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Joseph Laboucan, seen on videotape during his first interview with police, wasn't clever enough to mastermind a plan to kill Nina Courtepatte, his lawyer argued Wednesday. ((CBC News))

A gang of self-described mall rats dabbling in the occult conspired to frame one of the men present at the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl in Edmonton to save their own skins, his defence lawyer argued Wednesday.

During final arguments during the trial in the Court of Queen's Bench, lawyer Laurie Woodsaid Joseph Laboucan wasn't clever enough to mastermind a plan to kill Nina Courtepatte, who was slain on a darkened golf course on April 3, 2005.

Woodalso said her client wasn't smart enough tomanipulate hardened street kids to carry out such a plan.

Wood said the 21-year-old Laboucan had a life of promise ahead of him and wouldn't have had any interest in planning or executing the brutal slaying.

He had left the streets of Edmonton for a steady job in Fort St. John, B.C., where he also hung out with church groups, and was only back in the city to pick up a settlement cheque, she said.

Laboucan and Michael Briscoe, 36, of Edmonton are accused of first-degree murder, aggravated sexual assault and kidnapping in Courtepatte's death.

Testimony during their trial suggested a group that included the two men picked Courtepatte out of a crowd at West Edmonton Mall, used the ruse of a party to convince her and her friend to join them, and then drove to an out-of-town golf course where she was raped twice and beaten to death.

Contradictory testimony

The two men pointed fingers at each during their trial, while four teens— self-described mall rats— gave often contradictory testimony.

"Not one of these people is credible or believable," Wood told Justice Brian Burrows, who is hearing the case. "All had lied and admitted that they had lied and were liars."

Wood argued a plan to deceive would have bound the mall rats together, while making her client the marked man.

"They got together and decided what they would say if caught and that they would blame it all on Joseph Laboucan. He would be the fall guy because he broke the mall rat code."

He did that, she explained, by abandoning his old life and friends and then holding off on sharing his wealth for a workplace injury settlement.

Laboucan's presence sheer luck: lawyer

When Laboucan returned to the city, plans were already in place to kill Courtepatte, the lawyer suggested. She said his presence was simply sheer luck that allowed the mall rats to implicate him.

"It is both Joseph Laboucan and Nina Courtepatte who stand out as being different," Wood said.

"Perhaps the mall rats had a similar code as the Mafia that a person could never be allowed to leave that lifestyle without serious consequences."

She also argued that her client should be found not guilty, or guilty of a lesser offence, because key evidence that incriminates him has never been found.

Witnesses testified in court to seeing Laboucan clean blood off his arms with water after Courtepatte's murder, but the water bottle allegedly used has never been found. The sledgehammer and wrench used in Nina's murder have both disappeared and have never been recovered.

Medical experts also couldn't conclusively determine if it was Laboucan's DNA found on Courtepatte's body or someone else's.

Wood went on to argue that her client's behaviour after the murder was consistent with that of an uninvolved person who froze at the sight of violence.

Wood's arguments wrapped up Laboucan and Briscoe's trial. The judge has reserved a decision to March 23.