Lawyers presented submissions Tuesday to a judge at St. John’s Provincial Court in the case of Evan James Fry, who pleaded not guilty last years to charges that include robbery, break and enter and theft of a motor vehicle.
Pivotal to the case made against the 22-year-old is a police statement by Joshua Walter Burton, the co-accused who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to over six years in prison last fall. It was Burton who confronted 85-year-old Bay Roberts resident Jean Hillyard in her bedroom during the early hours of May 10, 2015.
He was holding a knife and attempted to convince her to leave the home with him to withdraw money from her bank account. Hillyard talked him down, and he eventually apologized before leaving the house.
Crown prosecutor Natalie Payne focused on the second statement Burton gave to police following his arrest at Fry’s apartment. Police noticed some hesitance in his initial statement. She noted he requested to speak a second time and voluntarily confessed. He was visibly upset and admitted to feeling horrible about what happened.
He also implicated Fry at that time, placing him in the home at the time of the robbery. He said Fry drove them to Fry’s apartment after the robbery in a vehicle Burton stole.
At Fry’s trial, Burton’s story changed. Burton said he was angry with Fry because he talked to police following Burton’s arrest and wanted to “put the heat on Evan.”
Payne said Burton’s decision to change his story had more to do with his concerns about being labeled a rat. She noted an RCMP officer testified that Burton expressed an unwillingness to appear at Fry’s trial for that same reason.
Payne also honed in on Hillyard’s testimony. She said Burton told her he had a friend inside the house as well. Payne said it wouldn’t make sense logically for Burton to make up the details of his second statement to police when he already indicated to the victim someone else was in her home.
Defence lawyer Susan Day contended that none of the charges were proven beyond reasonable doubt, with the only direct evidence implicating Fry in the case coming from Burton’s statement to police. Day said there was evidence within that statement to suggest his anger was a legitimate factor that could have compelled him to lie about her client’s involvement.
Day noted Burton’s statement to implicate Fry only came after he was told her client made his own statement to police. At that point, Burton told the officer Fry was “full of shit” and a “f—king idiot.”
She also noted in that same statement, Burton said he immediately apologized to Hillyard, while the victim testified she had to repeatedly tell Burton she wouldn’t leave the house with him. Day characterized this as an attempt by Burton to minimize his own involvement.
Fry’s lawyer brought up Burton’s admission in his testimony he was intoxicated and had taken a full bottle of pills before making his statement, stating this casts further doubt on the reliability of what he told police. Payne subsequently said the officer who took the statement had plenty of experience dealing with intoxicated individuals and didn’t believe Burton was in such a state at the time.
Judge Jacqueline Brazil will render her decision Sept. 1 at St. John’s Provincial Court. Fry is currently serving a sentence on an unrelated matter.