That's No Excuse: The Canadian Who Said He Was Framed for Attempted Murder by a Stranger Who Gave Him…

Crime
A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
March 5 2013 5:57 PM

That's No Excuse: The Canadian Who Said He Was Framed for Attempted Murder by a Stranger Who Gave Him a Free Car

Toronto Blue Jays
A Toronto Blue Jays cap.

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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Ever since an unathletic high school classmate tried to get out of gym class one day by pleading jet lag (he’d recently flown from Florida to Chicago), I have been fascinated and delighted by horrible excuses. And so I’m grateful to the reader who sent along this story spotlighting the worst excuse I’ve ever heard, proffered recently by a Canadian defendant on trial for attempted murder. It’s my hope that this will be the first of a long-running series spotlighting unconvincing alibis.

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Crime: Attempted murder.

The facts: In June 2010, two Ottawa residents were brutally attacked during a home invasion. François Renaud was stabbed about 20 times; his wife, Amalie Thomas, had her throat cut all the way back to her spine. Amazingly, both lived. Soon thereafter, Richard Keith Blake was arrested and charged with attempted murder. The evidence against him seemed overwhelming: He was caught driving Renaud and Thomas’s SUV; bloody gloves and a bloody knife were found inside the car; knives matching those used in the attack were found on top of Blake’s microwave; Renaud’s blood was found on Blake’s T-shirt; Renaud and Thomas both identified Blake as the man who had almost stabbed them both to death.

The alibi: At trial, Blake claimed it was all one big misunderstanding. I’ll let Andrew Seymour of the Ottawa Citizen take it from here:

Blake admitted he touched one of the knives and a pair of bloody gloves used during the attack after unwittingly being inserted into the crime by a mysterious stranger with “movie star white teeth” who hugged him and then offered him a free SUV at five in the morning, which he excitedly but naively accepted.

So far, so good. Granted, it’s not every day some guy you meet on the street offers you a free car. But stranger things have happened, and perhaps believing that he was participating in some Cash Cab-style game show, Blake got inside:

The knife and gloves were on the seat under a black Toronto Blue Jays toque matching the description of the one the attacker wore, that Blake said he immediately tried on after climbing into his new ride.

What’s better than a free car? A free car, a free hat, and a free knife. Thrilled by his amazing luck, Blake stopped at his house, where he packed an overnight bag before setting out to visit his mother. But police soon found Blake driving his sweet new ride, and tried to stop him. Blake banged into a police cruiser, ditched the SUV, and ran and hid in a tree. Sounds suspicious, right? Wrong:

Blake said he ran because that’s what his brain told him to do, but decided to stop when he realized he had no reason to run.
But the flies were bugging him, he said, so he climbed a tree to get away from the airborne insects.

So, to recap: A stranger offered Blake a free car, inside of which were several items that had just been used in a vicious stabbing. Blake touched all of these items, mixing his DNA with the blood of the stabbing victims, before becoming caught in an inexplicable police chase. Later, he hid in a tree to avoid being bitten by flies.

Hard to believe? According to Blake’s attorney, Glen Orr, the story is more plausible than the alternative: that Blake broke into Renaud and Thomas’s house at random, nearly killed both of them, and then fled in the victims’ SUV, leaving the weapons in the car. “Nobody could be that stupid to formulate a plan like that, it’s just impossible,” Orr said in court. “They’d have to be a roaring, raving lunatic to even contemplate that situation.”

You know who weren’t roaring, raving lunatics? The members of the jury. A “dejected-looking” Blake was convicted of the crime. He has not yet been sentenced.

Why this is a bad alibi: The old maxim about “the bigger the lie, the easier it is to believe” might work for governments, but it’s a terrible strategy for criminal defendants. Yes, “a mysterious stranger did it” is a standard criminal defense, but the excuse has to contain an element of plausibility. The free car, the mysterious stranger, and the vicious swarm of flies don’t quite hit the mark. And the part about how he put on the baseball hat he found in the car because he liked the Blue Jays? Please. Nobody likes the Blue Jays.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.

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