Abdullah Al-Tutunji escaped the chaos of Iraq as a boy only to be knifed to death years later in a savage, racially-motivated attack by a drunken stranger outside the McDonald’s on Meadowlands Drive.
The 20-year-old Carleton University student was stabbed at least 11 times — with wounds to his heart, chest, torso and back — in what even his killer’s defence lawyer called a horrible, senseless tragedy in closing arguments at the second-degree murder trial of Jorden Larocque-Laplante on Wednesday.
Mark Ertel urged the jury to find Larocque-Laplante guilty of manslaughter because he had been too drunk to know his actions would lead to Al-Tutunji’s death, let alone to form an intent to kill. (Larocque-Laplante’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit to drive.)
Ertel asked the jury to put aside any sympathy for the slain student and consider only the facts when they deliberated his client’s fate. Ertel guided the jury through evidence in favour of the defence and noted Larocque-Laplante was so drunk that he left the bloody knife in his mother’s car minutes after the December 2016 killing.
“Any sober guy would know that’s the last thing you do,” Ertel told the jury.
“This is not a sane and sober person,” said Ertel, who told the jury that the Crown had failed to prove intent or foresight beyond a reasonable doubt.
Even if the jury decides his client was sober enough when he killed, Ertel said they should still find him guilty of manslaughter because he lost control after being kicked in the face while he was down on the ground outside the restaurant. In this situation, the jury would have to believe Larocque-Laplante killed in self-defence after being provoked in what started out as a fistfight.
Crown Attorney Mark Moors, in his closing arguments, reminded the jury it had been the killer who brought a knife to a fistfight.
The prosecutor painted a portrait of Al-Tutunji primed in sympathy.
He had escaped Iraq as a boy. Raised in a good home. Had dreams and hit the books at Carleton for environmental engineering. After a night out with friends, young Al-Tutunji, described as peaceful and caring, got knifed to death after an early-morning McDonald’s run on the way home.
He was killed before he got to eat.
Murdered, as Moors declared, in a “dark and barren” parking lot outside the McDonald’s after being chased by an angry drunk “targeting visible minorities.”
The young man will never get to realize a single dream, Moors told court.
Moors took the jury through a pile of evidence against the accused and said his defence that he blacked out just before the killing was too convenient to be believed.
The Crown attorney branded the killer’s testimony a lie designed to shield the jury from the truth: that he was a relentless aggressor who started a fight, lost it, then exacted revenge by pulling out a knife on a defenceless, unarmed Al-Tutunji in at least three vicious attacks outside the McDonald’s.
Moors noted the killer’s testimony that he was too drunk to remember served only to spare him questioning about it.
Larocque-Laplante took the stand in his own defence and confessed to the killing after reviewing security video in court. He apologized to the victim’s family, saying he had no idea what they were going through. “I’m so sorry,” he told court.
The Crown attorney noted his apology was not evidence, no matter how sad or sorry.
The police evidence, the prosecutor said, pointed to only one verdict: guilty of murder.
The killer was perfectly fine to walk, talk, text, fight, seek medical treatment afterwards, so he was clearly not only sober enough, but his mind was also laced with intent when he savagely murdered Al-Tutunji, the Crown attorney told the jury.
“There is powerful evidence (that the accused) was possessed of anger and vengeance,” Moors told the jury.
The trouble began just after 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 11, 2016, when Larocque-Laplante walked into the McDonald’s after a night of hard drinking. He started yelling Arabic names when he saw the victim and his friend. (The killer testified he used to think it was funny to yell Arabic names at Middle Eastern folks, but no longer thought it was funny after converting to Islam at the Ottawa jail.)
Al-Tutunji and his friend had just received their takeout and were heading home. He had enough and dismissed the annoying drunk, saying, “Shut the f— up.”
That set off the killer, who chased both individuals outside and started what the Crown described as a bar-room brawl that began with muscle and braun and left the challenger on the ground, angry for losing. That was when he pulled out a knife and attacked Al-Tutunji at least three times. Al-Tutunji was already on the ground during some of the savage knife attacks captured on security video.
He was seen clutching his chest and falling to his knees during the repeated knife attacks. His friend was seen trying to come to his dying friend’s aid, only to be chased at knifepoint.
The victim’s parents and sister sat in the front row of the court gallery Wednesday as the prosecutor again showed the final moments of Al-Tutunji’s life.
The prosecutor did a fine job of leaving the jury with a portrait of a slain student who was bright and too young to die. Just a young university student with big dreams that will never be realized, Moors told the jury.
Moors told the jury to reject the defence’s position, saying the killer’s story was not worthy of belief. The prosecutor told the jury the only just verdict was second-degree murder.
Larocque-Laplante tried to plead guilty to manslaughter, but the Crown refused and took it to trial.
Minutes after Larocque-Laplante killed a stranger, he went to his mom’s to get her to drive him to the hospital for a bleeding leg wound. It was self-inflicted during the deadly fight, and Larocque-Laplante collapsed in the hospital lobby. (The defence told the jury the self-inflicted wound was clear evidence of extreme intoxication, that he was so drunk he stabbed himself in the killing he said he couldn’t remember.
The trial judge is expected to finish her charge to the jury on Thursday, and jurors will then start deliberating the fate of Larocque-Laplante.
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