WINNIPEG — The retrial of a man accused of second-degree murder in the death of a Winnipeg girl more than three decades ago has wrapped up with a surprising admission from the prosecution.
In his closing argument Friday, Crown prosecutor Brent Davidson allowed that some of the DNA evidence against Mark Edward Grant might not be reliable and said Justice Karen Simonsen should not give it any weight.
However, he said other DNA tests showed that 99.9 per cent of the population would have been excluded but Grant was not.
Davidson argued for a guilty verdict, saying Grant had the opportunity and the means to kill 13-year-old Candace Derksen in late 1984.
Defence lawyer Saul Simmonds has argued the DNA samples used against Grant are so tiny as to be infinitesimal, and could be from one of the many people who had visited the industrial shed where the girl’s frozen body was found.
He noted that dozens of people including workers at the industrial site, police officers and others had been in the shed.
Davidson also addressed testimony from Tonia Lachance, the friend of Grant’s ex-girlfriend, who quoted him as saying, “I killed her,” followed later by “No, I didn’t. I’m just kidding.”
Lachance said Grant told her: “Keep your mouth shut or I’ll do to you what I did to Candace.”
The defence has called her unreliable, but the Crown argued she is credible.
“The case of Mark Grant deals with science, it deals with means and opportunities, and deals with admission,” Davidson told court. “Mark Edward Grant is guilty of murdering Candace Derksen and so you should find without a reasonable doubt.”
Simonsen said it may take her months to reach a decision.
Derksen disappeared on her way home from school on Nov. 30, 1984. Her body was found six weeks later.
Grant, a man with a long criminal record, was arrested in 2007 following DNA testing on the twine used to bind Derksen and was convicted in 2011 of second-degree murder.
The conviction was overturned two years later when an appeal court ruled the trial judge erred in not allowing Grant’s defence to present evidence that pointed to another possible killer — an unidentified person who tied up a 12-year-old girl in another part of Winnipeg in 1985, while Grant was in custody on another matter.
Candace’s parents have attended the trial and spoke to the media Friday outside the courthouse.
“We just appreciate the arguing,” said Wilma Derksen. “We appreciate the journey toward justice and the information that is coming out.”