KAMLOOPS - It's now up to a jury to determine whether or not a Terrace couple's meth-infused multi-day bender ended with Damien Taylor murdering his 16-year-old girlfriend, CJ Fowler in Kamloops nearly three years ago.
Taylor’s lawyer Don Campbell and Crown prosecutor Alex Janse each gave their closing submissions to the 11-person jury in Kamloops Supreme Court today, Oct. 13, to reflect on the last two weeks of evidence and whether it should yield a conviction or an acquittal for the accused.
Taylor is charged with second-degree murder. Fowler's body was found underneath a 56-pound slab of concrete near Guerin Creek in Sahali on Dec. 5, 2012. The accused was arrested and charged in January 2014.
WAS SUFFERING PSYCHOSIS, DOESN’T REMEMBER: DEFENCE
Campbell said Taylor doesn’t remember anything about what led to Fowler’s death, but awoke in the morning lying next to her body and panic ensued. He suggested jurors may wrestle with two issues in the case: What physically happened at the scene where Fowler’s body was found and Taylor’s level of intoxication at the time of her death.
“This is not TV where in a one-hour episode, CSI wraps it up in a nice clean package and it’s very clear where guilt lies,” Campbell said. “There is no CSI evidence at the scene which identifies the assailant.”
Campbell said the evidence demonstrated how prevalent the accused and victim’s meth use was throughout the entire four days the two spent in Kamloops where they travelled from Terrace.
"There is compelling evidence of significant brain-crushing use of methamphetamine,” he said. “I suggest that there’s nuances of behaviour and thought patterns that we can’t begin to understand. You’d have to follow Alice down the rabbit hole to even begin to understand the disturbed thought patterns consistent with crystal meth use."
He said because of the amount of drugs Taylor used it was possible he could have experienced psychosis at the time Fowler died.
“You heard from Mr. Taylor that he has no memory of what happened. It’s just this black hole,” he said. “Lack of memory isn’t a defence, but a blackout may be some evidence of the extreme intoxication that may have been present at the time."
He drew on Dr. Sunette Lessing’s evidence in which she suggested Taylor’s narrative could be the result of a psychotic episode brought on by his use of meth and its mixture with other street drugs. Lessing testified copious amounts of drugs when mixed with sleep deprivation and no food could heighten the liklihood for psychosis. She also mentioned Taylor’s low score on a cognition test.
“I’m not sure how to put this in a way that’s not going to insult Mr. Taylor. He doesn’t have a brain that’s firing on all cylinders. He’s a simple person and has cognitive challenges," Campbell said.
Campbell said Taylor had few possessions, no food, no money and no place to stay before Fowler’s death which led him to question if Taylor could even have a motive to kill Fowler.
“In terms of the issue of what physically happened, one of the most troubling aspects and vexing questions is ‘why?’” Campbell said. “Why would Damien Taylor extinguish the only good thing is his life?’"
Campbell highlighted portions of testimony from several witnesses who described seeing the couple before her death. Most said Fowler and Taylor used terms of endearment with one another and expressed a sense of co-dependency throughout the evening before the girl’s death. One nurse said he heard the two raising their voices toward each other before leaving the hospital to walk to Guerin Creek, but Campbell dismissed it as one of the many small arguments the couple had.
"There’s no way that that little bickering in the hospital is going to lead in any kind of common sense way to a murder,” he said. “There is staggering amount of crystal meth abuse here. In the absence of that, how could Mr. Taylor have willfully committed a murder?"
VICTIM TRUSTED HER KILLER: CROWN
Janse kicked off her closing submissions with a short statement she repeated three times: "CJ Fowler died with her shoes off."
The Crown prosecutor pointed to evidence at the crime scene that showed Fowler took off her shoes and was likely sitting cross-legged when a 56-pound concrete slab was dropped on her.
"She dies on her back facing up; she doesn’t turn away. When she is found, her phone is gone. It’s taken because it’s evidence. Because it might connect her killer to the scene. To her body. To her murder,” Janse said.
Janse said there was enough evidence to prove Taylor was at the scene when Fowler died. She pointed to his bloody sock which he covered with a bandana and sifted through the three different stories the accused told RCMP investigators. Throughout her closing, Janse often referred to Taylor’s testimony as ‘a number of lies.'
“Mr. Taylor has told many lies to many people since (Fowler) died,” she said. Specifically she asked the jury to consider Taylor’s reaction to when police told him Fowler was found dead — a fact he already knew.
“He pretended to be shocked by the news that (Fowler) was dead. I bet if you watched it again you’ll be impressed by his performance,” Janse said.
Taylor initially told police he lost Fowler at the hospital where the couple discovered a pregnancy. He said he left alone and hiked to the Greyhound station. But after police confronted him with surveillance tapes of him and Fowler leaving the hospital together, Janse said Taylor strung together another lie.
“You saw the exact moment where Mr. Taylor realized the lie wasn’t going to work. You can see Mr. Taylor’s body language change. You can see and hear him fumble to come up with (another) lie,” Janse said.
Taylor’s lie, according to Janse, was that he was being chased by gangsters and he and Fowler left the hospital together — the same as his testimony in trial. But Janse said the story was different when Taylor told investigators he tried to scare Fowler, injured her by accident and 'put her out of her misery’ with the concrete block.
She asked jurors to remember how Lessing testified about Taylor faking hallucinations during their initial meetings, which Janse said was the accused’s attempt at a psychiatric defence.
Janse noted Taylor’s responses during cross-examination, said he “conveniently does not remember when they walked away from the hospital” and said the accused did not demonstrate effects from meth use in the surveillance videos.
“He has just told too many lies about that particular time period,” Janse said. "This is not Mr. Taylor coming around to the truth. This is Mr. Taylor running out of lies. You should not believe anything (he) told you."
Justice Dev Dley will continue giving directions to the jury this afternoon and tomorrow morning. He will direct them on the law, the charge of murder and the lesser offence of manslaughter. If the jury does not find Taylor guilty of second-degree murder, they can find him guilty of manslaughter.
To read entire coverage from the trial, click here.
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