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Woman's statement to police will be accepted as evidence at Michael Hannaford's trial, despite her testimony that she had no recollection of the shooting
A woman who was shot in the side last May wasn't telling the truth when she testified she couldn't remember what had happened because she was in a drug-induced psychotic state, a St. John's judge said Friday.
"I did not believe her," Judge Colin Flynn said of Samantha Burke's testimony, adding that even if he had, the evidence pointing to Michael Hannaford as the shooter far outweighed any evidence Burke had given to the contrary.
Burke's detailed statement to police - given on the day of the shooting and naming Hannaford as the person who shot her - will be given weight at Hannaford's attempted murder trial, Flynn said.
Burke's untruthfulness on the witness stand allowed him to accept the 40-minute audio-recorded statement instead, he said.
In presenting his decision to accept the statement over Burke's testimony, the judge commented on a number of other pieces of evidence in the Crown's case against Hannaford. Text messages taken by police from Hannaford's phone had been between him and Burke, Flynn determined, and were consistent with details given by Burke in her statement to investigators.
A single particle of gunshot residue found on Hannaford's hand had not likely been accidentally transferred from someone else who had recently fired a gun, nor any of his father's hunting guns that were locked in a safe in his home, the judge said.
Flynn acknowledged Burke's statement that she was under the influence of drugs and alcohol and in a psychotic state at the time of her interview with police, but noted three police officers who had interacted with her prior to the interview had testified she had been coherent and her thought process seemed fine.
"I've had the opportunity to hear the recording of the statement, and I, too, must conclude that the speaker, Ms. Burke, sounded very coherent and precise with respect to information provided to police," Flynn said.
Flynn referred to defence lawyer Tim O'Brien's argument that Burke had laughed inappropriately a number of times during the statement, but pointed out it was perhaps a mannerism, since she had done the same while testifying in court. At that point, Burke had said she had been sober for three or four months.
Prosecutor Paul Thistle has closed his case against Hannaford, and it's now O'Brien's turn to present evidence in the trial, which will resume Aug. 12.
Hannaford was arrested on May 18, 2018, after RNC officers responded to a report of an altercation at a residence on Empire Avenue and had arrived to find him, Burke and another woman outside the home. An SUV with a smashed window was in the driveway, and the second woman testified Hannaford had broken it with a machete. A machete was found just inside the front door of the home.
An officer testified he was escorting Hannaford to a police cruiser when Burke yelled out, “When am I getting my $70 or I’ll tell them what you did to me!” She then lifted her shirt to reveal a bloody bandage on her side, which covered the entrance and exit holes of a bullet.
Text messages suggested Hannaford and Burke had argued over a $70 drug debt earlier that morning, and there was some suggestion of a gun. In another text exchange on the phone from the same time period, the phone owner wrote to another person, asking, "Got any rounds?"
A gun was recovered by police in the bushes on a residential property near Hannaford's home, but it did not contain his DNA and did not match the description of the gun Burke had given police. A single particle of gunshot residue was located on Hannaford's right hand after he was arrested.
Burke had been clear in her identification of Hannaford in her statement to police, expressing shock that he had shot her.
Testifying in court, Burke said she had been awake for three days and severely intoxicated by drugs and alcohol on the night in question and had no memory of the events or who had shot her, though she didn't believe it was Hannaford. She had gotten in a number of violent altercations with different people that night, she said.