Closing arguments in fatal gas and dash

Jury deliberating whether a man is guilty in hit-and-run death

CALGARY — A jury is now deliberating whether a man is guilty in the hit-and-run death of a gas station worker who chased after him when he drove off without paying for $113 in fuel.

Joshua Cody Mitchell, 22, faces several charges, including second-degree murder, in the death of 35-year-old Maryam Rashidi in June 2015.

In its final pitch to jurors before they were sequestered Thursday, the Crown argued that Mitchell was determined to get away “over her dead body,” but his defence lawyer said Mitchell never intended to kill her.

Prosecutor Jonathan Hak said Mitchell is guilty of murder because he was fully aware his actions were likely to kill Rashidi or at least cause enough harm to lead to her death.

Rashidi tried to stop Mitchell from leaving a Centex station in Calgary by climbing onto the hood of the stolen truck before it swerved, which caused her to fall off and be run over.

“This is not a whodunit,” Hak said in his closing arguments. “We know the defendant was the driver of the Ford F-350 when Maryam Rashidi was run over. That is an absolute certainty.

“The sole focus of this case is whether the killing of Maryam Rashidi was murder or manslaughter. The Crown’s position is that the death of Maryam was clearly murder.”

Mitchell was aware that she was hanging onto the front of the truck and was in harm’s way, Hak said.

“He was going to get away over her dead body. He had a murderous intent because the only way he could get past her was to go through her,” the prosecutor said.

“He cared only about his own skin. He certainly did not care one bit about the store clerk he referred to as ‘the bitch’ who was only trying to right a wrong.”

Mitchell is also charged with theft of the fuel, possession of stolen property and hit and run.

Hak asked the jury to weigh all the evidence — including the testimony of Braydon Brown who was a passenger in the truck — and deliver a verdict of guilt.

“When the defendant drove the truck forward after Maryam fell off the truck, he knew he would run her over,” he said. “This was a shockingly dangerous, deadly situation.”

Mitchell’s lawyer admitted the trial has been “emotional and gut-wrenching” for everyone, but told jurors they must be sure that Mitchell intended to kill Rashidi.

“In my respectful submission to you, he did not,” said defence lawyer Kim Ross. “You cannot base your finding of guilt for Mr. Mitchell based on your sympathy for Ms. Rashidi. We all have sympathy for Ms. Rashidi. She did not deserve to die that day.”

Ross said Mitchell is guilty of a number of things — including hit and run and theft — but not second-degree murder.

“He is guilty of manslaughter. No question about that,” he said. “Mr. Mitchell, in my respectful submission, feels very sorry for what happened.”

In his charge to jurors, Justice Alan Macleod said they should come to a common-sense verdict based on the facts. He cautioned the jury to ignore anything heard outside the courtroom.

“You must not speculate about what evidence there might have been or permit yourself to guess or make up theories,” he said. “Deciding the facts is your job … not mine.”

Rashidi and her husband, Ahmed Mourani Shallo, emigrated from Iran in 2014. Both got engineering jobs in Calgary, but when the Alberta economy started to decline, they were laid off.

Rashidi took the job at the gas station and had only been working there for a couple of weeks.

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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