Crown, defence spar over whether Catherine Campbell's death a 'tragedy' or murder

Whether Catherine Campbell's death in the early hours of Sept. 11, 2015, was a tragic accident or a murder that saw her thrown away "like a piece of garbage" will ultimately be up to a Halifax jury to decide.

WARNING: This story and live blog may contain graphic language and descriptions

Catherine Campbell was strangled and her body dumped near Halifax's Macdonald Bridge. (CBC)

Whether Catherine Campbell's death in the early hours of Sept. 11, 2015, was a tragic accident or a murder that saw her thrown away "like a piece of garbage" will ultimately be up to a Halifax jury to decide. 

Closing arguments in the second-degree murder trial of Christopher Garnier were made Monday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court. Garnier is also charged with interfering with human remains. He has pleaded not guilty to both counts. 

In his comments, defence attorney Joel Pink told the jury that the off-duty police officer's death was a "tragedy in the true sense of the word" — not murder.

Campbell's death was an accident during rough sex she had initiated at a Halifax apartment, Pink said, and there is "not a scintilla of evidence" to support the Crown's assertion that the 30-year-old Garnier lost control and murdered Campbell.

For her part, Crown attorney Christine Driscoll argued Campbell's death was a "crime" and that Garnier "threw her away like a piece of garbage." 

Driscoll said while Campbell can't speak to what happened at the McCully Street apartment where she died, the evidence "speaks loud and clear," reminding jurors of blood spatter evidence from the apartment.

A police evidence photo of Christopher Garnier taken following his arrest. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Driscoll also said Campbell left other clues, including her DNA on Garnier's T-shirt, his necklace and the clasp of Garnier's watch. She said Garnier tried to hide this by throwing the necklace onto the roof of a building and putting the T-shirt in a dumpster.

Garnier wasn't too embarrassed to choke or hit Campbell, Driscoll said, but was supposedly too embarrassed to look at her as he did it.

"He's actually describing that she killed herself, which is ridiculous," said Driscoll. "How did she go from putting pressure on her own neck to dead?

"The truth is that Campbell did nothing wrong. Her life was over and she was treated like trash."

A police evidence photo of an area near Halifax's Macdonald Bridge, marked with police tape, is seen at Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Campbell, an off-duty Truro, N.S., police officer, was punched and strangled, according to the prosecution. Her body was found on Sept. 16, 2015, in thick brush near Halifax's Macdonald Bridge.

Garnier has acknowledged he loaded Campbell's body into a green compost bin and wheeled her to the bridge, but has testified he can't remember doing so.

Driscoll argued that Garnier's activities before his arrest — loading his girlfriend's car with a tarp, rope, gas and gloves — show Garnier had intended to move Campbell's body but was arrested first.

A police evidence photo of a green tarp in the front passenger area of a vehicle is seen at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Pink asked the jury Monday to acquit Garnier on both charges he faces. People must not be found guilty because of suspicions, rumours or imagination, Pink said.

"We are not assembled here today for vengeance. We are here for a just and proper resolution of this matter," said Pink.

Last week, the jury heard from a forensic psychiatrist hired by the defence who testified that Garnier suffered "acute stress disorder" following the trauma of Campbell's death and may not have been fully aware or in control of his actions in the immediate aftermath.

Pink argued Monday that Garnier suffered from "automatism" and should be found not guilty of the interfering with human remains charge.

He said Campbell's death did not amount to "culpable homicide," that Garnier acted "lawfully and properly," and the Crown has not proven second-degree murder.

"A tragedy does not make the actions of any man or woman a crime," Pink said. "It only becomes a crime when the actions of the man or woman meet the requisites of law. I respectfully submit that is not the case here."

Justice Josh Arnold will give his final instructions to the jury on Wednesday.  After that, the jury will be sequestered until they reach a verdict.

The CBC's Blair Rhodes live blogged from court. Mobile users can read the blog here