Photo by Whitehorse Star
An expert witness says a can of Pepsi found at the scene of Adam Cormack’s murder near Whitehorse has a fingerprint matching the man accused of the crime.
The jury trial of Edward James Penner, 22, continued Thursday, with Deputy Justice Scott Brooker presiding.
Penner is facing one count of first-degree murder related to the death of the 25-year-old Cormack.
RCMP Cpl. Vanessa Philpott was called to the stand to testify as an expert in detection, processing, analysis and identification of fingerprints.
She told the court she received two Pepsi cans related to the case, one empty and the other unopened. She examined both cans for fingerprints.
She explained that there are three types of fingerprints that can be found. These include latent prints, visible prints and moulded prints.
Latent prints are those left on an item that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Visible prints are those that can be seen with the naked eye. Moulded prints are those found in a mould.
Once she found usable fingerprints, Philpott could compare them to others to find a match. She said three prints were found on the empty can and two were discerned on the unopened one.
Both “relatively clean” cans were delivered to her in separate paper bags. The empty can had a dent in it, just above the red portion of the Pepsi logo.
She clarified that the state of the can could affect fingerprints left on it. If there was dust or it was left out in the cold or heat, that could have affected the development of prints.
Philpott explained that several handling marks were found on the cans.
She examined them and took photographs during the investigation. She clarified that just touching the container can leave a handling mark.
That doesn’t mean each mark can be used.
Of all the marks she discovered, only five could be used between the two cans. All others had insufficient details to be analyzed.
Once she had developed the usable prints from both cans, Philpott asked for prints of the victim as well as the person of interest.
She was provided with Cormack’s prints, and made a request to a central database in Ottawa for Penner’s.
Philpott told the jury that Cormack’s prints matched two of the prints found on the unopened can. The prints are from his right ring and middle fingers. His prints were not on the empty can.
She next compared Penner’s prints to the ones on the empty cans.
She was unable to use the prints she received from Ottawa as they did not have enough details for a comparison. Since Penner was in custody at the time, she applied to have him fingerprinted.
“I was able to do a comparison,” she testified.
She found that two of the three prints on the empty can did not match Penner’s but the third did.
She concluded that it was from his left middle finger. The print was on top of the can, facing down.
She said the prints suggest the can was gripped on the top and lifted.
She said the fingerprint matches were done after a ridge-by-ridge comparison of prints on the can and the prints of Cormack and Penner.
She was unable to identify the remaining two prints.
Her supervisor, Sgt. James Giczi, verified her work.
Under cross-examination, Kelly Labine, one of Penner’s defence lawyers, asked if the matches were a subjective conclusion.
Philpott said the process she has to follow is objective but the expert opinion is subjective. She added that if the methodology is not followed properly, it could lead to error.
Labine asked how long a fingerprint could last on the cans. Philpott said it would depend on the circumstances.
“It would have to be ideal conditions,” Philpott said.
Under re-examination, she clarified that the ideal conditions would include no exposure to dust, strong winds, heat, cold, rain or UV rays. In ideal conditions, a fingerprint could last for days.
Labine asked if there were any other items examined. Philpott said there was a bottle cap and a shell casing examined for fingerprints. None were found.
The next Crown witness was Cathy Delorme-Irving, the manager of the Airport Chalet, also referred to as the Paddlewheel Hotel by other witnesses.
Crown prosecutor Tom Lemon showed Delorme-Irving several photos of Penner standing in a room holding an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Delorme-Irving said she recognized the room he was standing in as one of her motel rooms.
She said she recognized the carpeting, comforter on the bed, photos on the walls and furnishings.
She said this room is in the back of the building.
The Crown showed her videos, previously shown, of three people entering a hotel lobby and a bar or lounge type area. Delorme-Irving recognized all the videos as taking place either in the lobby of the Airport Chalet or its lounge.
Penner’s other lawyer, André Ouellette, asked her if the entire décor of the motel rooms are the same as they were 10 years ago, when she first started. She said nothing has changed.
Ouellette asked if the pictures, furnishings, bedding and carpeting were commercial. She said they were.
This concluded the evidence called on Thursday.
The trial did not continue today. It will resume on Monday with more Crown witnesses.
One is expected to be Clarence Haryett, who allegedly drove to the gravel pit with Penner and Cormack at the time of the murder.
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