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Crown questions credibility of defendant in Chilliwack fatal hit-and-run case

BC Supreme Court judge shuts down accused Linnea Labbee who made excuses why witnesses were no-shows
Linnea Labbee outside the Chilliwack Law Courts on April 1, 2021 on day 16 of her trial in BC Supreme Court where she is charged in connection with the fatal hit-and-run of a 78-year-old woman on Mary Street on Dec. 1, 2016. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)

The credibility of the accused in the fatal hit-and-run trial in BC Supreme Court in Chilliwack on Thursday (April 1) was seriously questioned not only by Crown counsel Joe Saulnier but even by the judge.

“There has been nothing but delay in this case,” Justice Brenda Brown told defendant Linnea Labbee at the start of proceedings on day 16 of the trial.

Labbee, who is representing herself in the trial, is charged with one count of failing to stop at an accident causing bodily harm for an incident on Dec. 1, 2016 at the intersection of Mary Street and Patten Avenue. It was there that 78-year-old Fourghozaman Firoozian was struck and killed in marked crosswalk by the vehicle owned by Labbee.

The only serious question in dispute at trial is who was behind the wheel.

READ MORE: 73-year-old Chilliwack woman charged in fatal hit-and-run defending herself in BC Supreme Court

After several days of claiming to have witnesses to call to testify, Justice Brown seemed to lose patience with Labbee who continued to come up with excuses as to why her witnesses were not available and why she couldn’t get in touch with them. Labbee said one witness was tied up on the U.S. side of the border, another was in quarantine, yet another was en route from Alberta but nearly hit a deer and stopped driving.

“I have asked you for some sort of third-party verification,” Brown said to Labbee regarding her supposed witnesses that never show up.

“I do not find these excuses to be credible.”

When asked for phone numbers of potential witnesses, Labbee gave reasons why she didn’t have numbers for some of them. But then she gave one phone number, which the court clerk dialed and put on speaker phone. As the courtroom heard the phone ringing, Crown counsel Joe Saulnier pointed out that a phone was vibrating in Labbee’s purse.

She checked and denied it: “My phone is off.”

In an unrelated piece of supposed evidence before that, Labbee said she went into O’Connor Collision in the morning and asked if the damage on her truck could be caused by driving over a person. She said she was told “no.”

Brown explained that only the court could designate a witness as an expert and her hearsay statements did nothing to further her case. Labbee then claimed a mechanic from O’Connor would come to court to testify in the afternoon, but she couldn’t remember his name.

The court took a break so that Saulnier could verify Labbee’s claims. He came back to say that he spoke to O’Connor’s manager Terry Cross and Labbee had not come in to his shop.

“I’ve reached the conclusion that she is not coming,” Brown told Labbee regarding her supposed witness from Alberta.

“And there is no expert witness.”

With that, Brown said Saulnier could begin his final submissions in which he was blunt in his assessment of Labbee as a witness in her own defence.

“She was an unreliable and incredible witness and her testimony should be rejected in its entirety.”

After going over summaries of the testimony of Crown witnesses who saw the hit-and-run, Saulnier picked apart what he called a “falsified alibi” presented to the court by Labbee.

Labbee testified she was with people right from 2 a.m. that day until the time she was arrested, but not one of her alibi witnesses testified or even gave police statements.

She claimed she was at Southgate Shopping Centre all day, but when confronted with a bank withdrawal from CIBC at Young and Princess six minutes before the hit-and-run, Labbee claimed she had walked over to the bank from Southgate.

At the shopping plaza she went into many of the shops, sometimes multiple times. Saulnier suggested this was to try to give herself an alibi. But the first sign of her on a security camera at the plaza was at 12:21 p.m., four minutes after the hit-and-run.

“She was unable to keep her story straight and made various contradictory statements,” Saulnier said.

“It is the Crown’s position that she is not a credible witness. The defence does not raise a reasonable doubt.”

With that, the Crown rested its case.

Justice Brown had no questions for Saulnier after his submissions, except to address the suggestions by Labbee that she was the victim of police misconduct. Saulnier responded that the only possible remedy was that the misconduct was so egregious as to constitute a rare case that called for a stay of proceedings.

Brown presented one example of case law for Labbee to consider regarding police misconduct. She will present her final submissions on Tuesday (April 6).

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