The key Crown witness who identified the three other men he said he was with during the murder of 17-year-old Jarryl Hagely at a Pizza Pizza, is a self-serving “snake” who gave the police the names of the wrong people out of fear of the real killers, defence lawyers argued Thursday in closing arguments.
Winston Poyser, 26, turned himself in two months after Hagely was fatally shot in the chest at the Weston Rd. and Lawrence Ave. W. Pizza Pizza and gave a statement identifying, Lenneil Shaw and Mohamed Ali-Nur, as the shooters and Shakiyl Shaw as the getaway driver. The Shaw twins and Ali-Nur are now on trial for first-degree murder.
Poyser, who said he did not know a shooting was going to take place that night, pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to murder and served a sentence of 18 months.
The Crown’s case rests largely on the credibility of Poyser’s testimony. Prosecutor David Tice argued Wednesday that, although Poyser was admittedly drunk and high that night, and has an unreliable memory at times, the jury should be able to rely on his testimony and corroborating evidence, including security videos, to find the Shaws and Ali-Nur guilty of first-degree murder.
In closing arguments Thursday, defence lawyers representing the Shaw twins argued Poyser was not a well-intentioned witness with an hazy memory, but an outright liar who tried to minimize his involvement in the shooting.
“He said whatever he needed to say, including guilty (to accessory after the fact) …. He pulled a fast one on the court that day,” Lenneil Shaw’s lawyer Boris Bytensky said. He urged the jury not to let Poyser “pull a fast one (on) this court, as well.”
Bystensky argued that Poyser, who has denied knowing a shooting was going to take place and has said he was both drunk and high on MDMA, minimized his role in the shooting.
“He was a few steps away from the shots,” he said. “Did he move? Did he run? Did he even react? He just stood there.”
He also said Poyser appeared to be trying to cover his face as the three men approach the Pizza Pizza and followed the gunmen back to the car after the shooting, according to security camera footage. The gunmen seen in the video are of average height and build and there is no way identify them as Lenneil Shaw and Ali-Nur other than Poyser’s evidence, Bytensky said.
In the weeks after the murder Poyser realized “he had to deliver others to save himself,” Shakiyl Shaw’s lawyer Dirk Derstine said.
Derstine questioned why Poyser took two months to come forward if he felt as remorseful as he claimed. He said there was no evidence that Poyser did web searches about suicide or depression in his web history after the shooting, as he said he did.
Poyser did look up: “Windsor-Detroit border,” “how to get away with murder” and “unsolved homicides,” he said.
This does not indicate remorse, but rather fear of getting caught, Derstine said.
Derstine questioned why Poyser did not simply leave the gathering in a Rexdale basement in the hours prior to the shooting when he observed a shotgun and handgun in a bag.
“Hey, this night is taking a funny turn. There is this enormous gun,” Derstine said of what Poyser could have thought. “Maybe I don’t want to be to part of that.”
Derstine told the jury it was “demonstrably unbelievable” that amid Poyser’s foggy memories, as the four men drove around in his mother’s car, he clearly recalled hearing someone say: “There is Jarryl.”
Derstine suggested Poyser made up the comment based on news reports naming Jarryl Hagely. It would have been far more likely for Jarryl to have been referred to by a nickname, he said.
Derstine also argued a text message sent by Poyser that evening suggests he was not actually with the Shaw twins in the Rexdale basement because of a text message he sent around 7:30 p.m. that said: “Yo I’m over here in the hood there not here the ma.”
Mohamed Ali-Nur’s lawyer Margaret Bojanowska will make her closing address Tuesday. During cross-examination she questioned Poyser’s ability to identify Ali-Nur accurately as a man he met for the first time the day of the murder and knew only by the nick-name “Kron-dog.”
Alyshah Hasham is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and court. Follow her on Twitter: @alysanmati