St. John’s man says he only dreamed he held up a store, but evidence showed he did it
Richard Joseph Lahey of St. John’s was found guilty of armed robbery Friday in Newfoundland Supreme Court. His sentencing hearing is set for September. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram
He confessed to holding up a store with a knife. Then he said he dreamed the whole thing.
Richard Joseph Lahey got a dose of reality Friday when he was found guilty of armed robbery.
“I’m satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that he is the person who held up the store,” Justice Wayne Dymond said in handing down the verdict at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s.
But the judge admitted there would have been reasonable doubt had it not been for Lahey’s own statements.
The robbery happened at Walsh’s Convenience on St. Clare Avenue in the capital city March 29, 2010.
At the time, police had no suspects, but had store video of the incident and released a clip of it to the media.
Three months later, in June, Lahey walked into the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary headquarters and told officers he had seen the video on the news and said it was him. The man in the video was wearing a Calgary Flames cap, a hoodie and a black jacket — the same type of clothing Lahey owned.
Lahey said he had been under the influence of Percocet, sleeping pills and anxiety pills the day of the robbery, so the whole thing was hazy.
He told officers the incident came back to him in a dream. He said he could remember walking into the store once, leaving and coming back a few minutes later.
He said he could only remember grabbing something and that it may have been money. He said he could recall the female clerk reaching below the counter for something.
However, at the trial, he changed his tune and said he believed he had only dreamt that it was him carrying out the robbery. Lahey said he confessed to police because he had been under the influence of drugs that day as well.
Defence counsel Lori Marshall had argued during the trial that Lahey only assumed it was him as a result of seeing the video of the robbery on TV.
However, the judge pointed to a few giveaways.
First of all, Dymond said, the clerk testified she did, in fact, reach under the counter to press the panic button to alert police. However, that was not shown in the video.
“Only the person committing the robbery and the clerk knew this,” he said.
Also, the small clip of the video released to the media did not show the robber entering the store twice. That was also something only the robber and clerk would have known.
“The key to this case is what he told police,” Dymond said. “He had not been shown the (full) video (by officers) prior to admitting he did it.”
Dymond also pointed out that when Lahey went to the police station, he was wearing the same hoodie as the suspect was wearing in the video — one with distinctive lettering on the side of the hood.
In her description of the robber, the clerk also noticed the man had a scar on his cheek. Lahey had the same kind of mark.
Dymond said there was no evidence Lahey had been under the influence of drugs when he spoke to police.
Crown prosecutor Danny Vavasour and defence lawyer Amanda Barfitt agreed to schedule the sentencing hearing for Sept. 21.
Barfitt requested that a pre-sentence report, with a risk assessment, be completed before the hearing.
Barfitt was filling in for Marshall, who was recently appointed a provincial court judge.