Sherbrooke Quebec - Gaetan Bourassa, the lawyer for Jean Demaitre, the former railway operations manager indicted for his role in the 2013 Lake Megantic train disaster, told jurors Thursday one of the Crown witnesses who testified against his client lied to the court.
Addressing the 14 member jury and Superior Court Justice Gaetan Dumas, Bourassa devoted several hours of his closing arguments to dissecting contradictions in the Crown's evidence over the course of the three-month-long trial.
Bourassa zeroed in on the testimony of Francois Daigle, a locomotive engineer who testified that he'd driven the lead locomotive involved in the disaster the day before the tragedy.
Daigle told the court he had reported the problems to Demaitre, asking him to switch that locomotive out of the lead, a request at which, he said, Demaitre had rudely thumbed his nose.
"That means Jean Demaitre is so negligent that he refused to change a potentially dangerous locomotive," Bourassa said to the jury.
"That means he had to hope everyone who would work with it would not notice it," he said.
"It's frightening how outlandish a lie that is."
Witness Protecting Himself Lawyer Argues
Bourassa told the jurors one of the conclusions they could draw is Daigle is not credible.
"Daigle is an obscure character," said Bourassa, pointing out that the engineer had filed a report about a mechanical problem with the locomotive the day before the disaster and sent it to the repair shop in Maine.
Bourassa said it was not up to Daigle to do that.
Furthermore, the repair shop was closed for Independence Day.
Bourassa said Daigle didn't follow the proper chain of command.
"Instead of sending it to the rail traffic controller, he kept it," he said.
Bourassa listed half a dozen people to whom Daigle could have reported the engine problems, including the rail traffic controller on duty at the time, and his fellow engineer, Tom Harding, with whom Daigle recalled exchanging pleasantries at the Farnham station minutes before Harding left on the ill-fated trip.
"What I'm telling you is this person has an interest in protecting himself because he didn't do what he was supposed to," said Bourassa.
"He didn't tell anyone, and he feels guilty," he said.
"He wants to put it on someone else's back."
Bourassa reminded jurors Daigle had testified he didn't like Demaitre and had a problem with MMA managers.
The lawyer also called into question Daigle's memory.
"I heard over 50 times, I don't remember," said Bourassa, referring to Daigle's testimony, "and conveniently, usually when we tried to show contradictions."
Distinguish Between Actions of Demaitre and MMA
Earlier in his closing arguments, Bourassa urged the jurors to distinguish between Demaitre's actions and those of his former employer.
"This is the trial of Jean Demaitre, not the trial of MMA through Jean Demaitre," Bourassa said Thursday in his closing arguments to the jury.
"There is a tremendous difference."
Bourassa also told the jury not to make assumptions about an accused person who chooses not to testify.
Demaitre waived his right last month to mount a formal defence, as did the other two men facing charges.
Bourassa argued that, as senior management in Quebec for an American company, the extent of Demaitre's responsibilities remains unknown.
He then outlined dozens of MMA rules and regulations he said he will use to support his defence of Demaitre, and he reminded jurors they will have to differentiate between simple criminal negligence and criminal negligence causing death in deciding upon his client's fate.
The Crown presented its closing arguments Wednesday.