'I don't recall': Memories hazy, voices quiet as friends of Dale Porter testify

Justice Garrett Handrigan repeated himself three times in Supreme Court Monday as — one after the other — friends of Dale Porter testified with their gaze and voices lowered.

Al Potter, 55, is on trial for first-degree murder in the death of father of 2, Dale Porter

Al Potter, 55, seen before the start of Day 6 of his first-degree murder trial at Supreme Court in St. John's Monday. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

Justice Garrett Handrigan repeated himself three times in Supreme Court Monday as — one after the other — friends of Dale Porter testified with their gaze and voices lowered.

"The jury can't hear you. It's important that you're heard. Speak up," said Handrigan, who is presiding at the first-degree murder trial of Al Potter, who the Crown alleges killed Porter in June 2014. 

Three young men — who were in their late teens to early 20s in 2014 — were granted a publication ban on their names, and have to instead be referred to by their initials. 

The men say they were drinking at Dale Porter's property on the night of June 28, 2014 before heading to the the Coach House in nearby Bay Roberts.

The details of the night, however, varied depending on who took the stand, and none identified accused murderer Al Potter, 55, as being around the night of Porter's violent death.

"How long were you there [the Coach House]?" prosecutor Erin Matthews asked witness J.N.

"I don't recall," he said, mumbling during parts of his testimony. "It was closed when we left."

Jennifer Reid holds photos of her older brother Dale Porter, who was killed on June 29, 2014. Her older sister Bonnie stands by her side at Supreme Court in St. John's. The family has been present for the entire trial thus far. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

Asked if he saw Porter leave the bar with anyone that night, J.N. said no.

"I just seen him getting in a cab," he said.

He also told the court he couldn't recall how much he drank, whether he saw a syringe in Porter's house, or if Porter sold drugs on the weekend — a suggestion made by the defence during cross examination.

The defence told him that in his statement given to police, he referenced a "larger fella and smaller fella" being at the bar that night.

"Does that recall your memory?" asked defence attorney Jon Noonan.

"No."

"You didn't see who he left the bar with?"

"No."

Upbeat at the bar

Potter, meanwhile, took notes, smiled at the jury and occasionally cracked his neck while listening from the prisoner's box. 

The next witness told a similar story about a regular evening of drinking at Porter's home. He too said he couldn't recall there being any marijuana or cocaine being there, despite suggestions from the defence that there were and toxicology results which showed cocaine was present in Porter's system at the time of his death.

"I'm trying to think back," W.N. said, pressing his hand on his head at times. "It's been five years, it's hard."

At the bar, W.N. said things were jovial with "laughing and giggling."

He, along with the other friends who he arrived with, left in a taxi without Porter, the jury heard.

"In my statement [to police], I said I saw him getting in a taxi but ... I have no present memory," he told the court, adding he had drunk about three dozen beer  — and "not counting the shots" — the night of the alleged murder.

"I kinda wish I wasn't drinking that night, to be honest."

The first thing W.N. noticed was Dale Porter's shoe, at the end of the 39-year-old's North River driveway. (Court exhibit)

What he did recall in detail was how they came to realize something tragic had happened to their friend.

Upon arriving in a cab at Porter's home, he said, the friends noticed Porter's sneaker at the end of the driveway but didn't suspect anything sinister. 

"We figured Dale was being Dale, running around and being a drunk clown," he told the court.

Shortly after, he said, Porter was discovered practically lifeless nearby.

"I just stepped to the side and was in shock. I didn't really know what to do."

The group of friends called for police and paramedics, while a young woman who was also out that night applied pressure to Porter's neck and chest.

When asked if any individuals at the bar that night stood out, W.N. said he told police initially about a tall man with the sides of his head shaved and a smaller man, but doesn't recall anymore.

"I don't want to lie or for anyone to think anything of it," he said, insisting his memory is hazy. 

'I saw one lady and two men'

The third witness who appeared the most reluctant to speak on the stand, said he remembered seeing "one lady and two men" getting in a cab with Porter the night of his death. 

Keeping his eyes low and his sentences to a minimum, the man who is identified as J.M. said Porter was his uncle by marriage.

"He told me to meet him at the house," J.M. told the court about when Porter left the bar with three unknown individuals — a decision that J.M. said was not typical for his uncle. 

Responding to questioning from the Crown, he said he didn't see Porter speaking to anyone else at the bar and that he was intoxicated to a "seven or eight" on a scale of one to 10.

Unlike the other two witnesses, J.M. said the whole group was drinking and smoking marijuana and said he did see a bag of cocaine but did not recall anyone using it.

"I seen it. It was in a little bag."

Asked if cocaine was present during other weekends together, he said no.

The trial is expected to continue Monday afternoon, and is currently in its second week of an estimated five. Potter is accused of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Porter, a fisherman and trucker, on June 29, 2014.

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About the Author

Ariana Kelland

Reporter

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.