Key witness in trial of men accused of killing Thompson teen is a liar, defence argues

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Defence lawyers for the two men accused of killing Thompson teen Nicholas Brophy argued in court Thursday that the Crown’s star witness, who admitted to participating in the killing, is a liar who was only trying to save his own skin.

Justin Baker, the Crown’s key witness in its first-degree murder case against Mark Bradley Thomas, 22, and Zach Edwin Linklater, 24, testified last Thursday in Winnipeg’s Court of Queen’s Bench.

During his nearly two days in court, Baker told the jury that he, along with Thomas and Linklater, led Brophy into a wooded area on Sept. 8, 2015, where the teen was choked and beaten to death with a metal baton. He said the trio were drinking at his apartment that night.

Brophy’s body was found the following spring, in a wooded area near a hydro line, just days after his family issued a public plea for information regarding his whereabouts.

But during closing arguments before Justice Chris Martin on Thursday, Linklater’s defence lawyer Bruce Bonney and Thomas’s defence lawyer Ryan Amy argued that the Crown’s case against the two men hinges on whether the jury believes Baker’s account of what happened that night.

The two defence lawyers argued they shouldn’t, pointing to flaws in the witness’s testimony.

‘Lies and half truths’

Bonney argued that Baker was driven to make a deal that would let him escape jail time, and that his testimony was “a layer cake of lies and half truths.”

He questioned why it took so long for Baker to turn himself in to police, pointing out that he only did so after the body was found, and after he had already retained a lawyer.

“He was not driven to tell the truth. He was driven to make a deal to save his hide,” he said

He also argued that Baker was trying to pin the crime on Linklater over an incident that happened when they were young.

The pair are cousins.

Bonney also pointed out that a witness who was with Linklater and Thomas on Sept. 8 saw Linklater at a bar at some point that evening, which raises the possibility that the accused was there when Brophy was being abducted.

Recordings were just stories, not a confession, lawyer argues

Amy argued that the same witness couldn’t confirm Thomas was at Baker’s apartment on Sept. 8.

In terms of the statements Thomas was recorded telling an undercover officer, Amy told the court they were just stories Thomas told to impress another inmate, and weren’t specific to the crime.

“He was telling stories in order to gain the respect of a fellow prisoner,” he said, pointing out that Thomas never specified what the weapon was.

“When you look at the evidence, and examine Mr. Thomas’s words, you will see it is not a confession.”

Neither Bonney or Amy called any witnesses during the course of the nearly two-week trial.

During his closing arguments, Crown prosecutor Brian Wilford argued there was a wealth of evidence presented to corroborate Baker’s testimony, including several of the victim’s friends and family testifying that he stopped responding to his cell phone around the same time Baker said he was being abducted.

The jury will return Monday to receive its instructions from the judge, after which they will deliberate their verdict.