Lawyers make closing arguments at Garnier second-degree murder trial

HALIFAX — A prosecutor asked the jury deciding the fate of accused murderer Christopher Garnier to sit in silence for two minutes Monday, reaffirming the minimum length of time it would have taken to strangle Nova Scotia police officer Catherine Campbell.

Christine Driscoll said the Crown had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Garnier, 30, punched and strangled Campbell inside a Halifax apartment more than two years ago, and used a compost bin to dispose of her body near Halifax’s Macdonald Bridge.

“The truth is that Ms. Campbell did nothing wrong. Her life was over and she was treated like trash,” Driscoll said during her closing arguments in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

But the defence argued the off-duty Truro police constable’s death was a tragedy, not a murder.

Defence lawyer Joel Pink asked the 14-member jury to find his client not guilty of second-degree murder and interfering with a dead body, saying the 36-year-old woman died accidentally during rough sex.

He said Garnier “at all times acted lawfully and properly.”

“There was an unexpected tragedy on McCully Street in Halifax. A tragedy, however, does not make the actions of a man or woman a crime,” Pink told the jury Monday.

“It only becomes a crime when the actions of the man or woman meet the requisites of law. I respectfully submit that this is not the case here.”

Driscoll pointed out that the “remarkable” thing about what happened on Sept. 11, 2015, is that many of the events in question were captured on video, including Campbell and Garnier meeting and kissing at the Halifax Alehouse. But the roughly 45 minutes the pair were inside the McCully Street apartment early that morning, after being dropped off by a cab from the downtown bar, were not.

“For that very short period, but very important time period, Ms. Campbell cannot speak for herself. But the forensic evidence speaks for her, and it speaks loud and clear,” said Driscoll, reminding the jury of blood spatter evidence from inside the apartment.

Driscoll also noted that Campbell had a broken nose and that her DNA was found on Garnier’s T-shirt and the clasp of his watch.

The Crown lawyer said Garnier took steps to conceal evidence by disposing of her body, ditching the compost bin in bushes, putting his T-shirt and her car keys into a garbage bag, and throwing them into a dumpster, and tossing his broken necklace onto the roof of a building.

Driscoll said items in the car Garnier was driving at the time of his arrest — including a tarp, gloves, rope and gasoline — shows he remembered where he dumped her body and planned to move her remains. The jury has heard officers followed Garnier to an area near the bridge, where Campbell’s body was discovered on a steep embankment hours earlier.

Garnier took the stand in his own defence last week, telling the jury that during sex play, Campbell encouraged him to choke and slap her before she died. However, he said his memories about that night are fragmented.

He said he doesn’t remember walking with the compost bin through the city’s north end towards the harbour and dumping her body in thick brush, where it stayed undetected for about five days.

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