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Michael Rafferty found guilty after day of jury's questions

Terri-Lynne McClintic t is interviewed by OPP Det.-Sgt. Jim Smyth in an on May 29, 2009.

Warning: This story contains disturbing details

Michael Rafferty has been found guilty of first degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault causing bodily harm in the murder of eight-year-old Tori Stafford.

The jury reached a verdict after a full, 12-hour day of deliberations.

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The nine-woman, three-man panel reached its conclusion just after 9 p.m. and reporters crowded into the court.

The announcement capped a day of questions from the jury.

Around 10 a.m. Friday, the jury weighing the fate of Michael Rafferty asked to re-watch a video of Ontario Provincial Police investigator Jim Smyth questioning Terri-Lynne McClintic about the crime.

In the interview, which took place on May 24, 2009, five days after her initial confession, she describes the crime in detail.

The video was a significant part of the prosecution's case. In it, Ms. McClintic says her former boyfriend, Michael Rafferty, bashed Tori's head in with a hammer. But at his trial, she reneged on this aspect of her story, saying it was actually she who killed the little girl after Mr. Rafferty raped her in the back seat of his car.

In the video, Ms. McClintic sobs as Detective-Sergeant Smyth presses her for details, sitting just a foot or two away in an interview room.

"This is already the most serious charge," he says. "It doesn't get any worse."

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Around 3 p.m., the jury had two more questions. In the first, they asked: If two people are present when a child's clothes are removed from the waist down, can both be charged with a sexual assault?

In closing arguments, prosecutors proffered the fact Tori was found naked from the waist down as evidence of a sexual assault.

Mr. Justice Thomas Heeney asked the jury to clarify the question, as it did not specify what, if anything, the second person was doing when the clothes were removed. The jury returned with a different question: If a child's clothing is removed while the child is unlawfully confined, would that constitute sexual assault?

Yes, the judge told them.

The jury also asked the judge to clarify a point in his charge that concerned whether they could reach a verdict if they simply disbelieved some evidence that pointed towards innocence. No, Mr. Justice Heeney said: Even if they totally reject evidence that points towards someone's innocence, they still have to believe other evidence to convict.

The jury will continue deliberations Friday as the little girl's family, supporters and other curious spectators remain nearby, awaiting their verdict.

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The jury will sit until 9 p.m. If they haven't reached a verdict by then, they will continue deliberating Saturday at 9 a.m.

Defence lawyer Dirk Derstine also made his first comments to reporters regarding the various things found on his client's computer – including child pornography and internet searches for "real underage rape" – that was not presented at trial. Much of the evidence was excluded because Judge Heeney found investigators did not have the proper search warrant.

"It has the potential to change the verdict," Mr. Derstine said of the material. "But it wasn't excluded to be nice to Mr. Rafferty, it was excluded because it was illegally seized from him."

He said the rights to a fair trial and to be free from unreasonable search and seizure "belong to every Canadian."

"It's my job," he said of his defence of Mr. Rafferty. "It's never asked of a surgeon to determine if someone's a nice guy (before operating.)"

Tori's mother, Tara McDonald, arrived on Friday carrying her two favourite photos of her daughter. Tori's father, Rodney Stafford, wore a purple tie – his daughter's favourite colour – as he walked in with his girlfriend and several relatives shortly before 9 a.m.

The nine-woman, three-man panel was sequestered overnight in a hotel, common practice at major trials, and will resume discussions on the 14th floor of London's downtown courthouse.

Mr. Rafferty is charged with kidnapping, sexual assault causing bodily harm and first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

With the first two charges, the jury has only two choices: convict Mr. Rafferty or acquit him. But they have the option of bumping the murder charge down to manslaughter if they are convinced he took part in the crime but did not kill Tori himself.

Mr. Rafferty's ex-girlfriend, Terri-Lynne McClintic, abducted the girl outside her Woodstock, Ont. primary school on April 8, 2009. She testified at Mr. Rafferty's trial that she led the girl to his car and the trio drove more than 100 kilometres to a rural laneway. There, Ms. McClintic said, Mr. Rafferty raped Tori in the backseat before she beat the girl to death with a hammer.

Tori's body was found naked from the waist down more than three months later. Ms. McClintic pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and is now serving a life sentence.

Prosecutors argued that Mr. Rafferty was the driving force behind the crime and it makes no difference whether he personally killed Tori or not. Both he and Ms. McClintic, they said, are equally guilty of murder.

Mr. Derstine, however, argued Ms. McClintic was actually the mastermind behind the crime, that his client was merely her chauffeur and never sexually assaulted Tori.

He suggested Mr. Rafferty did not initially realize the little girl had been kidnapped and that Ms. McClintic directed him to drive to the laneway. Once there, he said, she sent Mr. Rafferty away from the car while she committed the murder.

Ms. McClintic rejected this version of events and Mr. Derstine presented little evidence to support it. Mr. Rafferty did not testify in his own defence.

Over the course of the 10-week trial, the jury has heard from 62 witnesses, all but one of them called by the prosecution, and pored over more than 100 pieces of evidence.

As he departed the courthouse during the jury's dinner break at 5.30 p.m., Mr. Rafferty's lawyer said it was interesting that jurors had asked the judge whether taking off a child's clothes constitued a sexual assault.

"If they were sure rape had happened, they wouldn't be asking that question," Mr. Derstine said.

He said it was possible the questions were merely things one or two jurors were curious about and didn't necessarily indicate a consensus.

But he cautioned against drawing conclusions.

"We're all sitting here on pins and needles, wondering: What's it mean? What's it mean?" he said. "But it's impossible to know."

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