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Client considering appeal following murder trial verdict

Toronto criminal lawyer Breese Davies says her client Todd Howley is considering the next steps for an appeal, after a jury in Bracebridge found him guilty of first-degree murder in the death of a Toronto businessman, reports the Toronto Star.

“We’re very disappointed with the verdict,” says Davies.

As the Star reports, Howley developed technology he claimed would grow algae that could be turned into fuel, which attracted the attention of investor Paul Maasland in 2009.

The following year, Maasland, through his investment firm Verdant Financial Partners, intended to acquire Howley’s company, contingent on the technology passing a series of tests. The article notes that Maasland lent Howley $105,000 and the technology passed the first test but failed the second.

The third test was scheduled for Aug. 29, 2010. Maasland allegedly arrived at Howley’s Oakville warehouse that morning and his violently beaten body was discovered at a public boat launch in Bracebridge the next day.

Over the course of the 12-week trial, Crown prosecutors argued that Howley had planned the murder for weeks, and then beat Maasland to death in the warehouse to keep it from becoming public knowledge that his technology didn’t pass muster, the Star reports, which would destroy deals he was trying to make with American companies.

Davies told the jury it made no sense for Howley to plan for weeks to kill Maasland and blame someone else, only to commit the murder at his own warehouse.

The article notes that a bizarre, anonymous letter was also sent to police, suggesting two women who had partied with Maasland in Muskoka were responsible for the murder. 

Davies told the jury that Howley would not have written the strange letter on his own computer and left it for police to find. Davies also pointed out that some of the fingerprints found on the letter were never identified, the letter was printed on a printer that Howley did not own and the stamp on the envelope did not come from Howley’s warehouse, suggesting that someone other than Howley wrote, printed and mailed the anonymous letter.

Davies also dismissed the financial motive, arguing there was no indication Maasland was going to abandon the deal and that Maasland was aware Howley was in contact with U.S. investors.

As the Globe and Mail reports, Davies told the jury that the crime is still a mystery, and Maasland wasn’t at the warehouse that Sunday. Davies told the court that her client couldn’t possibly have laid out enough plastic, or cleaned up well enough to leave so little trace of the blood that would have been splattered around the warehouse.

Despite the two tests, Davies argued that Maasland wasn’t close to backing away from the project. “He thought the technology was an epiphany,” she said.

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