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What the Tori Stafford jury didn’t hear


 

In the months before Tori Stafford was kidnapped and killed, Michael Rafferty, the man accused of her murder, performed Internet searches for “underage rape”, “real underage rape” and “real underage rape pictures,” according to a computer search conducted by police but never shown to the jury now deliberating in Rafferty’s trial.

Police also found evidence Rafferty possessed or accessed child pornography, had a penchant for violent sex and, days before the blond Stafford was killed, downloaded a Hollywood movie about the kidnapping of a young blond girl. None of that evidence made it to the jury either, however, as the judge in the case, Justice Thomas Heeney, ruled that it was either illegally obtained or would have been unduly prejudicial. (Read Blatchford in today’s Post for more on the judge’s pre-trial rulings.)

The jury was sequestered late Thursday afternoon. Rafferty stands charged with first-degree murder, abduction and sexual assault. Heeney, however, told the jurors they could also find Rafferty guilty of manslaughter or second-degree murder, depending on his level of involvement in the killing.


 
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What the Tori Stafford jury didn’t hear

  1. It’s a shame they didn’t get to hear this evidence because this was crucial in showing both Rafferty’s mindset before the killing and his true character. But I don’t think in the end it will make a difference as I expect the jury to find him guilty of 1st degree murder and when they find out about this hidden evidence, it will only confirm to them that they made the right decision.

    • Congratulations, you have just illustrated the danger of evidence without direct attachment to a crime being unfairly prejudicial to an accused.

      (Blatchford has a history of writing exactly this kind of column. “Why wasn’t the jury given evidence the accused was a suspected gang member and therefore likely to commit this kind of crime?” Uh, because we jail people for committing crimes, not for being suspected gang members or the kinds of people who commit crimes).

      • How is it not directly related to the crime? It is as it showed premeditation on Rafferty’s part and would just help to solidify the evidence presented which already points to his guilt. The only reason it wasn’t entered into evidence is because of police error in not getting the proper warrant otherwise it would have been.

        • it did none of these things – it showed he entered some words into a search engine. And prejudice is mentioned as a factor in the decision.

          (As a more general note to people reading this exchange: this is a common problem in jury trials and has received a lot of judicial attention. JM is probably a regular guy and not stupid: but note how easily he is lead down a particular path of reasoning by some accuastions and some unrelated facts. As humans, we have a proven tendency to “connect the dots” and try to find or invent relationships between things).

          • And you aren’t making presumptions yourself? At least I’m basing mine from evidence in this trial and some common sense. There was more than entering words into a search engine as there was numerous child pornography on his hard drive and he also had a movie about child abduction, in specific about a blonde eight year old girl. He also was into sexual choking, showing his violent sexual deviant tendencies. Whether you may think this is purely circumstantial or not it is powerful and relevant to the case.

          • You think you’re making your decision on “evidence” and common sense (hint: never trust media accounts of legal issues, and if you do esp. don’t rely on blatchford) , but really you just keep showing how dangerous jumping to these kind of conclusions are and how trial judges are right to evaluate the probative value of proffered evidence against its prejudicial effects.

            ***

            ” in specific about a blonde eight year old girl”

            QED

          • I think you are not paying attention to the evidence that links every aspect of this crime to Rafferty. And not getting the part that this latest evidence of internet searches for underage rape, child porn movies, necrophilia, snuff films, sexual choking, etc would have been allowed by the judge if the police had gotten a second warrant for devices when they found the laptop & computer devices in his car and home which they had a warrant to search.
            So prejudicial is none the factor if the evidence can show a person had premeditation, had a sexual interest in children and had violent tendencies in order to commit a crime like this which it definitely would have done if had been presented. Because as far as the jury knew that he never had a sexual interest in children before which was not the case according to this evidence and then in itself was a crucial piece of evidence to this case.
            And it may be a coincidence that the girl in the movie he had on his computer hard drive is similar to Tori but it was about a child getting abducted, put into child pornography & getting killed so just another bit of information that helps to know this Rafferty character.
            Don’t turn a blind eye to justice by blaming media accounts or some prejudicial element that doesn’t really have weight in a case like this. Connecting dots is part of every investigation to convict a guilty party otherwise we would have more people get away with heinous crimes like this. Surely you wouldn’t want this?

          • Anyway as I said earlier this latest evidence is not going to make a difference and only going to confirm to the jury that they made the right decision in convicting Rafferty and now looks to be the case. The verdict is in Rafferty is guilty of first degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping. Justice has been served for Tori and this sadist will be off the streets so he cannot harm another child.

          • For. the. third. time. Even the 250 blurb above mentions prejudice was an overarching factor. And you demonstrated yourself how people, when receiving unpalatable information about somebody, can take wild flights of fancy about their character. Look how easily you thought the fact a girl in a movie was blonde was indicative of anything whatsoever.

            Obviously the admisible evidence was enough to secure a conviction. that mustn’t overshadow the fact that if the probative value of scandalous evidence is less than it’s tendency to unduly prejudice, it should properly not be admitted lest it overshadow the jury’s judgment, as you’ve shown is always a possibility.

          • Go ahead and keep repeating yourself if you need to convince yourself to believe whatever you want to believe. Thank god that there was enough evidence for the jury to convinct this Rafferty character. But I will maintain that the hidden evidence was valid and crucial to the case and should have been presented to the jury and only wasn’t due to police error. The mention about the movie was just one aspect of the various sordid things Rafferty was doing beforehand combined with all the evidence overall, so wasn’t something I was trying to take as a fact to convict him. If we run the justice system with a fine-toothed comb for the killer’s rights over the victim’s, then it will surely fail and we will never get them off the streets.

          • Properly evaluating admissibility ain’t “killer’s rights” it’s called a “fair trial” . Believe what you want – you’ll be wrong and the people who actually have to make these decisions know better.

          • This child killer got beyond a fair trial considering the evidence the judge withheld from the jury.

          • When you are a judge with all the information before you, you can make the call. Keeping jumping to errant conclusions like this and you’ll never get there.

          • For. the. third. time. Even the 250 blurb above mentions prejudice was an overarching factor. And you demonstrated yourself how people, when receiving unpalatable information about somebody, can take wild flights of fancy about their character. Look how easily you thought the fact a girl in a movie was blonde was indicative of anything whatsoever.

            Obviously the admisible evidence was enough to secure a conviction. that mustn’t overshadow the fact that if the probative value of scandalous evidence is less than it’s tendency to unduly prejudice, it should properly not be admitted lest it overshadow the jury’s judgment, as you’ve shown is always a possibility.

          • You think you’re making your decision on “evidence” and common sense (hint: never trust media accounts of legal issues, and if you do esp. don’t rely on blatchford) , but really you just keep showing how dangerous jumping to these kind of conclusions are and how trial judges are right to evaluate the probative value of proffered evidence against its prejudicial effects.

            ***

            ” in specific about a blonde eight year old girl”

            QED

  2. Had the chance to read a few more media accounts of the story, although the judge’s decision isn’t available. It’s now pretty clear that weighing the value of what the evidence could actually prove versus the bias it might create in the jury and the tendency to draw unjustified conclusions was a prime factor in the decision, and the judge acquitted himself admirably.

    In a world where some politicians and journalists seem to make a lucrative living screaming “the system is broken!” and “criminals have too many rights!” every time somebody isn’t hanged within a few days of being accused, insisting on fairness, reason, and the proper procedure can sometimes seem radical. But it’s the right thing to do. Hats off to Heeney J. for presiding over this ugly affair and for making the right calls, even when it’s difficult. You’re one of the good guys, judge!

    • A quote from one of the media accounts that I am sure you have come across, that couldn’t have said it better:
      “Michael Rafferty is a man of bad character. He is a sexual deviant. He is a child-killer.
      Thank God the jury got it, no thanks to Heeney.”

      • The quote is sensationalistic and meaningless, for reasons pretty carefully explained above.

        • Oh brother this is after the fact and certainly rings true so wouldn’t consider it sensationalism or meaningless at all. The quote is part of a well-written article by DiManno about how the judge put justice at risk.
          I think you are sitting alone on a sinking boat in the middle of the ocean, doubt many would agree with you especially in this circumstance. The judge took a big risk of not letting in evidence that is pertinent to the case but thank god for the great work done on the part of the police, the crown and to the jury for seeing through the obstruction.

          • I agree with GFMD on all accounts, so there are at least two in this “sinking boat” of yours.

          • If you say so cirio (aka GFMD).

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