Rafferty won’t take stand

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Michael Rafferty will not testify in his own defence at his first-degree murder trial.

His lawyer Dirk Derstine made that announcement as he began the defence portion of the trial Tuesday.

He called one witness, quickly setting in motion the concluding steps of trial, in which Rafferty is accused of kidnapping, raping and murdering eight-year-old Tory Stafford.

Rafferty’s testimony was considered crucial to counter the story told by his former girlfriend, Terri-Lynne McClintic, earlier in the trial.

While McClintic confessed to killing Stafford with a hammer, she said Rafferty plotted the kidnapping and sexually assaulted the girl.

She has been convicted of Stafford’s murder and is serving a life sentence.

Derstine has suggested Rafferty was an innocent dupe and McClintic was the mastermind. But the jury will not hear that version of events from Rafferty.

Instead, court heard Tuesday from a woman who said she witnessed Tori’s abduction at Oliver Stephens school.

She testified that on the day of Tori’s disappearance, a woman in a white ski jacket walked behind a line of teachers, busy putting young and disabled children onto buses, and through the front door of the girl’s school.

The 60-year-old grandmother, whose identity is protected under a court publication ban, testified she was in her van, waiting for her daughter and grandchildren to come out the school, and had a clear view of the front door.

Later on, while driving home, she saw that same woman leading a girl, she testified.

The dark-haired woman in the white ski jacket walked briskly, looking straight ahead, neither talking nor listening to the girl.

"She looked she had a mission and was on the move," the grandmother testified.

"The little girl that was with her was happy, skipping, talking a mile a minute. It was all the little girl could do to keep up."

Her testimony differs from that of the Crown’s key witness, McClintic, the woman who led Tori away that day.

McClintic testified Rafferty directed her to get him a girl, and she chose Tori at random, outside the school because the girl was alone.

McClintic rejected Derstine’s suggestions during his cross-examination that she hurried up the street without talking to Tori, assuming Tori would follow. She denied knowing Tori.

Crown attorney Michael Carnegie questioned the grandmother’s memory, suggesting it been altered by repeatedly watching the surveillance video.

She had fewer details about the woman at the school and the woman on the street when interviewed by police in April and May after the abduction, Carnegie said.

But the grandmother stuck to her story. She also made it clear that testifying on behalf of Rafferty’s defence was not a pleasant task.

"I’m not happy," she said.

Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault causing bodily harm in the April 8, 2009, disappearance of Stafford.

The Woodstock, Ont., girl was lured away after school by a woman later identified as McClintic.

McClintic, 21, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in April 2010 and testified against Rafferty at his trial. She spent six days on the stand, first giving a detailed and at times emotional description of the abduction, then defending herself against an intense cross-examination by Derstine.

Derstine suggested McClintic was the driving force behind the abduction, offered Tori as a sexual gift for Rafferty, and killed the girl after Rafferty refused. McClintic rejected that theory.

Tori’s disappearance drew national attention. Even veteran police officers lost their composure on the stand during the trial.

Tori’s teacher, Jennifer Griffin-Murrell, prompted tears throughout the courtroom as she described saying goodbye for the last time to the cheery, charming little girl.

The Crown opened its case March 5 and finished April 27, calling 61 witnesses and filing 185 exhibits.

Derstine will give the defence’s closing arguments on Friday, followed by the Crown’s next Monday and the judge’s charge to the jury starting next Tuesday.

When Justice Thomas Heeney’s charge is done, the jury will retire to reach a verdict.