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Sex with girl doesn’t equal murder, defence tells jury at Burnaby murder trial

Closing arguments began Thursday in the trial of Ibrahim Ali, who is accused of killing a 13-year-old girl found dead in Burnaby's Central Park in July 2017.
Vancouver Law Courts

Advisory: This story includes disturbing details about a murder trial.

The jury at a Burnaby murder trial sat in a packed courtroom in silence for two minutes Thursday, pondering what it would mean for someone to strangle another person for that length of time.

Crown prosecutor Daniel Porte paused to give the demonstration during his final submissions at the Ibrahim Ali murder trial in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

He set a timer and urged the jury to think about how long two minutes feels.

The courtroom was silent as the seconds ticked down.

Ali is on trial for first-degree murder in the death of a 13-year-old girl, whose body was found in Central Park just after 1 a.m. on July 19, 2017, less than two hours after her family reported her missing.

Ali has pleaded not guilty.

The girl cannot be named because of a publication ban.

'Consistent, sustained pressure'

Earlier in the trial, forensic pathologist Dr. Jason Morin and neuropathologist Dr. Stephen Yip had testified the young teen would have to have been strangled or suffocated for at least two minutes to cause the brain damage they determined ultimately led to her death, Porte reminded the jury Thursday.

"Ibrahim Ali strangled (the girl) for at least that long with his hands or another item around her neck," Porte said after the two minutes had elapsed. "He used consistent and sustained pressure strong enough to compress both jugular veins."

Porte noted the young teen would have been unconscious for most of that time, according to the expert witnesses.

To prove Ali committed murder, Porte said one of the things the Crown had to prove is that Ali intended to cause the girl's death or to cause her bodily harm he knew was likely to kill her.

"When you strangle someone for a minimum of two minutes, and when, for most of that time, the person was unconscious, it can only be for one reason, to kill them, or to cause them bodily harm you know is likely to kill them," Porte said.

Sexual assault

At the beginning of his remarks, Porte noted closing submissions were the Crown's chance to show how the evidence of the more than 40 witnesses called during the trial fit together.

He said it would then be up to the jury to decide the facts of the case.

"In the Crown's view, that assessment will lead you to conclude that the Crown has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused, Ibrahim Ali, committed the first-degree murder of (the girl)," he said.

Porte summarized the evidence, noting how it proved the essential elements of the crime, according to the Crown.

The Crown alleges Ali is guilty of first-degree murder because he committed the murder in the course of sexually assaulting the girl.

A DNA profile generated from semen found inside the girl's vagina and anus matched profiles generated from a cigarette butt discarded by Ali and from a blood sample police took after his arrest, said Porte, citing the evidence of DNA expert Christine Crossman from the RCMP lab.

Porte said the crime scene itself was sufficient for the jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt the girl was sexually assaulted.

Police witnesses had described finding her on her back, with her shirt and sports bra pulled up, exposing one breast. Her shorts were pulled down, exposing her genital area, and only one of her legs was through her underwear, which were on upside down and tangled around her shorts.

Autopsy findings, including a tear in the girl's vagina and a bruise deep inside her rectum, were further evidence she was sexually assaulted, according to Porte.

'Only reasonable inference'

Porte said the evidence also shows the girl was sexually assaulted and killed in the same place she was found in Central Park.

Morin, who conducted the autopsy, had testified he found blood on the girl's vagina and buttocks and a pool of semen in her vaginal vault, but there was no staining or fluid on the crotch of her underwear or shorts.

If the sexual act had taken place elsewhere and the girl had walk or run afterwards, the crotch of her underwear would have shown both blood staining and semen, Porte said.

He said the "only reasonable inference" that can be drawn from the evidence is that Ali sexually assaulted and  killed the girl where she was found.

"Will defence counsel suggest that, after Ibrahim Ali sexually assaulted (the girl) and tried to re-dress her, that he left and some unknown person who was just wandering through the dense brush came across (her) and decided to kill her without leaving any evidence of his or her existence?" Porte asked. "If so, that would be speculation."

Concluding his remarks, Porte said he had no doubt the jury would use its "accumulated wisdom, experience and common sense" to look at the evidence and conclude beyond a reasonable doubt Ali committed first degree murder of the young teen.

Defence counters

The first words of defence lawyer Kevin McCullough's closing submission, however, were that the Crown had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt Ali had murdered or killed the young teen.

He said the jury's decision must be about "cold, hard facts," not emotions.

"You do not convict a 27-year-old male of murder because you find it morally reprehensible that he had sex with a 13-year-nine-month-old female teenager," McCullough said.

He said the evidence Ali actually murdered the girl was "nonexistent."

There was also "zero evidence of non-consensual sex," according to McCullough, since the Crown's own forensic pathologist had said he couldn't say whether the genital injuries were the result of forced or unforced sex.

McCullough described the case as a "media spectacle from Day 1," and said there was pressure on the police from the start.

"Come hell or high water, there had to be a murder charge," he said.

Throughout his submissions, McCullough repeated that Ali had the presumption of innocence and didn't have to prove anything.

"Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the burden that the Crown bears," McCullough said.
McCullough's closing remarks are expected to conclude Friday.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor