Closing submissions in Verma trial
Oct 9, 2013 / 7:47 pm
Closing submissions began today in the first-degree murder trial of Joelon Verma, as crown counsel attempted to build their case against the accused with ‘bricks’ of evidence.
Many of their submissions revolved around the paper trail of cell phone records in the days leading up to Brittney Irving’s disappearance in an alleged drug deal gone wrong.
The Crown’s Iain Currie led the jury through dozens of the roughly 1,300 text messages sent or received by Irving between the dates of April 1-6, 2010. Most of the texts and phone calls brought to the attention of the jury involved Verma, her brother Joze Macculloch and the half dozen drug dealers she was contacting in the hopes of rounding up a large amount of marijuana for ‘the big deal’.
Text messages between Verma and Irving that were read aloud in court typically had a playful or sexual nature. However, when speaking to police, Verma referred to her as barely a friend and someone he was only helping because she was stressed out about a money situation.
While Currie acknowledged the money issue has been “a constant theme” during the proceedings and a subject that many witnesses alluded to, they all testified it was due to lawyer fees from a recent drug bust and not for an upcoming deal of 70 pounds of marijuana.
Those witnesses also had no motive to kill Irving, said Currie, as he pointed to the person buying the marijuana – alleged to be Verma – as the only person with any motive.
“He had 140,000 reasons to do harm,” said Currie, referring to a rough estimate of how much money the deal could be worth.
Reading through more text messages from Irving’s phone, Currie admits they can be confusing on their own, but when put into context together with the many different people she was communicating with, paint a picture of the last few days of Irving’s life.
The frenetic pace of messaging ramps up on April 4 and 5, as its evident Irving was scrambling to get enough marijuana together to complete the deal, all the while making plans to meet up with Verma at different times on different dates.
It seemed Verma was the only person Irving was not asking to find drugs, which Currie says fits previous texts where Verma threatens to go visit his cousins on the coast if she cannot get something together. That also fits Macculloch’s testimony that his sister said the deal was with someone named “Joey”, said Currie.
Verma’s interactions with police were also taken into account by Currie, who pointed out lies, fabrications and deflections of guilt in different statements and recordings given by the accused. He called these examples “evidence of guilt” and purposeful lies which lead to “a pattern of deception” when dealing with the police.
The text messages from Verma to Irving suddenly stopped at 1:13 p.m. on April 6. In a police statement, he says she never showed up for a proposed deal of two pounds and he was left waiting, finally texting her again almost three hours later.
That was a strange turn of events, noted Currie, considering the last thing Irving texted was, “on route, see you in 10.” He refers to Verma’s last text message as part of an alibi.
The crown contends that during the two hours and 40 minutes of dead air, Verma met with Irving and unloaded the marijuana, then drove to Philpott Road where they left Irving’s vehicle – presumably to allow for delivery of the cash. Then they drove in Mike Roberts truck to an area off McCullough Road, where Irving believed they were going to shoot some guns – and why she was dressed in a heavy jacket and shoes – and that’s where the crown claims Verma shot her twice in the back with a shotgun.
Currie also pointed out to the jury that cell tower records and testimony from two other witnesses put Verma in the area where Irving’s body was later found, on the last day she was seen alive.
In a contrast of styles, Verma’s defence counsel Jordan Watt began his closing arguments by telling the jury that evidence and testimony over the past few weeks has made this trial “the farthest thing from an open and shut case”.
He pointed to the world of drugs and drug dealing that Irving lived within and the lack of forensic evidence linking Verma to the crime scene and absolutely no direct evidence that he killed her.
Watt reminded the jury of reasonable doubt and the standard of proof, while noting that Verma was available, accessible and co-operative with police throughout their investigation.
Watt also suggested that the jury carefully assess any evidence the crown has presented against Verma, and consider the testimony and character of many crown witnesses, some of whom have criminal records and admit to being part of the drug world.
“I submit you should disregard his evidence completely,” said Watt, when referring to the testimony of Irving’s brother, calling him confrontational, angry and evasive.
He also alludes to the fact that no one – with the exception of Macculloch – could name Verma as the buyer for this deal that Irving was believed to have been putting together. Going even further, Watt asked the jury where the drugs were and why they were never found, suggesting there were no drugs to begin with and adding that no evidence or odour of marijuana was ever found in Irving’s vehicle.
Closing submissions continue on Thursday.
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