Mandel: Rafferty's mom stands by her son 0
As this sad case finally draws to a close, there is at least one woman certain that the smirking man in the prisoner’s box did not abduct, rape and kill Tori Stafford.
But then she is Michael Rafferty’s mom.
In the trial’s nine weeks, Deborah Murphy hadn’t been spotted by the media until she quietly arrived Monday for the defence’s day-long closing argument. Her cane at her side, the well-dressed woman sat at the back of the courtroom, smiling at her son and closely listening to Dirk Derstine’s final efforts to convince jurors that the 31-year-old is not guilty of first-degree murder, sexual assault or kidnapping.
But then, his steadfast mother has never needed convincing.
“My son is innocent,” Murphy insisted before a crush of reporters who waited for her outside the courthouse. “And this could happen to any man walking around right now. Terri-Lynne McClintic has wrecked our lives and I just hope that justice is served and he is free.”
That was the theme of Derstine’s submissions — that McClintic, the prosecution’s key witness, is the only person who directly fingers her former boyfriend as the one who engineered the April 2009 abduction and rape of the bubbly eight-year-old. But the defence lawyer urged the jury to reject everything she says because the convicted killer is an Academy Award-calibre liar with a terrifying, bloodthirsty propensity for savage violence.
And once you discount her, he insisted, the prosecution has no case.
From her childhood torture of a dog to the brutal beating of her mom that left her with 70% blindness in one eye, from the stabbing and robbery of a man to the recent beating and stomping of a fellow inmate, Derstine reminded them that McClintic has sadism in her DNA and is the self-confessed murderer who bashed in Tori’s beautiful blonde head with a claw hammer.
“This is no shrinking violet,” Derstine told the jury.
During her six days on the witness stand, the 21-year-old came to court in demure pumps and a meek manner that would have them believe “that (Rafferty) was the evil genius and she was just the innocent pawn.” In fact, Derstine claimed, it was precisely the opposite.
Rather than following Rafferty’s instructions to kidnap a random young girl for his pleasure, he maintained McClintic had her own agenda that afternoon as she purposely entered an elementary school near her home and, with death rapper Necro pounding through her MP3 player, specifically marched out with Tori, the daughter of a woman who bought drugs from her mom.
“There are 326 students at Oliver Stephens Public School, and yet the one that was abducted was the one whose parents she knew. Is that a coincidence?” he asked sarcastically. “You decide.”
The defence lawyer posed a number of other disturbing questions as he sought to sow the seeds of reasonable doubt: If McClintic wasn’t the architect of this abduction, then why didn’t she use any of several opportunities to let Tori go? If this really wasn’t her plan, how could she calmly ask Rafferty to get her a green tea from Tim Hortons while the terrified child lay sobbing in the back seat? If she didn’t want any harm to come to Tori, how could she skip into Home Depot — supposedly on his orders to buy murder tools — and not call 911?
“What on God’s green acre could she have been thinking to continue with this scheme if she was not the engine behind it?” he asked the jury.
It was an excellent job of smoke and mirrors. But blaming McClintic hardly absolves his client.
Even if she was the director of the whole horrific plan, all of the exact same questions could be asked of Rafferty: If he was truly the innocent dupe, why didn’t he set Tori free when he realized she was being held against her will? If he wasn’t an active participant, why didn’t he throw the twisted McClintic out of his car and run back home to his mama?
And if that poor child wasn’t kidnapped as part of some male rape fantasy, why is it that Tori’s broken body was discovered buried in those garbage bags, her pants and underwear nowhere to be found?