Crown's case in Laura Babcock murder trial is mostly circumstantial, judge says in charge to jury

The Crown’s case against the two men accused of killing Toronto woman Laura Babcock is almost all circumstantial, the judge said today during his final charge to the jury.

Crown has dismissed defence's suggestion missing Toronto woman could still be alive

The Laura Babcock murder trial in Toronto has moved into its final phases, with Justice Michael Code's charge to the jury beginning on Thursday. Mark Smich and Dellen Millard, left to right, have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the 2012 death of Babcock. (Court exhibit and Facebook)

The Crown's case against the two men accused of killing Toronto woman Laura Babcock is almost all circumstantial, the judge said today during his final charge to the jury.

Justice Michael Code began his address, which is expected to last three days, by telling the jury the case is based on two crucial questions — whether or not Babcock is actually dead, and whether or not Millard and Smich killed her.

"The case depends on circumstantial evidence on two of the main issues," Code said.

Dellen Millard, 32, of Toronto, and Smich, 30, of Oakville, Ont., have both pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

Prosecutors believe Babcock, 23, was killed in early July 2012 and her body was later burned in an animal incinerator. No remains were ever recovered. Throughout the trial, the defence has suggested she may still be alive, or died of an overdose or suicide.

A charge to the jury usually includes an overview of the trial's evidence, instructions on how to weigh testimony and the avenues by which a jury can reach different verdicts.

Justice Michael Code, top left, began his charge to the jury at the Laura Babcock murder trial in Toronto today. Dellen Millard, who is acting as his own lawyer, gave his closing statements earlier this week. (Pam Davies/CBC )

Code told the jury the case in front of them is "dense and complex," and stressed the importance of their duties. 

"You are engaged in one of the most important duties a Canadian citizen can be called on to perform," he said.

Code spent much of the morning explaining key legal concepts to the jury, like hearsay evidence, and out of court statements that were heard during the trial.

He did so in front of a much smaller crowd in court, as the number of spectators and reporters dwindled considerably for this final step of the process.

Still, Babcock's parents sat in the front row of the courtroom as they have the entire trial, hearing a recap of evidence about how their daughter allegedly died.

The Crown alleges Laura Babcock was burned in this large animal incinerator after she was killed in July 2012. (Court exhibit)

Earlier this week, the jury heard from the Crown prosecutor, Smich's lawyer Thomas Dungey and Millard, who is representing himself. The closing arguments in Ontario Superior Court marked the final time all three parties could address the jury before deliberations begin.

Both Millard and Dungey suggested Babcock could have simply left the country, or died of a drug overdose or suicide. 

Crown attorney Jill Cameron said that argument "defies all logic and common sense."

If she was still alive, Babcock's family and friends would have heard from her, Cameron said.

"Laura did not commit suicide or overdose. If she did, we would have her body," she told jurors.

"They thought then, and they argue now, that no body equals no murder. And they are wrong. They may have successfully eliminated Laura's body, but what can't be eliminated is that mountain of evidence before you," Cameron said.

In his charge, Code also touched on a video of Smich rapping, which the Crown has played multiple times during the trial. In it, Smich rhymes over a hip-hop beat:

The bitch started off all skin and bone

now the bitch lay on ashy stone

last time I saw her's outside the home

and if you go swimming you can find her phone.

Code cautioned the jury on how they should interpret that rap. "Remember that the composition of raps and songs is a form of artistic expression," he said, but added that jurors should keep in mind that the lyrics for that verse were found on an iPad that once belonged to Babcock.

Over and over, the judge preached that context is key, and the evidence must be considered in totality, not in pieces.

"Are you sick of hearing me say that yet?" he joked, at one point.

The jury is expected to begin deliberations early next week.

For more in-depth coverage, follow a recap of our live blog from inside the courtroom here. On mobile? View it here

About the Author

Adam Carter

Reporter, CBC Hamilton

Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Hamilton home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music in dank bars. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at,,,,,,,,,,