This story contains details readers may find distressing.
Closing arguments in the high-profile Metchosin murder trial surrounding two escaped Vancouver Island Prisoners have wrapped, and the jury, tasked with reaching a unanimous verdict.
Defence lawyer Ryan Drury, representing James Lee Busch, the man accused of 60-year-old Martin Payne’s death in July of 2019, focused primarily on one piece of evidence: the pair of blood-stained New Balance shoes found in garbage bags inside Payne’s bedroom, near where Payne was found to have been stabbed to death in a brutal multi-weapon attack.
The shoes have been linked to Busch. The DNA on the inside matched to him. The blood on the outside was Payne’s. Footprints associated with this pair of shoes were found at the edge of the bathroom where Payne’s body was found.
The blood stains, however, Busch’s attorney argues, are minimal and more consistent with a clean-up of a crime scene.
“The shoes are reasonable doubt, members of the jury. You cannot get past the shoes. The shoes are a roadblock to convicting Busch,” Drury told the jurors.
RELATED: Planned, violent ambush or weak evidence? Crown and defence close Metchosin murder trial
Instead, Buch’s lawyer pinned the murder on the man co-accused in Payne’s murder, who is being “dealt with in a separate way”, according to the Supreme Court trial judge David Crossin.
“The attacker wore the jeans with the ASICS shoes. The attacker was not Busch,” said Drury. “Armitage was the real attacker.”
Armitage’s DNA was found on the ASICS shoes and footprints matching the shoes were linked to those on the rim of the toilet bowl.
Later in the afternoon, Justice Crossin went over agreed statements of facts with the jurors, but ultimately the verdict is now in their hands.
“Each of you has to decide the case for yourself,” said Crossin.
The Justice also went over the circumstantial evidence crown prosecutors had provided. In doing so, he refutes Busch’s defence lawyer’s assertion Monday, that circumstantial evidence is not only admissible in a court of law but can also be a strong type of evidence.
Crossin also warned jurors that the fact that Busch was in prison, while important to the crown’s theory on motive, doesn’t equate to guilt or “the propensity to commit this crime”.
As the trial comes to a close, Crossin laid out how crown prosecutors are arguing they’ve proven Busch committed first-degree murder in more than two ways: that Busch and Armitage carried out and planned the murder of Payne together, but also through the alleged unlawful confinement of Payne crown says took place using duct tape, which also can lead to a first-degree murder charge.
While considering the first-degree charge, the jury also has to consider if Busch is guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter, and can convict to those thresholds as well.
Busch’s attorney says his client is not guilty of all three charges. Drury says that not only has crown not proven Payne’s murder was premeditated, it also has not proven Busch’s participation.
Drury argues the only conclusion jurors can reach is to fully acquit Busch.
“You cannot put the pieces of the puzzle together like the crown wants you to because they simply do not fit,” said Drury in his closing arguments.
For now, the 12-person jury deliberates to see if they can reach a unanimous verdict. If not, a mistrial may be declared with the judge ordering a new trial with new jurors.