Closing arguments at Falconer murder trial

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PICTOU – The jury in the first-degree murder trial of Christopher Alexander Falconer has been asked to use common sense when considering the evidence.

Both the Crown and defence had one last chance to address the seven-woman, six-man jury during closing arguments Friday in Pictou Supreme Court. Falconer is accused of killing Amber Kirwan, 19, who went missing Oct. 9, 2011, from downtown New Glasgow. Her remains were found in Heathbell on Nov. 5, 2011.

"It's important you listen to each other carefully," said defence lawyer Mike Taylor, who addressed the jury first. "You will have different viewpoints that will be brought to the table. Use common sense and your own experiences in life. "

He told the jury to not only pay close attention to the evidence presented during the trial, but also to the evidence that wasn't included in the Crown's case.

Taylor called the Crown's case "circumstantial" with no smoking gun.

"There were hundreds of exhibits seized in this case, but again how much actually pointed to the guilt of Mr. Falconer," he said. "How much do they really tell you anything?"

Crown attorney Bill Gorman said circumstantial evidence is not a dirty word, but one that should be taken seriously when considering all the evidence. He compared the evidence to “sedimentary rock” with layers that come together to form a solid mass.

“Amber Kirwan didn't know the accused,” he said. “She has never been to Alice Meier’s property. She was timid by description. She had to be walked or driven to work. She would never go with a stranger willingly. She was taken, bound, drugged, stripped of her clothes and murdered.”

On Monday, the jury will be given instruction by Justice Nick Scaravelli on how to deliberate the evidence and the options of a conviction of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or an acquittal.  Once the jury begins to deliberate, they will not be separated until a verdict is reached.

Here are some points the Crown and defence made during their closing statements.

 

-       Defence lawyer Mike Taylor:

-       Amber Kirwan was drinking Rock Star energy drinks the night she disappeared which could account for the caffeine in her system.  Toxicologist evidence couldn’t say conclusively that the caffeine came from the compound drug – Tylenol 3.

-       Toxicologist couldn’t confirm how much codeine was in Kirwan’s system when she died. They could have been in the therapeutic range.

-       Witness Tiffany Robson, who is a former girlfriend of Falconer’s, said she remembered him telling her he tried to commit suicide using Tylenol 3 prescription drugs, but she can’t remember anything else about the conversation. “If someone close to you said they were going to commit suicide, wouldn’t you ask more questions?”

-       Robson said Falconer always had Tylenol 3 pills on him wrapped up in plastic, but none of his other girlfriends mentioned this during their testimony.

-       Pill bottle found in Falconer’s car with trace of Tylenol 3 substance on it didn’t have any fingerprints or DNA on it from the accused.

-       He said Robson isn’t as “genuine” as she appeared during testimony and encouraged to jurors to look at her other text messages. “Beware of first impressions. People aren’t always the way they seem to be.”

-       Prescription monitoring records of Rosalie Dean were entered into evidence, but Dean never testified.  He said prescriptions for Tylenol 3 aren’t rare and since the jury didn't hear from her, it can’t determine where she kept her drugs or if she gave any to Falconer.

-       Jerricka Ebrahim’s credibility is questionable.  Taylor said she is another girlfriend of Falconer’s who was so drunk on the night of October 8 that she had to ask friends fill in the blanks for her.

-       Ebrahim testified that Falconer asked her to be his alibi, but she didn’t know what night he was talking about and he didn’t follow up with her afterwards to find out police asked any more questions about him.  “If someone was going to ask another individual for an alibi, don’t you think they should be specific about it? If you were trying to hide your movements, you think would be pretty specific.”

-       Mason Campbell lied to the police when asked why he didn’t pick her up at Dooly’s instead of Big Al’s. Taylor said his testimony can’t be taken at “face value.”

-       Duct tape and a shovel with dirt on it found in Campbell’s car never tested by police.

-       He answered many of Taylor’s cross-examination questions as “I don’t recall” and Taylor asked the jury to keep in mind that after the Kirwan investigation, Campbell was charged with assault using a homemade wooden spear. 

-       Kirwan was not far away from Dooley’s when she must have gotten in a vehicle, yet no one from the bar heard anything to indicate she was in trouble or being forced into a vehicle.

-       Kirwan’s friend wanted to walk with her to Big Al’s but she said she would be fine, she was going with a friend. “She felt safe walking off into the distance.”

-       Falconer willingly spoke to police in mid-October and tried to remember events from three weeks prior. He tried to call his family to confirm his whereabouts the weekend of Oct. 8.  He offered to take a polygraph test and speak to officers again. “Is this something you do when you are trying to hide their whereabouts?”

-       Police spent 32 hours in Heathbell after finding clothing and earrings there on October 15th, but found nothing related Falconer.

-       Autopsy done and a number of exhibits seized, but nothing connects Falconer to her body.

-       Hardwood Hill camper searched and Kirwan’s items were in it, but nothing related to Falconer.

-       No tire tracks connected to Falconer’s car from access or logging roads in Heathbell.

-       Plastic bag found in back of Falconer’s car is a nice “evidence package” that should be viewed with suspicion, Taylor says. “He is so careful to avoid fingerprints anywhere, but he takes the shirt he was supposedly wearing during her murder, saves it and puts it in a plastic bag.”

-       Taylor said this tank top was found in a bag with the pill bottle and a number for Falconer’s parole officer.  “All things pointing to Falconer in a tidy package three weeks after she went missing.”

-       Girlfriend said after she cleaned out inside of the car on October 18, they left his father’s place, but returned so he could get something out of the garage and put it in the trunk. “Why would he store evidence of a murder in his father’s garage and then put it in the trunk of his car when people around were watching him do it? You have to be highly suspicious of the neat evidence package that shows up in his car weeks after Kirwan went missing.”

-       Known fact that the window didn’t go up in car.  “Anyone could have gotten into that car.”

-       Black tank top in the car looked like Falconer’s, but nothing on it to say that it was the accused’s shirt.  It was tested four times and DNA of Falconer’s was only found on the back near the neck line.  “If someone wore this tank top in a brutal attack, you would expect more DNA than on one spot.”

-       Someone else’s DNA, not belonging to Kirwan or Falconer, was on the same tank top.

-       Phone call Falconer made from prison to parent’s saying he was going to plead guilty to the murder charge is not as straightforward the Crown would have you believe. “You heard his father’s evidence. His son was down, this was going to be pinned on him, his family was being pressured by police. He made the comment out of emotion.”

-       Cellphone expert can’t pin-point where Falconer was in early morning hours of October 9th.

-       Falconer says he was at the Hardwood Hill camper for a brief period but no idea how long or for what purpose. He texts his sister that he left some things in her camper which Taylor says, sounds like an invitation for her to go out and check it out. “If you commit murder on the property, does it make sense that you leave items there?”

-       Falconer didn’t know his sister wasn't going to be home on night of October 8th.  “Are you going to drag someone kidnapped where you are going to run into a family?”

-       Trailer door was not locked.  “It was not a matter of only Christopher Falconer and Alice Meier having access to that trailer.”

-       All the evidence is circumstantial.  Essentially, you have to be satisfied that the conclusion you draw is consistent with the guilt of Mr. Falconer. This is not a sniff test. The test is beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s a high test for the Crown has to meet.  The only conclusion you can draw is that it is not just Christopher Falconer who could have killed Amber Kirwan.  For that reason I ask for an acquittal.”

 

Crown attorney Bill Gorman:

-Heard evidence from her friends what she was wearing that night and the arrangements she made with Mason Campbell to pick her up at Big Al’s, but she never showed up. “His best friend was gone without a trace”.

- Her remains were found in Heathbell buried in the woods. “Despite attempts to hide the crime,  police were led to Alice Meier’s camper on Hardwood Hill Road.”

-In the camper, police found duct tape and towels that were similar to the ligatures found on Kirwan’s wrists. They also found part of her sweater in the camper and a water bottle.

-DNA from Kirwan on the duct tape and piece of sweater in the camper. Hair from Kirwan found on the headboard of the bed in camper. 

-Kirwan’s DNA was found on an extra-large men’s Hanes tank top that was located in a bag in Falconer’s car that also had his DNA on it. “Amber Kirwan didn’t know the accused. She didn’t know Alice Meier. Why would her DNA be there? She was there.”

-Tank top found in a plastic bag with pill bottle, Sobeys bag with Falconer’s prints on it and a partially used role of duct tape.

- Toxicologist said pill bottle had traces of codeine in it.  Kirwan had ingested Tylenol with codeine and Tiffany Robson said Falconer always had Tylenol 3 on him.

- Rosalie Dean, a friend of Falconer’s, received a prescription for 270 Tylenol 3 in 2011.

-The water bottle found in the camper had traces of codeine in it and was used to wash down the pills.

-The black cloth in the camper was a perfect match to Kirwan’s sweater.

-Fibers on tank top matched fibers from blue blanket in the camper. “There is no doubt she was in that camper and the accused was with her.”

-Three different women spent time with Falconer on October 8 and some of them saw him driving the Chevrolet Impala.

- At 1:46 a.m.  on October 9, he sent a text to Robson but after that series of texts went unanswered.

-At 5:05 a.m on same day, he sent a text to Jerricka Ebrahim saying he was sorry he didn’t make it see her because something came up.  “I’m at dad’s now.”

- Falconer sent at text to his sister, Alice Meier, that morning saying he was at her place the night before and left some stuff in her camper.

-Around the same time, he texted Dean saying he was going to try and get some sleep. “Why would he want to sleep at 9:30 a.m? Had he been up all night? Three minutes later, he texted Dean and told he drove around the night before and then spent the night at his sisters.

-Falconer texts Dean at 10:55 a.m. on October 9, that he found “smoke “ at 4 a.m. in his car and “it came in handy for last night’s adventure.”

-“He puts himself in Heathbell in the immediate hours after Amber Kirwan goes missing and he describes the night as an adventure.”

- Cellphone records confirm his location in accordance with the text messages.

-He visits his father’s home in Heathbell on Oct. 18, with Robson and goes back to get something out of the garage, that he puts in the trunk of his car. “The accused is spooked. His carelessness of getting rid of evidence is coming back to haunt him.”

-After this he drops Robson back at her apartment and he sends a text saying that he is leaving town for a while.

- Falconer does interview with police and mentions he not into “kidnapping.”  “No one mentioned kidnapping up to the point before he mentioned it, “ said Gorman.

- Falconer tells his parents over the phone from prison that he is thinking of pleading guilty to the charge of murder, six months charge is laid.  “Innocent people don’t plead guilty to murders they don’t commit. Innocent people deny it,” Gorman said.

- At no point during the phone conversation did he tell his father, he didn't do it.  “I suggest to you, guilty, guilty, guilty,” said Gorman.

- When he hears from Ebrahim that Kirwan’s remains have been found, he abruptly leaves her home and later asks her to lie for him. “Innocent people don’t ask people to lie for them. Innocent people don’t solicit other people to lie to the police.”  

- “Who is connected to Heathbell and Hardwood Hill? Everything points to the accused,” said Gorman. “The only rational conclusion is the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of first-degree murder of Amber Kirwan.”

 

Organizations: Sobeys

Geographic location: Heathbell, New Glasgow, Hardwood Hill Road

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