Proof that Joey Verma killed Brittney Irving to collect on 76 pounds of marijuana lies in dozens of pages of text messages she sent in her last five days, according to final submissions from the Crown.
As the first degree murder trial comes to a close, prosecutor Iain Currie admitted to jurors today that the case is entirely circumstantial—he had no forensic evidence tying Joelon Verma to the murder scene, no murder weapon, no witnesses and little incriminating evidence from Verma himself.
But in an exhaustive review of text messages scraped from two of her cell phones, Currie showed jurors evidence he said corroborated the actions and steps she took prior to her death, finally ending with a meeting in a rural area off Philpott Road where her body was found. She was to unload 76 pounds of marijuana she brokered to complete a "big deal" to raise funds for her lawyer after she was charged with growing marijuana.
Throughout the trial, the court heard from nearly everyone she got that marijuana from but none of them had any motivation to kill her, Currie said.
"There was only one person who had a motive to do Miss Irving harm. That is the person she was doing the big deal with, the guy who took possession and control of 50, 60, 70 pounds of marijuana at … $2,300 a pound," Currie said. "That is Mr. Verma. He had approximately 140,000 reasons to want her out of the way."
He took jurors through scattered pieces of evidence that made little sense in isolation to show how they matched with other records to confirm that theory, including evidence that Verma planned the murder and proved his attempt to cover it up.
"Mr. Verma's statements are fabrications," Currie said. "They are not just wrong, they are not just false. They are fabrications."
But defence counsel Jordan Watt pointed out quickly in his submissions the trouble that jurors ought to have with circumstantial cases—despite theories, there remains remarkably little hard evidence. It's perhaps why the defence called no case of its own.
Without putting Verma on the stand, Watt was free to attack the credibility of Crown witnesses, nearly all of who were in the drug trade, had lengthy criminal records and drug habits. That included Irving herself.
"This was an individual that was always on the go—always," he said. "Whether she was using drugs, growing drugs, selling drugs, brokering drugs. She seemed never to stop."
He took the jury through the absence of evidence and cautioned the jury about convicting Verma based on text messages, most of which require ample interpretation. They included not just LOL and OMG interpretations but codes—'babies' for marijuana clones, or a 'rented movie' interpreted as a drug reference and duelling idea of what a "Fifty Cent CD" is.
"You can't be sure what those conversations mean," he said.
He also keyed on evidence from Irving's brother Joze Macculloch. His was the only evidence that Verma was the guy she was doing the "big deal" with. But he was combative on the witness stand, gave inconsistent evidence and had a lengthy criminal record.
"Mr. Macculloch is an angry man and he's focussed on that," Watt said.
Watt is due to finish his closing statements tomorrow though with the long weekend ahead, it appears jurors won't start deliberating until next week.
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