Jury set to give verdict in teens’ murder trial

Lewes crown court
Lewes crown court

The fate of a teenage defendant in a murder trial rests on circumstantial evidence, a jury was told.

Mr Justice Singh told the jury the evidence given during the trial against Stuart Johnson was circumstantial because nobody had seen him with a knife or stab Darren Croxton.

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 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 jury: “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 as apposed 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 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 a pre arranged 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 his left thigh had severed a femoral artery, causing fatal haemorrhaging and a cardiac arrest.

Defending the youth, Simon Russell-Flint QC asked the jury: “Are you going to convict this young man on the word of Louis Holt?

“It’s only him that places a knife in [the youth’s] hands.”

He added: ”There can be no doubt if you go through each witness’s evidence that each one is making things up. They have fabricated things they have seen, heard or done.

“Lie after lie has been told to you in order for you to convict [the youth] for something he’s not done.

“Lies told to you so somebody gets the blame for Darren Croxton’s death.

“What they cannot bring themselves to contemplate is that Darren Croxton was the author of his own death.”

Mr Russell-Flint had previously claimed that Mr Croxton had stabbed himself while swinging a knife as the defendant held him from behind.

The 12 members of the jury were given direction by Mr Justice Singh on Monday and retired to consider their verdict the next day.

They were still retired at the time of going to press.