The Hamilton Spectator
‘Low character’ witnesses taint Crown’s case in trial, defence says
Weigh evidence with ‘care and caution,’ judge instructs jurors in Douse case
“They have me on cam running/ And in cab with them/I’m kinda f---ed unless one of them say I only chase them to tell them chill n let’s go.”
The words texted by accused killer Daniel Wise are damning, the Crown suggested to a jury.
But presented through the lens of the defence, during closing arguments Wednesday in the Carel Douse first-degree murder trial, they are something else entirely.
Wise wrote the text on Snapchat to a friend, four days after Douse was stabbed to death on May 18, 2019.
The Crown says Douse was attacked inside an after-hours bar inside a King Street East barbershop. Exterior security-camera footage recorded Wise and co-accused Alieu Jeng chasing Douse outside.
The text, the Crown argued, shows Wise trying to “minimize” his involvement in a planned murder and is “self-serving.”
But Tyler Smith, Wise’s defence lawyer, suggested to the jury the text supports his client’s innocence; that while Wise may have been nearby when Douse was stabbed, he played no role in the attack.
“‘They have me on (camera)’ is not self-serving,” said Smith. “Daniel doesn’t deny he was running, he admits he was there. If he was going to lie about it, why not say, ‘I wasn’t there.’
“That’s not what he did.” Further, Smith argued, the text proves Wise expected to be recorded, and would therefore have not taken part in a planned murder in the same location.
“It’s a part of the city where Daniel socialized, he knows where the cameras are, and everyone knows you are on camera in a cab. It’s evidence that strongly suggests what happened that night was not a planned and deliberate killing. He makes these comments (on Snapchat) against his interests ... It points to an innocent explanation.”
The defence had the advantage of addressing the jury last, because it called no evidence in the four-week trial.
Smith said there is “no dispute” that Wise was with a group of three men running from the bar, but “mere presence cannot be equated with guilt.”
The Crown’s case tying Wise to the homicide rests on “speculation,” he said, “but this is a circumstantial case and you can’t speculate. You can make reasonable inferences based on the facts.”
He noted that the only Crown witness who testified seeing a stabbing up close inside the bar, described one attacker with a knife as a “dark skinned, taller man,” whereas Wise is “light skinned and heavy-set.”
At the same time, Smith attacked the credibility of that witness, and another key Crown witness, Douse’s cousin.
“A fair assessment of witnesses in this case is that they are very low character,” he said, adding that their evidence was “tainted” through chatting about the homicide with others in the aftermath of the homicide.
They are “unsavoury witnesses … Most of them changed their stories materially, under oath. Some have straight out lied.”
He pointed the jury to the criminal records of these two witnesses, that include convictions “involving dishonesty,” drug trafficking, violence and breaching court orders.
In his instructions to the jury, Justice Toni Skarica addressed the extent to which jurors should accept or reject the evidence from those two witnesses.
Skarica said that while they should consider such evidence “with the greatest care and caution,” it is up to jurors to determine if additional evidence in the trial “confirms or supports parts of their testimony.”
Skarica’s instructions to the jury continue Thursday.
‘‘ A fair assessment of witnesses in this case is that they are very low character.
TYLER SMITH DEFENCE LAWYER