May 27, 2015 Alex Eliseev

Victim or “Puppet Master”?

Carrington Laughton spent 13 days on the witness stand. There was far too much testimony for me to cover everything here, save to say that the fundamental dispute over who wrote the hidden confession remains firmly in place. Laughton didn’t move an inch from his claim that he is being framed for murder and that the confession, which was discovered (by pure chance) under a carpet three years ago, is a forgery.

The former private detective was an impressive witness. Prosecutor Herman Broodryk must have realised that he was not going to get him to surrender or admit to anything. Once, somewhere towards the end, Laughton told the court he felt tired. But when asked whether he was willing to continue, he fell straight back into his rhythm.

Most days were consumed by the details – dates, people, places, routes, documents, memories, sequences of events, a missing comma in the court record… Other days saw tense exchanges between prosecutor and accused. Broodryk searched for discrepancies and lies, finding weak spots and applying as much pressure as he could. He also worked on Laughton’s credibility. What was important to the state was all the questions that Laughton didn’t ask its witnesses or the statements that went unchallenged. This, Broodryk argued, showed that he had waited for the state to finish its case before creating a version, which was tailored to fit the evidence.

“All along, you did not have a version,” Broodryk charged. “You made up a version based on the state’s case. You have no defense…”

But Laughton stuck to his guns, arguing that his legal advice was to wait until he opened his case before presenting his version and alibi. He used words like “nonsensical” or “preposterous” to challenge the state’s case. He pushed back against Broodryk when he needed to, accusing him of asking unfair or vague questions.

And so the court has been left with two versions. One presented by Laughton, which shifts the entire time frame of events and has him in another city when the crime is committed. The other offered by the state, which paints him as the “puppet master” of the Betty Ketani kidnapping and murder in mid 1999. We’ll know which the court believes when judgment is delivered.

From here, the defense is calling its own expert witnesses to dispute the DNA and handwriting findings presented by the state. It will also call one of Laughton’s friends to support the allegation that a conspiracy was hatched against him.

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