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Helps calls for manslaughter

During her final submissions to the jury in Matthew Foerster’s first-degree murder trial, defence counsel Lisa Helps suggested her client’s answers to police were taken out of context when queried about the death of Taylor Van Diest.

She walked the jury through various lines of the transcribed video, much of which she felt was Foerster simply agreeing to leading questions asked by the RCMP, and not as an expression of guilt or forethought.

While Helps told the jury she can’t argue with what Foerster admitted to police, she opined her client was essentially stuck between a rock and a hard place and agreed to questions that were closer to the actual truth, as opposed to those that would make him out as some kind of predator – which she says he is not.

In her submission to the jury, the video is a statement of remorse and that Foerster was racked by his conscience and clearly devastated, all while attempting to explain the unexplainable.

She pointed out that the attack happened quickly, and if  Foerster was intoxicated and in a panic, that could explain why he told police his mind was a blur on more than one occasion.

Helps also disagreed with the Crown’s theory that Foerster used a shoelace to strangle Taylor, instead drawing the jury’s attention to a bra strap which Dr. John Stefanelli agreed could fit the ligature marks.

In fact, she points out that police in the transcribed video initially asked what he used to choke Taylor, to which he replies “my hands.”

When further prodded, he is asked, “What else did you have with you?”

Foerster replies a “shoelace”.

Help says police didn’t specifically ask what else he used to choke her with and instead notes that Foerster could have reached around her from behind and roughly pulled the bra strap across her neck.

“We don’t know what passed between them,” says helps.

She also questioned the many blows to Taylor’s head, which the Crown contends were caused by a Maglite. Helps submitted to the jury that the sixth blow, the one that fractured her skull, could have been caused by Taylor slipping on the tracks and falling onto a metal pipe found in the bushes underneath where she lay.

If that is the case, then Helps says the jury must dismiss the first-degree charge and instead consider manslaughter.

At the end of the day, Helps submitted to the jury that the Crown has only made speculative leaps in order to arrive at their theory and believes intent has not been proven based on the evidence presented.

As for him telling police about ditching his coat, flashlight and shoelace into a Vernon dumpster, Helps says this only proves Foerster panicked as an immature and not particularly bright individual when he recognized things went wrong.

She also points out there was no evidence that a sexual assault ever took place, and notes that a busy night like Halloween and a popular shortcut like the rail line is not the best time or place to commit that type of crime.

Once Taylor was taken down to the ground, Helps also questions why Foerster never went ahead with the sex assault if that was his motive the entire time.

She admits it was a panicked attack and that Foerster caused Taylor’s injuries, but casts doubt again on whether that constitutes first-degree murder.

Justice Paul Rogers will give his final instructions to the jury Friday morning, which are expected to cover the difference between murder and manslaughter. 

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