The Crown is questioning a Dartmouth teenager’s explanation for how he acquired a tire reamer that was later used in the killing of Chelsie Probert.
The 17-year-old began testifying in his own defence Friday at his trial in Halifax youth court on a charge of second-degree murder.
The boy, whose identity is protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was arrested 16 days later, after a young man he was with on the night in question implicated him in a statement to police.
The 20-year-old man is the Crown’s main witness at the trial, which got underway Sept. 4.
When the accused took the stand last week, the accused told the court the star witness was the killer.
The teen said he watched in shock from a few metres away as his older friend attacked Probert, 18, with a corkscrew and a kitchen knife after she brushed off his robbery attempt on a path between Farrell Street and Albro Lake Road in Dartmouth on the night of June 6, 2017.
After defence lawyer Josh Bearden finished his direct examination Monday, Crown attorney Steve Degen started cross-examining the boy.
One exchange between the prosecutor and the accused concerned the tire reamer, a corkscrew-like device that police seized from the boy’s bedroom during a June 22, 2017, search of his apartment.
The trial has heard that Probert’s DNA was found on the tire reamer, and the defence has admitted that the boy handled the device.
Degen challenged the teen’s direct testimony that he discovered the tire reamer in a backpack given to him by a friend a couple of months earlier. He said he offered to give it back but his friend said to keep it.
The boy said he used the tire reamer to do maintenance on his bicycle but never as a weapon.
“Are you certain that you didn’t have a discussion with (the friend) where you mentioned to him that you were actually looking for a weapon?” Degen asked.
“Yes, I am certain that that is not why I got it,” the accused replied.
Degen then asked if the friend who gave him the device had described it as a fish gutter. “Do you recall that?” he asked.
“No sir, it did not happen,” the boy said.
“I am a hundred per cent certain.”
“As certain as any other evidence you have told this court so far?” the prosecutor said.
“Yes sir,” the accused responded.
Degen also asked if the boy recalled telling his friend he would pay him a small amount of money or half a gram of marijuana for the device.
“I did not,” the boy said.
At some points during cross-examination Monday, the boy mentioned details that were not in his earlier testimony.
“I’m going to suggest to you that you are just making this up as we go along,” Degen said. “When I ask you … questions, you’re coming up with a story and then it’s contradicting evidence you’ve already provided.”
“No, I’m not,” was the accused’s reply.
The boy will be back in the witness box Tuesday for further cross-examination.
Earlier Monday, defence lawyers requested time to consider new evidence obtained by police over the weekend as a result of something their client said under oath Friday.
The defence lawyers then took the unusual step of asking the judge to allow them to consult with their client in private while he’s in the midst of testifying. The purpose of the meeting, they said, would be to disclose the new evidence to their client and receive instructions on how to proceed.
The Crown opposed the defence application.
Judge Elizabeth Buckle explained to the court that a professional code of conduct that governs lawyers says they are not to influence a witness to give evidence that is false, misleading or evasive and must not obstruct an examination or cross-examination in any way.
“The challenge in this circumstance is that the witness that we’re dealing with is an accused,” Buckle said. “The accused has a constitutionally protected right to make full answer and defence. That includes the right to know the case against him, which translates to a right to be provided full disclosure. He also has the right to participate in his defence, and defence counsel are ethically obligated to seek instructions from their client when making strategic decisions in the defence of that client.
“The prejudice to the Crown, as I view it in this case, is that they would lose the element of surprise when confronting the accused with the new information in cross-examination.
“When I balance the accused’s constitutional right … to participate fully in his defence against the potential prejudice to the Crown, I am satisfied that the former prevails and the defence should be given leave to speak with the accused about the disclosure.”
The nature of the evidence was not revealed during the argument, nor when the boy resumed testifying.