“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

A Toronto defense lawyer borrowed Irish poet / playwright Oscar Wilde’s quote for the opening of her written arguments in a just-completed murder trial in Newmarket that underscores the disquieting reality of many court cases involving brutal crimes.

While the loved ones of victims and defendants come to court searching for answers, the proceedings often fail to determine what definitively happened, or why.

In this case, where the prosecution alleged robbery was a motive to kill, what were the accused men after, since it seems all there was to steal was a $ 500 pair of running shoes? And how did the couple, who had no criminal records and reportedly came from “good, loving homes,” wind up here? And which one of them stabbed the victim’s dog to death?

During the three-and-a-half week trial, the prosecution argued Brandon Hudson and Arjuna Paramsothy committed first-degree murder by carrying out a plan to kill Matthew Arcara, a 22-year-old described in an online funeral home death notice as an “ambitious young man, with a bright future ahead of him.”

He was stabbed in the neck and shot in the head as he sat buckled into the driver’s seat of a Jeep Wrangler that he’d driven to and parked on a quiet residential cul-de-sac in Richmond Hill, sometime between 11 and 11: 30 pm on May 16, 2018.

Text messages indicated Arcara had arranged to meet Hudson, his sometime partner in robberies and drug dealing, according to evidence heard during the trial. After Arcara died, Hudson and Paramsothy stole his keys and driver’s license and later that night drove to his downtown Toronto condo, where they tied up and held his two roommates at gunpoint as they ransacked the place.

“This, I submit, is a story of greed … a callous betrayal executed with precision,” Crown attorney Brian McCallion said during his closing remarks earlier this week (Monday, Jan. 24.) “Robbery was the agenda and murder the mere step in achieving it. ”

However, the prosecution could not say which one of them shot and stabbed Arcara and acknowledged it was possible one did both, or that each committed a violent act. But, McCallion argued, that question ultimately did not matter because either man would be guilty of murder in any number of scenarios.

Defense lawyers said the Crown did not prove that their clients – who did not testify – hatched a plot to kill Arcara and they offered a variety of alternate theories. “It certainly stands to reason that Mr. Hudson was involved in a plan to … commit some sort of crime, ”Leora Shemesh, his Oscar Wilde-quoting lawyer, said in her closing address.

That included the possibility of selling a firearm, committing an armed robbery or a kidnapping. It’s also possible one of the two defendants sought to kill Arcara without the other’s knowledge, she said.

Jacob Roth, Paramsothy’s co-counsel along with Sean Robichaud, argued the evidence showed this was not a plan to kill, but an attempt to set up Arcara to be robbed on the pretense of a gun deal or some other illegal transaction. During the trial, court heard that the trio had committed robberies before. Arcara knew Hudson, but there was no evidence he had a relationship with Paramsothy.

The defense lawyers urged Superior Court Justice Laura Bird to acquit their clients of murder and find them guilty of manslaughter, which means they were responsible for his death but did not intend to kill him. Bird is hearing the case without a jury after the defense lawyers, fearing further delay caused by covid, asked the Crown to seek the attorney general’s consent to allow the trial without a jury.

For much of the evidence, Hudson and Paramsothy attended court, until a recent COVID-19 outbreak at the jail forced them to watch their lawyers’ closing arguments delivered at the Newmarket courthouse.

Shemesh summed up the legal complexities involved in the judge’s decision-making that suggested she has her work cut out for her.

“There are a variety of hypotheticals, possible theories and a heap of speculation, but the entirety of the case before the court rests on available inferences and circumstantial pieces of evidence,” Shemesh said.

The judge acknowledged that there are “numerous possibilities” about “what actually happened in that vehicle,” since forensic evidence “I do not think allows for any firm conclusion.”

She also added to the pile of seemingly unanswerable questions. Why was Arcara stabbed? “It seems unnecessary, in light of the fact there was clearly at least one loaded gun in the vehicle,” the judge remarked.

This case was never a whodunit.

Residential video surveillance captured Hudson and Paramsothy approaching and leaving the Jeep, though it was parked out of the camera’s view. And while they changed their clothes before heading downtown to rob Arcara’s condo – Hudson donned a “wig”; Shemesh clarified it was hair extensions – the pair was clearly identifiable in footage entering the building.

Awakened by their 2:30 am arrival at 100 Harbor St., Arcara’s roommates called 911 after hearing the commotion of the intruders searching the premises as Arcara’s dog – Kobe, a shiba inu – took issue with their presence.

Paramsothy did not make it out of the building. He was located in a staircase with two firearms, gloves and a pair of off-white Nike shoes, likely worth less than $ 500, according to one of the roommates.

Recovered from his home was a blood-stained sweater that had traces of gunshot residue. (Paramsothy has a firearms permit and is a target shooter, court heard. Properly registered handguns were at his residence, but the Crown did not tender them as the murder weapon.) Police also seized a pair of jeans with blood consistent with Arcara’s, as well as his DNA. Keys and money found at his residence also belonged to Arcara. A black glove located near the crime scene had both his and Arcara’s DNA on it.

Hudson eluded capture for a few days after descending 69 flights of stairs and fleeing into the night.

During the prosecution’s closing, the judge asked McCallion if he “had a position on whether the same person shot and stabbed Arcara.”

“There’s really no way to point to specific evidence of who did what,” McCallion responded, adding that he would argue, however, that it’s more likely that Hudson pulled the trigger and stabbed Arcara. However, evidence shows it was possible Paramsothy could have carried out both acts.

“One of them shot Arcara, the other aided, so regardless of who did what, they went to rob him, and murder was a probable consequence.”

The judge asked if he was asking her to convict both of them of killing an animal.

Again, the truth proved elusive. The prosecutor said while “most likely” it was Paramsothy who stabbed the dog – he had canine bites on his skin – it was also possible Hudson did it to stop the animal from attacking his partner in crime.

“Obviously, both men know perfectly well which of them stabbed the dog,” said Bird, the tone of her voice registering disgust. “But, with the evidence before me, I do not know how I can be expected to make a finding on that issue.”

McCallion said he was not expecting a conviction on that charge.

Concluding his closing arguments, Roth turned philosophical.

“Tragedies” such as this case prompt us to “look to the criminal justice system to deliver closure” and “to tell us what happened and who was responsible,” he said. But requiring the Crown to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt “forces us to recognize what we know, as opposed to what we wish we knew or think we knew.”

The judge said she will deliver her verdicts March 17.

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