The judge presiding over the trial into the killing of a 60-year-old Metchosin man told the jury on Tuesday that one of the accused is no longer part of the proceedings.
The trial, now in its third week, has focused on James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage, who are charged with the first-degree murder of Martin Payne after they escaped the William Head prison in 2019.
Justice David Crossin opened Tuesday (Nov. 29) by pointing out something likely evident to the jury – Armitage and his lawyer were not in the courtroom.
“This is because Mr. Armitage has been dealt with in a separate way and will no longer be a party in this trial,” the judge said.
While he said jurors would no doubt be curious about the absence, Crossin said it isn’t appropriate to tell them why Armitage won’t be a part of the trial and directed them not to speculate.
“There can be many reasons for this to occur, the trial will continue against Mr. Busch,” Crossin said. “Why Mr. Armitage is not part of the proceedings now is not something that is relevant to your deliberations or your considerations concerning the Crown’s case against Mr. Busch.”
He told the jury their task continues to be assessing all of the evidence in the case and reaching a verdict for Busch. The trial will still hear evidence on Armitage as Crossin said it will still be relevant to “the Crown’s overall theory relating to the guilt of Mr. Busch.”
The court has already heard Armitage’s finger or palm prints were found inside Payne’s home, including on a note that read “what is your PIN for cards” and on a duct tape dispenser found on the floor of the main bedroom.
Payne’s body was found with duct tape wrapped around his arm and leg.
A blood-stained white waffle-knit shirt was found in garbage bags, filled with blood-covered items, that were recovered from the Metchosin home. Similar shirts were in both of the inmates’ William Head dwellings.
As witness testimonies resumed, the court continued to hear from Staff Sgt. Trevor Knopp, an RCMP bloodstain pattern and crime scene analyst who examined the rural home in the wake of the homicide. Beyond the home, Knopp’s sole other duty in the investigation was to examine a pair of black Carhartt jeans that were pulled from one of the garbage bags.
Knopp said blood on the jeans belonged to Payne. The analyst located 27 spatter stains – which are the result of a force being applied to blood that causes droplets to be exerted through the air – on the front right leg of the jeans. Thirty-six spatter stains were also found on the front left leg, while smaller groupings of spatter stains were on the inseam, outseam and buttocks of the pants.
“(The jeans) were reasonably close by when force was applied to that source of blood,” Knopp said. “In this instance, we see that blood droplets are reasonably concentrated together and less scattered, so the inference would be that the pants were in closer proximity to the blood source.”
A saturation stain – caused by an object touching a large quantity of blood – was found on the right leg of the jeans.
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