Defence argues 'no direct evidence' of how drugs got into child's system in final submissions at B.C. mother's murder trial
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VANCOUVER -- The defence lawyer for a Langley, B.C., woman accused of killing her seven-year-old daughter told the court there is a “huge lack of evidence” in the case, as part of her final submissions.
Kerry Ann Lewis is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of her daughter, Aaliyah Rosa. The little girl’s body was found at her mother’s apartment on July 22, 2018.
The Crown’s theory is that Lewis sedated her daughter, and then drowned her in the bathtub at her suite. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
In closing arguments on Monday, prosecutor Chris McPherson said two drugs were found in Aaliyah’s body: lorazepam, which is sold under the brand name Ativan, and diphenhydramine.
He told the court Lewis purchased an emergency single dose of Ativan that morning, as well as an over-the-counter sleeping medication in which diphenhydramine is the active ingredient. The Crown also said Lewis bought a bottle of blue Powerade at the same time.
Earlier in the trial, an officer with the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team testified a bottle of blue liquid photographed in the apartment following Aaliyah’s death was not seized by police.
In an image taken by investigators, the Crown said the bottle appears to be roughly half-full. In their closing submissions, the Crown also said video surveillance from the morning of July 22 showed Aaliyah holding what looks like a bottle of blue Powerade while out with her mother, following their visit to the Shoppers Drug Mart.
On Thursday, defence lawyer Marilyn Sandford told the court there is no direct evidence about how the drugs ended up in Aaliyah’s body.
“We have no evidence of how they got into her system,” she said.
Sandford said “there’s no inference suggesting criminality” in Lewis purchasing Ativan.
“We know that Ms. Lewis was in a crisis because of the break-up of her relationship mere hours earlier,” she told the court.
Sandford told the court when it comes to the sleeping medication, Lewis had been up in the night sending messages to her ex-boyfriend, and the drug store clerk also testified she looked “tired.”
“It shows there wasn’t much time for her to sleep,” Sandford said. “Her obtaining sleep medication…is entirely consistent with her obtaining it for personal use.”
During the trial, the defence called a pediatric neuropathologist who testified a pre-existing brain condition known as hydrocephalus combined with a blow to the head could have contributed to Aaliyah’s death.
“There’s no question this child had drugs in her system that would have had a sedative effect,” Sandford said. “That of course increases the chance of a fall or accident leading to trauma.”
She argued the Crown’s theory failed to consider other pieces of evidence, and doesn’t account for the pathology.
“There’s a whole range of possibilities here. They have selected one,” Sandford said, and called it a “hypothetical narrative.”
“There’s a huge lack of evidence in this case," Sandford said.
Sandford also said the defence is arguing there is an “absence of motive” in the case.
McPherson previously told the court for months leading up to Aaliyah’s death, Lewis had complained repeatedly to friends and family about her access to her daughter, which at the time involved two unsupervised visits a week, and also expressed resentment towards her ex-husband. The court had heard Aaliyah’s father had custody of the little girl, following his separation from Lewis in 2016.
“The evidence is quite clear, in the Crown’s submission, that (Lewis’s) state of mind had been deteriorating,” McPherson said Monday. “There was, at the very least, significant conflict in some of her closest relationships.”
During the trial, the court heard testimony that Lewis’s boyfriend had broken up with her, and she was also trying to get money back from a gifting club.
McPherson said on the morning Aaliyah died, Lewis picked her up from her father for one of their scheduled visits. He told the court Aaliyah’s father testified she was a healthy, active child who was rarely sick and never took medication on her own.
The child’s body was found later that same day in her mother’s apartment, next to the ensuite bathtub. McPherson told the court Aaliyah was wet and cold.
Sandford also pointed to witnesses who attended the apartment that night, who testified Lewis appeared to be slurring and groggy. The court heard police found an empty bottle of vodka in the unit, as well as a partially empty whisky bottle.
McPherson argued despite evidence of intoxication, “drunken intent is nevertheless intent.”