As Judge David Crossin thanked the jurors for their work, the killer pointed the middle finger at the judge.
The jury in the British Columbia Supreme Court trial of an escaped inmate charged with first-degree murder found James Lee Busch guilty of the death of a Vancouver Island man.
What the jury did not know, however, was that Zachary Armitage, his co-defendant in the 60-year-old murder of Martin Payne, had already pleaded guilty to the same charge mid-trial.
As Judge David Crossin thanked the jurors for their work, Busch pointed the middle finger at the judge.
Payne was killed on July 8, 2019, a day after Busch and Armitage drove away from the William Head Institution, located five miles from the victim’s home in Metchosin, on southern Vancouver Island.
The trial began on November 14 with both men pleading not guilty to first degree murder, but two weeks later Armitage pleaded guilty without a jury present.
Jurors had been told that the Crown was prosecuting the two men on separate charges and that the murder trial would continue for Busch.
The jury’s decision on Wednesday came about 24 hours after it began its deliberations.
Both the Crown and the defense agreed in their closing arguments that the evidence pointed to Armitage being guilty of the murder, but they disagreed about Busch’s role in the murder.
During the trial, Crown counsel Chandra Fisher said that Armitage and Busch had planned to attack Payne to obtain his banking information.
She said in her closing arguments that the two men were “inseparable” and had gathered guns and duct tape to confine Payne before they killed him.
Unless Payne’s killer was a “ninja master” who could wield three weapons at once, there must have been two attackers at Payne’s home, he told jurors.
Fisher said that Payne was bigger than the two men and that it would have taken two of them to carry out the crime.
Busch’s lawyers did not ask for evidence in his defense.
In closing remarks to the jury, attorney Ryan Drury called the case against his client “weak” and “speculative.”
“We say the Crown is asking you to speculate, to form a theory without any hard evidence to back it up.”
He said there was nothing in Payne’s injuries to show that they had to be inflicted by two people, suggesting to the jury that Armitage worked alone.
The DNA evidence and the lack of blood splatter on Busch’s clothing meant he was not at the home, had no role in the murder, or was only involved in cleaning up the crime scene, Drury said.
The court heard that Busch’s fingerprints were not found inside the home.
However, the Crown had argued that because a pair of New Balance shoes found in the house had tested positive for both Busch’s and Payne’s DNA, it proved that Busch was in the house.
Busch was arrested with Payne’s hat and backpack containing the keys to the victim’s house and truck, Fisher said.
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