A Sun reporter accused of paying a prison guard for news that a notorious inmate committed suicide did not write the story that the allegation is based on, the court heard.
William Clegg QC, for reporter John Troup, said the prosecution was "misconceived" in alleging the journalist conspired to bribe a public official.
He said prosecutors had mistakenly accused Troup of being part of a culture of corruption at The Sun when even the judge had noted there was no evidence to support that wide-ranging claim.
"The prosecution case as opened to you was misconceived and it was wrong," he said.
"That's a very sad indictment of any prosecution, let alone against a man like John Troup."
The court has heard Troup is accused of paying for the story entitled "hitman hanging" from a prison guard at HMP Whitemoor.
But he told jurors he was undercover at the HMRC office in Euston on the day the story was written, and had erroneously admitted to penning the tale.
"You know he was busy writing the exclusive, going under cover at the tax office – he was doing something else," said Clegg.
"The absolute clincher is a check has been made on email traffic between John Troup and the news desk in the two days up to publication of the article and there's no email sending the article in by John Troup to the news desk.
"He couldn't have sent it in, he can't have written it.
"There's no other way the article could have got there."
Troup said in evidence he now believes Simon Hughes, another Sun journalist, had written the story and stood it up based on the information passed on from his source.
He has admitted he had a source on the story, but said he could not remember writing the story.
"It's clear for anybody to realise now that John Troup never wrote the hitman hanging article, he never stood it up and it was an honest error when he said he had," said Clegg.
"This isn't a man with selective amnesia, this is a man trying to piece together something that happened many years before."
Clegg said the reporter's case is he only learned the source was a prison guard in a second call after the story had been published.
He said: "As inevitably happened, the person waiting for the money is doubtlessly scouring every inch of The Sun for any sign of his story.
"Eventually he found his hitman hanging story and so he phones back John Troup and says 'yippee, it's in the paper, you published my story, I want my money'."
But Clegg asked jurors to consider if they could be sure it was actually a prison guard passing on the information.
"All the prisoners would know he committed suicide and you may think they would all know why he was in solitary confinement," he said.
"Any prisoner could have phoned out the information about the death.
"It's potentially a dull existence in prison, a boring routine day after day.
"This at least was something out of the ordinary, something to talk about to relatives."
He added notices of the death were put up around the prison, and even relatives of the dead man could have decided to "cash in" by ringing the paper.
Clegg also told jurors they would have to consider if news of the death had come to the prison guard outside of work hours, in a conversation in the pub, then it would not amount to misconduct by passing it on.
He closed his speech by saying a "fortune" had been spent on the prosecution, and urged the jurors to find Troup not guilty.
"This is the last speech at the end of what's been a long and memorable trial and what an odd trial it's been.
"No one's died, no one's been attacked, no one had anything stolen.
"But a fortune of our money has been spent prosecuting these newspaper men for publishing the truth.
"No one suggests that any story is a lie.
"These men, each of them with careers in other circumstances they could be proud of, all of them of good character and all now in peril before you.
"Mr Troup is a dedicated and perhaps slightly old-fashioned journalist, a man who enjoyed being out on the road finding the stories.
"All agreed the sort of man you would be proud to count as a friend, described in the evidence as honest, hard-working, and a devoted dad.
"Make no mistake, come January, you 12 will be making the most important decisions in his life, you must decide if he's to be branded a criminal or if he leaves this court again and can say I'm a man of good character."
The jury have been sent away until January 5 next year, when the judge will sum up the case and the jury will retire to consider its verdict.
"You have been privileged to hear speeches, each one which was exceptionally well argued in support of the cases that each QC has addressed you, all argued by among the very finest of the criminal bar."