‘Etienne Bartolo was clearly scared of Roderick Grech and not vice versa’ defence lawyer tells jurors

Etienne Bartolo is accused of murdering Roderick Grech in Birkirkara three years ago

Judge Consuelo Scerri Herrera (left) with other courtroom players at the scene of the crime in Birkirkara on Thursday afternoon
Judge Consuelo Scerri Herrera (left) with other courtroom players at the scene of the crime in Birkirkara on Thursday afternoon

Lawyer Edward Gatt began his closing arguments this morning, after the prosecution declared its submissions closed in the trial by jury of Etienne Bartolo.

Gatt made the case for Bartolo having acted in self-defence when he stabbed drug dealer Roderick Grech six times, killing him, in 2017. “I am going to ask you to punish him for what he did but not for what he didn’t do. Don’t expect the defence to come up with a fantastic account to mislead you and get a better result than it deserves,” said the lawyer.

 “Look at who is credible and who is not, look at the behaviour of the witnesses on the stand. During the interrogation. Look at the body language and demeanour.

Nothing happens in the court room by accident,” he said.

“Don’t let prejudice meddle with your judgment,” said the lawyer. “Just because a person consumes drugs doesn’t mean that you can pigeonhole him. The same with persons who deal in drugs. This is a jury of unfortunates, because in this jury everyone has lost. Unfortunately, this is what drugs bring with them. But if you decide to take drugs it is your choice, and if you decide to go work for Jordan (Azzopard) it is your choice!”

Alleged drug kingpin Azzopardi was previously summoned to testify in the trial, but had refused to answer questions to avoid self-incrimination.

There are murders and deaths resulting from drugs, Gatt went on, but that someone is involved in a death in the manner put forward by the AG is not realistic, he said. “Nobody murders for a dose of drugs. Drugs are a curse. But in feasts, weddings, everyone doing lines of cocaine…it would be a genocide! And so he murdered him for drugs and yet they found the drugs at the scene?”

The defence lawyer also lambasted the investigation. “What are the police saying when they said that they were investigating a murder and not drug trafficking? So you didn’t bring your colleague from the Drugs Squad, Economic Crimes Unit to investigate the drug trafficking and usury? It was a ridiculous investigation.”

The accused was clearly scared of the victim and not vice-versa, said the laywer, arguing that Bartolo didn’t go to meet Grech with a truncheon to break his legs, but with a knife.

Reminding the jurors that all they needed for an acquittal was a probability of innocence, he asked whether it was probable that the stab wounds were made in self-defence.

“Is it probable that persons buying from drug couriers dislike them? If that courier beats you up will your dislike increase? Was it probable that Bartolo was trying to get out of the car? Was it probable that Grech was on top of him?”

The trial continues.

Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera is presiding over the trial.

Lawyers Kevin Valletta and Maria Francesca Spiteri from the Office of the Attorney General are prosecuting.

Lawyers Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo are defence counsel.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Amadeus Cachia are appearing parte civile.

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