on McLaughlin’s shoes was not enough as it was impossible to say how much blood was on Hinds’ shoes as he had cleaned them. he said.

Tomassi told the jury that he believed the evidence pointed the other way round, but without the resource such as those available to the RCIPS, he and Nick Dixie, his junior counsel, could not prove it. He said that once the jury found that they could not believe Hinds against a backdrop of misadventure, incompetence or worse, they could not find his client guilty.

Justice Alex Henderson adjourned the case until Monday morning, when he will offer his directions to them before they begin their deliberations, he told the jury.

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