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Jury gets murder case; deliberations resume in the morning

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CANTON — The murder case against three Ogdensburg men headed to the jury Monday afternoon, with deliberations breaking for the day shortly after 6 p.m.

Anthony W. Lalonde, Michael D. Durand and Michael S. Thorpe are charged with second-degree murder and first-degree robbery in the Nov. 18, 2010, death of Ralph E. “Gene” Lawton, 83, who lived in an upstairs apartment at 930 Ford St., Ogdensburg. Mr. Lawton died of injuries suffered in a scuffle in which a pre-existing aortic aneurysm burst and caused fatal internal bleeding, according to a forensic examiner’s testimony.

Closing arguments wrapped up shortly after noon, but deliberations did not begin until about 3:15 p.m., following explanation of the charges and legal terms to the jury by St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards.

Jurors returned to the courtroom at 4:25 p.m. Monday after asking the judge for the transcript of testimony by the first witness, Mr. Lawton’s roommate, Guy C. Bartlett, to be read back to them. That took about 80 minutes.

“Evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that these three defendants entered his apartment with dark clothes, hoodies, masks, gloves and carrying at least one weapon,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Amanda N. Nissen said earlier in her closing arguments.

Ms. Nissen used a slide presentation in making her final argument that a combination of witness testimony and physical evidence connected the men to advance planning, the scene of the crime and confessions after the incident.

Before Ms. Nissen’s statement, each defendant’s attorney also made closing arguments. The defense lawyers argued that the physical evidence was insufficient or nonexistent, and that witness testimony was inconsistent and came from several sources who were not credible.

Among those witnesses was Victor R. Gardner, a friend of Thorpe who testified to being present for the planning of the robbery but declined to participate. Mr. Gardner also said that he later was in a car when evidence was tossed over a bridge, and that all three men confessed their participation to him at different times.

Durand’s attorney, Gary W. Miles, took aim at Mr. Gardner, a felon who was sentenced to a nine-year prison sentence in 2009 after admitting to his own role in numerous burglaries.

“If you believe Victor Gardner, the actual execution of this crime was the only thing he didn’t have any part in,” Mr. Miles said.

Ms. Nissen pointed out that Mr. Gardner cried on the stand when testifying about the man he called “Thorpey.” “It was not easy for him to testify about someone he cared about,” Ms. Nissen said, adding that Mr. Gardner received no consideration from prosecutors in exchange for his testimony.

Deliberations are to resume at 9:30 a.m. today.

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