Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Off-Topic: Brian Farmer Murder Trial, Day 5

Day 5 -- November 19, 2013

For most of today the trial's focus was on Peter Knowles. He used to be a frequent visitor of an organisation called Fireside in Birmingham, a charity that assists people who are homeless or have alcohol problems. It's an admirable organisation that provides free meals, clothing and counselling seven days a week. Lisa Clarke was also a frequent visitor. John Campion had visited Fireside, but was barred for bad behaviour.

Beginning on September 18th 2012 Peter Knowles talked in separate meetings to three staff members of Fireside. He told them that he had witnessed the murder of Brian Farmer. A man called A.J. had been the main assailant, while Lisa Clarke, John Campion and a young kid whose name he didn't know were watching. (A.J. is Jason Andrews' nickname). The three reports he gave differed in minor points, but they all agreed that Jason was stabbing Brian with a knife and pouring boiling water over him. Peter and the four others left Brian's flat together. When they left Brian was still alive, but Peter claims that A.J. returned later by himself. In Peter's reports he stated that it all began when Brian threatened to kill Lisa by injecting her with something.

One thing has been puzzling me throughout the trial. Most of the witness testimonies so far have been second hand. What I mean is, people such as social workers or relatives have been saying, for instance, "Peter Knowles told me that he saw fill-in-the-blank happen". What's the point? Why not let the defendants speak for themselves? I can see two possible reasons for this. One reason is that some of the defendants might say something different when they're on the witness stand after listening to the others testify. In certain cases there have already been changes. What Vaughan Davies said when he first spoke to his social worker doesn't match what he said in his police statement. Was he putting right things he forgot first time, or did he decide to cover up something he regretted saying? That's one of the tough questions the jury will have to decide.

The other reason is that in the criminal sub-culture it's considered bad to tell the police what someone has done, especially if that person is a friend or a fellow criminal. They call this "grassing". In prisons it's common for prisoners who have "grassed others up" to be attacked by other inmates. It's an us-versus-them mentality. In their eyes the police are on the one side, and the good guys are on the other side. If a person tells a social worker that someone has committed a crime it's okay; if a person tells a policeman the same thing it's not. It's also not good to testify against a friend in court. The prosecution probably expects problems when the four defendants are called into the witness stand. So far, when giving testimony in private, they have all grassed up one another. When giving testimony in front of one another they might back down and put the blame on someone who wasn't there or doesn't even exist.

Today the jury was told about an incident that happened on April 20th 2012, less than a month before Brian's death. Brian was found sitting outside his home with a towel wrapped around his head, heavily bleeding. Police and ambulance were called. Brian informed the police that Jason Andrews had hit him over the head with a sugar bowl. The next day, after Brian was discharged from hospital, a policeman went to visit him. In his official statement Brian said that he refused to name the assailant because it was an old friend that he had known for 20 years. That's what I mean by not grassing.

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