Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Teen Triple Murder Trial Closing Arguments: Crown's key witness unreliable
Offered $1,000 for house-party shootings: lawyer
A 17-year-old boy was not one of two masked gunmen responsible for killing three people at a North End house party — but the Crown’s star witness was, a jury was told Tuesday.
Howard Roulette, one of three suspects arrested following the March 2008 killings, concocted a story implicating the boy to cast suspicion away from himself, defence lawyer Ryan Rolston said in his closing argument to jurors.
“He’s throwing everything but the kitchen sink at (police) to get out of this,” Rolston said. “It is apparent this man lied at every turn and was much more involved than he led you to believe.”
Rolston’s client is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder. A now 20-year-old man is being tried separately.
Roulette was also charged in the killings but police later dropped the charges when they determined he was a witness, not a suspect.
Roulette testified he was forced at gunpoint to drive the then 18-year-old accused and 15-year-old accused to an Alexander Avenue house party where they opened fire, killing partygoers Scott Lavallee, Corey Keeper, and Jennifer Ward. Three others were wounded.
Roulette said he met the adult accused some weeks earlier through his girlfriend, who was a roommate of the accused man’s girlfriend. Roulette testified he only met the adult accused three or four times prior to the killings.
Rolston said that evidence was at odds with the testimony of Roulette’s ex-girlfriend, who said the men hung around together three or four times a week for three weeks prior to the killings and were regularly “driving around” together. Rolston said Roulette failed to tell police the adult accused offered him $1,000 to participate in the killings. When questioned about the omission, he told court, “It slipped my mind.”
“This is a very material detail,” Rolston said. “This is something that changes Howard Roulette from a witness with a gun to his head to someone who is complicit in the act.”
Rolston said the most damning evidence implicating Roulette was the presence of gunshot residue on the driver’s side door, console and gearshift of the getaway car.
“Howard Roulette said he was the only one who drove the car,” Rolston said.
Crown attorney Dale Schille argued the gunshot residue could have been left by either of the two accused. Schille said Roulette had no reason to lie about the killings.
“Mr. Roulette wasn’t in any trouble until he told police the whole story,” Schille said. “If he had remained silent, there would have been no arrest.”
Schille said Roulette did not match witnesses’ description of the gunmen. Footprints leading from the house to Roulette’s car matched footwear seized from the two accused, Schille said.
Jurors will likely begin deliberations Wednesday evening.
A sensational case in which a teen faces three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder hinges on the testimony of one unreliable man, a defence lawyer argued Tuesday.
Ryan Rolston told jurors they should not convict his 17-year-old client of being one of two masked men who shot up an Alexander Avenue party in March 2008.
Scott Lavallee, 31, Jennifer Ward, 26, and Corey Keeper, 22, died after they were struck by some of the 19 bullets two shooters pumped into a crowd before taking off.
Colton Patchinose, 20, will also be in court later this year facing charges in the triple homicide.
Rolston said the Crown's case depends on the testimony of Howard Roulette, 27, who said he drove a getaway car from the shooting after the teenager and Patchinose held a gun to his head and told him to stay outside the Alexander home.
Rolston said jurors should consider that Roulette may have been the shooter in the triple homicide and may have made up a story to avoid more trouble with the law.
He pointed to forensic evidence of gunfire residue on the driver's side of Roulette's Sunfire, as well as inconsistencies in the story he told police.
"This man lied at every turn," Rolston said.
The trial against the teenager started two weeks ago. The youth cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Roulette testified earlier this month that Patchinose planned the shooting because he thought people at the party were connected to him being stabbed days earlier.
Court of Queen's Bench Justice Colleen Suche said she will charge the jurors Wednesday before they deliberate.
I think that there is definitely a reasonable doubt in this case. Roulette has lied to the police before and he was offered $1000 to participate in the killings.. what's stopping him from lying again on the witness stand? And what led the police to believe he was only a witness and not a participant? The gun residue was on the driver's side and witnesses are under a lot of stress in those situations and can be mistaken about there descriptions. Roulette has a lengthy criminal history and like Rolston said, he may have fabricated the story to avoid further trouble. I believe that he is unreliable and that the jurors should not put much weight on his testimony when deliberating. I don't think that this attack was planned and deliberate and feel that the 17 year old teen should only be charged with second degree murder.