Lawyer decides not to call accused murderer Robert Clifford to the witness stand

·3 min read
Nichole and Robert Clifford on their wedding day.
Nichole and Robert Clifford on their wedding day.

(Remembering Nichole McKeith/Facebook - image credit)

The defence lawyer representing accused murderer Robert Clifford decided at the last minute Tuesday not to put his client on the witness stand.

Clifford is on trial for the second-degree murder of his estranged wife, Nichole Clifford.

The Wainwright mother of two was stabbed 17 times in her own home in February 2017. The couple had separated in mid-January and Robert Clifford had moved out, though he admitted he snuck back into the house through a broken basement window on at least two occasions.

He was charged with harassment on Jan. 11, breach of probation on Jan. 27 and break and enter on Feb. 8, 2017. His mother posted bail and he was released from the Edmonton Remand Centre on Feb. 16.

Barry Clifford testified Tuesday at his son's trial. He said he was in an "irrational" state of mind when police called looking for his son, and until then had no idea his daughter-in-law was dead.

"I was fired up," he told the court. "Having the audacity to phone my number and try to get some more trumped-up frivolous charges against him. And that made me bitter."

He admitted he lied when he told the officer on the phone his son had been at the farm since the night before.

"I was protecting him from those vicious cops," Barry Clifford testified in St. Paul Court of Queen's Bench. "Because they'll take some story and turn it around to their benefit and maliciously charge him over it. I wasn't having nothing more of it."

Court exhibit
Court exhibit

He refused to let his son talk to the staff sergeant on the phone that night, but agreed to bring his son into the Wainwright detachment the next day for an interview.

He said after he hung up the phone, his son broke down crying.

"I told him, don't say a thing to those cops," Barry Clifford said. "Don't answer their questions. Basically zip it."

Staff Sgt. Carson Creaser testified earlier that Robert Clifford volunteered little information to the RCMP during the interview, but repeated the lie his father had told the night before.

He claimed he had left Wainwright at 6:30 p.m. on the Feb. 23 in a borrowed car and arrived at his parents' farm half an hour later.

During cross-examination, Barry Clifford said he regretted lying to the police after he had a chance to cool down.

"To this day, other than being madder than a wet hen over what they done to him, I was going to protect him no matter what from these cops," he testified. "When you're all fired up and mad, rational thinking just isn't there anymore."

He admitted he has no idea where his son was on the night of the murder, and said Robert showed up at the farm the next morning.

It took police eight months to charge Robert Clifford with second-degree murder.

"After they arrested him, they threatened me on the phone that I'm going to be charged with aiding and abetting and accessory after the fact," Barry Clifford testified. "I don't know what happened. I don't know nothing."

Defence lawyer Timothy Dunlap asked for an adjournment after the father finished on the witness stand. He said he wanted to consult with his client about calling him to testify.

Dunlap soon told Justice Nate Whitling he had decided not to call more witnesses.

The judge is expected to hear closing arguments Wednesday and said he hopes to deliver his decision by Friday.