WARNING: This story contains disturbing content
The accused in a Langley murder trial may have not even known that her child was dead when the body was discovered in her apartment, the defense told a judge in New Westminster Supreme Court on Wednesday.
“We don’t have any knowledge that Ms. Lewis knew that her child had died,” said Marilyn Sandford, defence lawyer for KerryAnn Lewis, as part of the closing arguments in the case.
Lewis is on trial for first degree murder in the death of her seven-year-old daughter, Aaliyah Rosa, who was found dead on the bathroom floor of Lewis’s Langley apartment on July 22, 2018.
The defense repeatedly emphasized that there was little direct evidence of what happened to the victim, and argued that the Crown prosecutors have not provided enough proof that Aaliyah was murdered.
On Monday, Justice Martha Devlin heard from Crown prosecutor Christopher McPherson, who argued that the evidence showed a planned and deliberate murder by Lewis. Increasingly depressed in the weeks leading up to the death, Lewis had also been facing financial difficulties and had just broken up with her boyfriend, who abruptly moved out.
McPherson went over the evidence showing Lewis, who had long been upset about her relative lack of access to her daughter, picked the child up on the morning of the death, then drove to a drug store and acquired prescription and over the counter medication.
Later that night, Lewis’s ex-boyfriend arrived at the apartment with friends to collect some of his personal belongings, and discovered Aaliyah, her body, cold and damp, on the bathroom floor next to the water-filled tub.
McPherson said that Lewis gave Aaliyah the drugs to sedate her and then drowned the child in the bathtub.
Sandford said the Crown prosecutors had failed to make a case that during the missing hours of the day Lewis had murdered her child.
“It’s our position, my lady, that none of the elements of the offense have been proven in the case,” Sandford argued. “The manner of her death is very unclear, the cause of her death is uncertain.”
It is not disputed that Aaliyah had prescription and over the counter medication in her system at the time of her death, and that she had water in her sinus and foam coming out of her nose when discovered. But Sandford and a medical expert witness suggested that it was possible a pre-existing brain condition could have made Aaliyah vulnerable to death from a relatively minor head injury, even a superficial bump to the skull.
Even if Aaliyah did drown, that’s not enough to confirm it was murder, Sandford argued.
“The fact of drowning, does not in and of itself, prove an unlawful act,” she said. An accidental drowning is also possible.
Sandford said there is simply no evidence that Lewis dissolved some Sleep-Eze gel caplets in a bottle of blue Powerade that was in her apartment, as suggested by the Crown.
“We say this is entirely speculative.”
The bottle was not seized by police and was never tested, Sandford noted.
Lewis was intoxicated when witnesses arrived at her apartment at 9 p.m. on the day of Aaliyah’s death, but Sandford said it’s unknown when she became intoxicated.
“What did Ms. Lewis know and when did she know it?” Sandford said.
The Crown prosecutors spent much of the trial going over evidence they have said shows that Lewis planned Aaliyah’s death.
The trial began last October, and was expected to conclude in the fall. However, coronavirus infections and exposures among several witnesses delayed proceedings several times. Lewis herself also had health issues, and once collapsed in court. Witness testimony only wrapped up in June as the judge heard from duelling expert witnesses on brain pathology.
Following the end of the closing arguments, Devlin is expected to consider and deliver a verdict.
If convicted of first degree murder, Lewis will be sentenced to an automatic life sentence in prison with no parole for at least 25 years.
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