Stone case judge warns the jury

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The Independent Online
THE JURY in the Russell murder trial was told yesterday not to read anything into Michael Stone's refusal to give evidence in his defence.

The judge, Mr Justice Ian Kennedy, told the eight women and four men at Maidstone Crown Court in his summing-up: "In this case I must tell you as a matter of law that it would be wrong to base any inference on this defendant's silence in the circumstances of this case."

He explained that the central issue was the confidence the jury could have in the evidence of Damien Daley, to whom Mr Stone allegedly confessed while the two were being held in Canterbury Prison. "The fact that you have not heard from the defendant doesn't assist you about that," the judge said.

The defence elected to offer no evidence in the trial. William Clegg QC, for the defence, said that if the jury analysed the evidence they would see the case against Mr Stone was riddled with improbabilities and inconsistencies. He warned against allowing the desire for justice for the Russell killings to cloud their judgement.

"It was harrowing evidence in a harrowing trial," he said. "In an unconscious way, you may think everyone desperately wants Michael Stone to be guilty." But, he implored the jurors, they must not lose sight of objectivity.

Mr Stone, 38, of Gillingham, Kent, denies the murders of Dr Lin Russell, 45, and her daughter Megan, 6, at Chillenden, near Canterbury, in July 1996. He also denies the attempted murder of Josie Russell, now 11.

Mr Clegg said that, of course, Mr Stone fitted the pattern of a person who could have done the crime: "They're not going to arrest the likes of you or me."

The police were obviously going to look for a heroin addict, which Mr Stone was, because a tourniquet probably used for taking drugs was found at the scene. He could not be eliminated from the inquiry on the grounds of his appearance, because he was similar to an likeness prepared by a witness.

But, Mr Clegg said: "That just puts him in a category of people who could be wrongly accused of this offence, and that is all that it does."

Mr Clegg said the evidence presented at the trial was worse than if the police had attempted to frame Mr Stone: "It's a bunch of convicts who say, `Well, he told me he done it'. It's difficult perhaps to imagine a more unsatisfactory basis on which to convict someone of any offence."

Damien Daley, a fellow inmate and self-confessed prison "enforcer", had told the court how Mr Stone had confessed to the killings when they were in adjacent cells on remand.

But, Mr Clegg said, Mr Stone had only been in the segregation wing because he had asked to be there. Prisoners at the previous prison where he had been kept had tried to invent false confessions from him. He feared that if he mixed with other inmates at Canterbury prison, the same would happen.

"Having asked to be protected from false confessions, having been put in isolation in segregation to get that protection, you're being asked to think that the first thing he does when he gets into that cell is to make a confession to the man next door. Do you think that very likely?"

Mr Clegg said Mr Stone had exercised his right not to give evidence in person as he had already given interviews to police running to 1,000 pages. He had been completely confident that the forensic science tests would clear him. "Every question Mickey Stone was asked, he answered. When they challenged him, cross-examined him, interrogated him, every question he answered," he said.

The judge will continue his summing-up today.