Dellen Millard skipped presenting his opening statement on Monday and instead began his defence at the Laura Babcock murder trial by reading pages and pages of text messages — including some he wrote to co-accused Mark Smich — that focused on his problems sleeping.
Legal discussions held behind closed doors pushed the start of proceedings until midday. When the hearing began in Ontario Superior Court, Millard, who's acting as his own lawyer, presented some of his evidence for the first time.
The 32-year-old began with text messages between himself and Babcock in late 2011, about a year before she disappeared; short and friendly texts mainly about her Maltese dog, named Lacey.
- Laura Babcock murder trial: A timeline of the Crown's case
- Read CBC News's full coverage of the Babcock murder trial
Millard — a self-described pilot, chef, and makeup artist — and his onetime best friend Smich, a 30-year-old high school dropout who's also from the Toronto area, have both pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
Babcock was 23 when she vanished. The court has heard from several witnesses that she was sleeping with Millard in the months before her death in early July 2012.
The overwhelming majority of Millard's text evidence centred on his sleep. In May 2012 he wrote Smich: "I've been up every night. I really need some sleep."
He made similar complaints to others.
"Last night I woke up every 15 minutes," he wrote to his mother, adding he'd seen a doctor about it.
The Toronto court has heard virtually nothing previously about Millard's sleeping troubles, and without an opening statement, the jury was given little context as to what it may have to do with his defence.
A date with Babcock?
In addition to the texts, Millard also read two brief statements of fact into the court, agreed upon by the prosecution and Smich's lawyer Thomas Dungey. One of them focused on a possible sighting of Babcock, a week after her alleged murder.
Millard read part of a transcript of a police interview, from May 2013, with Babcock's former boyfriend and close friend, Shawn Lerner.
Court has heard Lerner went through Babcock's phone records and reached out to people she had last communicated with. Among them was a man named Bradley Dean, who claimed to have gone on a date with Babcock on July 10, 2012.
During his earlier testimony, Dean told the court he had confused the dates — something also he later told police. The jury has also heard Babcock's phone, bank and social media accounts haven't been touched since July 2012.
Previously, at the Laura Babcock murder trial:
- Day 16: No plan to start cremation business, Millard's uncle tells trial
- Day 17: Smich's ex-girlfriend saw incinerator in use
- Day 18: Millard asked friend to keep tabs on Babcock, jury hears
- Day 19: Jury sees photo of handgun purchased by Millard
- Day 20: 'We need to get our stories straight,' Millard wrote girlfriend
Read CBC News's full coverage as the trial continues.
Millard only spoke for about an hour before court adjourned early for the day.
The judge explained to the jury there were more legal matters to sort through with the defence. Court is set to resume at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.
Referring to Tuesday's session, Code also said, "We'll hear perhaps some more evidence, depending on how I rule."
The rap and the red bag
It remains unclear at this point whether Smich's legal team will call a defence. Smich, compared to Millard, has kept a relatively low profile during the trial. He often spends his days in court, typing on a computer, making little eye contact with anyone.
His lawyer, Dungey, questioned only a few select Crown witnesses.
Two of Smich's friends testified about a rap he performed for them in August 2012 — it was art imitating life, they told the jury.
They said Smich then told them he "killed a girl, burned a body, and disposed of it in a lake."
Dungey questioned the credibility of Smich's friends, hammering away at their drug use and checkered pasts.
But perhaps harder to defend were two of Babcock's possessions, found by police at Smich's home: a black iPad, given to Babcock by a former boyfriend; and a bright red duffel bag bearing Babcock's handwritten name and address.
Dungey suggested it could be impossible to track who was using that iPad. He also pointed out while Babcock's bag was in Smich's home, it was being used to store cans of spray paint.
The trial started Oct. 23 and is expected to run about ten weeks.
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