Defence urges jury to find man guilty of manslaughter if it believes confession

VANCOUVER — Jurors tasked with deciding the fate of a man charged with the first-degree murder of a 12-year-old British Columbia girl could make a finding of manslaughter even if they accept an alleged confession, a defence lawyer says.

Patrick Angly told jurors in final submissions in B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday that they could conclude Garry Handlen snapped but didn't intend to kill Monica Jack in May 1978.

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He said the confession Handlen made to an undercover officer in November 2014 can't be verified as accurate.

The trial heard Handlen said during a so-called Mr. Big sting that he spoke with Monica Jack at a pullout on a highway in Merritt, forced her into the bathroom of his camper and drove up a hill where he sexually assaulted and strangled her before burning her clothes and putting her body behind a log.

"You can't simply assume these details are accurate so that you can then find Mr. Handlen was telling the truth," Angly told jurors, who are expected to start deliberations Monday after Justice Austin Cullen instructs them, starting Friday.

Angly said much of the information in Handlen's alleged confession came from leading questions by a supposed crime boss and his client could have gleaned other details through media reports on Jack's disappearance while she was riding her bike on May 6, 1978.

Crown counsel Mark Sheardown told the jury in closing arguments last week that the act of strangulation requires a purposeful approach by someone intent on death but Angly said that is not necessarily the case.

"I think you can imagine how somebody could snap without paying any attention to what they're doing and only come to realize the consequences after it's over."

Sheardown also noted Handlen told the officer in a hidden-camera video shown in court that he'd been smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol before killing Jack.

Angly said Sheardown did not provide any evidence on the amount of drugs or alcohol Handlen could have consumed.

"If you do find that the defence of intoxication applied, you would convict Mr. Handlen of manslaughter," he said, adding the burden of proof is on the Crown.

"Our position is that you will not even get to the point of considering intoxication because the Crown has failed to prove that the statements are anything more than a false confession."

Jack’s skull and some bones were found near Merritt in 1995 and her remains were identified through dental records.

The trial heard Handlen became the subject of an RCMP sting in early 2014 while he lived in Minden, Ont., where he joined a fictitious crime group that had paid him nearly $12,000 to do jobs such as loan sharking, selling counterfeit goods such as cigarettes and repossessing vehicles.

Angly said his client had no choice but to admit to Jack's murder after the undercover officer manipulated him into believing police had DNA evidence linking him to her death and witnesses could place him at the scene of the crime.

"The boss was 100 per cent convinced he had committed a crime and you don't disagree with the boss," he said.

— Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.

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