The man accused of murdering 40-year-old federal inmate Phong-Nien Chau, almost 23 years ago inside Joyceville Penitentiary, told jurors Wednesday that he didn’t do it.
Brian J. Riches testified that he did have a fight with Chau in the common room of the range they shared — 1-B on the ground floor of the prison’s Unit One — but he said it happened “a day or two before” Chau’s body was discovered in his cell.
Riches is charged with first-degree murder in Chau’s death and pleaded not guilty at the outset of his trial eight days ago.
His lawyer, Mike Mandelcorn, in his opening remarks to the jury, reminded them that his client was under no obligation to testify or even mount a defence. The onus lies with the Crown to prove to them that Riches is the person who caused Chau’s death, he said, and “unless each and every one of you is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, he remains innocent.”
Mandelcorn asked Riches under oath if he strangled Chau. “Absolutely not,” Riches responded.
He then asked him if he caused Chau’s death. “No I did not,” Riches replied.
The day of his confrontation with the five-foot-four Chau, Riches testified, he’d gone to the common room, which was also the range food servery, to either take something out of the refrigerator or put something in.
Chau was already there when he entered, he said, and “a number of inmates” were heckling him, calling him names and throwing things at him. He said he couldn’t recall what they were throwing.
Riches told jurors Chau wasn’t liked by his rangemates, but offered no explanation for why. He insisted, under questioning by assistant Crown attorney Janet O’Brien, that he had…
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