WARNING: this story contains graphic descriptions of sexual violence.
The B.C. Supreme Court first-degree murder trial of Ibrahim Ali fell silent for two full minutes as Crown attorney Daniel Porte neared the end of his closing arguments.
Porte was illustrating how long it would have taken Ali to strangle the 13-year-old girl he’s accused of killing in a Burnaby, B.C., park six years ago, saying Ali would have had to apply “consistent and sustained” pressure.
“Ibrahim Ali strangled (the girl) for at least that long with his hands or another item around her neck,” he told the jury Thursday, citing the coroner’s testimony.
“When you strangle someone for a minimum of two minutes and for most of that time, the person is unconscious, it can only be for one reason: to kill them or cause bodily harm you know is likely to kill them.”
Ali pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in April.
Porte summarized for the jury the evidence of more than four dozen Crown witnesses who testified during the almost nine-month trial.
The body of the girl, whose name is protected by a publication ban, was found in Burnaby’s Central Park in July 2017, just hours after her mother reported her missing.
Porte told the jury that the Crown had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Ali dragged the girl into a wooded area, sexually assaulted her, then killed her.
However, Ali’s lawyer Kevin McCullough told the jury the charge against his client hadn’t been proven.
Their decision should be about facts, not emotions, he said.
“Emotional decisions have no place in a jury room. The cold, hard facts and the treatment of the cold, hard facts through the lens of truth beyond a reasonable doubt, that is your job.”
Jury members could not find Ali guilty of murder simply because they “find it reprehensible” that he was a 27-year-old man having sex with a 13-year-old teenager, McCullough said.
“That’s not what this case is about,” he said.
He said the Crown had promised in opening statements that a sexual assault expert would “link the sexual assault to the killing.”
“The Crown either decided not to call the evidence or could not find the expert to say it,” he said. “Now the Crown is asking you to make the leap in logic without that sexual assault expert.”
The jury did hear from a sexual assault expert who testified that the teen’s injuries strongly indicated that she had been sexually assaulted, but Dr. Tracy Pickett’s testimony under cross-examination was never completed.
Pickett, a specialist in emergency and clinical forensic medicine, was found dead on Sept. 28.
On Nov. 7, Justice Lance Bernard instructed the jury to disregard Pickett’s testimony and to resist all speculation into her death.
McCullough said the jury must instead rely on the evidence from forensic pathologist Dr. Jason Morin, who conducted the autopsy, and said he could not confirm whether the girl’s injuries were the result of forced or consensual sexual activity.
Evidence that Ali murdered the girl was nonexistent, McCullough told the jury.
He said the teen’s death created a media storm and “come hell or high water there had to be a murder charge. Someone has to pay and we’d all sleep better at night.”
McCullough told the jury there were no witnesses who could connect Ali to the park or to the girl’s death.
“Juror deliberations (are) not the time to come up with your own theory,” he said, adding if they found themselves doing that, then the Crown had not proven its case.
“Reasonable doubt can come from the evidence or the absence of evidence and I expect (the judge) will tell you that,” he said.
Porte referred in his closing statement to the testimony from Christine Crossman, an RCMP forensic biologist, who said Ali’s DNA was found inside the body of the girl. Only the DNA of the girl and Ali was found, Porte emphasized.
“The only reasonable conclusion is the person who sexually assaulted (the girl) is also the person who killed her,” he said.
Morin, a forensic pathologist,testified the girl had been strangled and had numerous injuries on her body.
Porte reminded the jury that Morin had testified that “ejaculate is fluid subject to gravity,” and that had the girl stood afterward, the semen would run out of the body and onto her underwear and shorts.
He noted the state of her body when it was found. Referencing police testimony and crime scene photographs, Porte said she was found lying on her back, with her shirt and sports bra pulled up exposing one breast, he said. He added that her shorts were partially down, exposing her genital area.
In his final address to the jury, he summarized the Crown’s theory.
“You should have no difficulty concluding that Ibrahim Ali attacked (the girl) on the path, where she dropped her phone and wallet. He forced her into the woods, which were surrounded by brush, pulled her shirt partway off (and) removed her shorts,” Porte said.
“His sexual assault of her included penetration, during which he ejaculated inside of her. During the course of this sexual assault, or shortly afterward, he strangled (the girl), killing her. “
He left her body where it was found by police, Porte said.
Motive was not relevant, Porte said, but he added there was no evidence the girl and Ali knew each other.
“Any suggestion they knew each other or had any type of communication, in the Crown’s view, would be speculation,” Porte said.
McCullough told the jury last week that they would not be calling any evidence in defence of the allegations because the Crown hadn’t proven its case.
Bernard told the jury Thursday that closing statements from the defence were likely to continue into Friday.
The judge will then give his final instructions to the jury before members begin their deliberations.