Closing submissions have been made in the Shelby Zielski-Thibault manslaughter trial, with a decision to come next month.
Zielski-Thibault’s lawyer Mike Pretsell’s defence evidence in the case included just Aaron Rushlow’s criminal record and five occurence reports from local police, detailing past aggressive behaviour and mental health issues.
Those reports weren’t originally going to be presented in open court, but Justice Geoffrey Griffin said while he didn’t want to “annoy, upset, or cause pain to anyone” he felt people should know exactly what he’s looking at as he makes his decision, given the general interest in the case.
In his closing submissions, Pretsell told court his client should be acquitted on all charges, because there is a lack of any reliable evidence as to what happened on Walmsley Place that night.
Pretsell says while his client did leave the scene, she only fled because she was afraid of further attacks from Rushlow and that as soon as she got home, police were notified.
He submitted that there is “extensive evidence corroborating her version of events,” that Rushlow had confronted her at the window of her car and no evidence to disprove that.
Forensics photos of the vehicle showed at least one hand print confirmed to be Rushlow’s, on the front driver-side fender of the car and other hand prints on the back window of “comparable size to his”, along with saliva that likely belonged to him.
He noted that there is also no evidence to prove how she drove away from Rushlow, with respect to speed or anything, just that there was contact with the vehicle.
Meanwhile, the crown maintains that there is no legal justification for the now 19-year-old to be acquitted.
Assistant Crown Attorney Adam Zegouras says the credibility of Zielski-Thibault’s statement, the only version of the events that transpired on the Belleville street, should be heavily questioned.
He noted holes in her story to police, that she wasn’t drinking, or using drugs in the the hours leading up the incident, when witnesses said she was.
Pretsell did counter that when officers arrived at Zielski-Thibault’s home later that night neither of them thought it prudent to test her level of intoxication, even though they were on RIDE duties that night.
Zegouras also pointed out that an account from another witness in the car with her, made no mention of her being scared, or of Rushlow chasing and antagonizing them on a ride through Trenton and back to Belleville that night.
Among his arguments, Zegouras told court that as far as self defence goes, what Zielski-Thibault did was not a reasonable use of force given the circumstances, as she had no visible injuries.
He said “this wasn’t a two second interaction, he’s being dragged by the car for a little bit”.
That statement is consistent with injuries described by Forensic Pathologist Dr. Charis Kepron, that Rushlow seemed to suffer some dragging type injuries, like road rash.
Also in his closing submissions, Zegouras questioned the claim that Zielski-Thibault’s hair extentions had been pulled out of her head.
He showed side-by-side images of Zielski-Thibault before the incident and after and pointed out there was little to no difference in the appearance of her hair.
He also noted the fact that hair extensions found in her car were in the centre console, when one would think they would have been found closer to the driver side door or outside the vehicle, if that’s where they were being pulled from.
And Zegouras says, while Zielski-Thibault did call police eventually, phone records show a period of at least 20 minutes after the incident where instead of calling 911 herself, she called a friend and her mother.
Zegouras added Zielski-Thibault had a legal obligation to notify police as soon as she was involved in the incident and that when emergency services were finally contacted, the incident was reported as an assault on Zielski-Thibault, not that Rushlow had been injured.
Justice Griffin told those in the courtroom that he “has a great deal to think about” and he “appreciates the significance of the decision” to both sides.
He’ll render that decision on February 14, 2018, at 2:00 p.m.
You can find links to recaps from the first three days of the trial below: