Unwritten Code of Silence Most Unfortunate, Judge Says

It’s called the code.

Before Norman Lawrence’s first-degree murder trial, its likely most Nova Scotians had never heard of it.

But during the almost five-week long trial, witnesses like Ricky Riggs says he lives by it, as did his friend Michael Forsyth, the man who died two years ago after he was shot eight times in the abdomen and legs.

Mr. Lawrence, who admitted he pulled the trigger, also acknowledged living by it.

“You know it’s most unfortunate this unwritten rule or code is being adhered to, it really is,” Justice Felix Cacchione said during a hearing held when the Nova Scotia Supreme Court jury wasn’t in the courtroom.

“Not only would you have a week-long trial but you’d be closer to establishing what went down in those crucial 10 or 15 minutes” before Mr. Forsyth was shot, he told lawyers arguing the case.

As Mr. Lawrence testified in his own defence, he explained that people in his Greystone Drive neighborhood live by the code. Hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing are the basic rules, he told the jury. You stand by your friends and never call the cops.

Failure to comply means exile and a label as a rat.

“You wouldn’t want to live there after that,” Mr. Lawrence said.

It was obvious throughout the trial that some of the more than 40 witnesses hadn’t come forward voluntarily.

Perhaps the reluctance was most evident with Ricky Riggs, who was with Mr. Forsyth during his final day.

“The problem … is we are dealing with people who do not have any disregard for rules we deal with in our professional lives and our daily lives,” Justice Cacchione said in the jury’s absence.

“So we have someone like Mr. Riggs who, depending on the moment, will tell you what you want to hear … Quite frankly, that could be said for a number of witnesses, both Crown and defence.”

Jurors heard Mr. Riggs testify only once, although he came to the witness box two other times in their absence as Crown and defence lawyers tried to discover how he would react to questions.

Without the jury present, he often responded to the lawyers with: “I don’t remember” or “I don’t recall.”

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