The fate of a teenage defendant in a murder trial rests on circumstantial evidence, a jury was told.
Mr Justice Singh told the court the evidence given during the trial against Stuart Johnson was circumstantial because nobody had seen him stab Darren Croxton – or with a knife.
The 19-year-old, of no fixed abode, is charged with murder alongside a youth who cannot be named for legal reasons. Both defendants deny the charge.
The prosecution’s case rests on a ‘joint enterprise’ between the defendants, claiming they both knew of a plan to seriously harm Mr Croxton in the lead up to the fatal wounding.
The jury at Lewes Crown Court had previously heard how the youth was allegedly seen holding a knife by witness Louis Holt, the best friend of Mr Croxton.
Mr Justice Singh told the court, “If you are sure Stuart Johnson did what’s alleged against him, for example during the alleged chase, but not party to the fatal wound, you must not find him guilty.
“This is because the prosecution’s case is that any wounds he inflicted did not cause Darren Croxton’s death.
“A great deal of evidence in this case consists of circumstantial opposed to direct evidence in the case of Stuart Johnson because nobody saw him with a knife or stab him as alleged by the prosecution.”
Earlier in the day the jury had heard from Mr Johnson’s defence barrister Alan Kent QC.
Mr Kent said, “The facts of the case are that Stuart Johnson not only didn’t have a knife and didn’t use a knife but he didn’t even have an opportunity to use a knife.”
He added, “There is no evidence of a joint plan whatsoever and no evidence because there wasn’t one.
“The crown has got it wrong, woefully wrong. We say the evidence doesn’t go anywhere near proving he [Johnson] is guilty, but say it proves the very opposite.”
Mr Croxton died after an organised fight between two rival groups of people in a wooded area near the Diplocks Estate in Hailsham.
The court heard how a knife wound to the 26-year-old’s left thigh had severed a femoral artery, causing fatal hemorrhaging and a cardiac arrest.
The 12 members of the jury were given direction by Mr Justice Singh and were due to retire to consider their verdict today (Tuesday February 19).