The Ghomeshi Verdict: Part 3

GeorgiaLeeLang016While some have tried to characterize this decision as gender discrimination, the truth is these witnesses can blame no one but themselves for the Court’s devastating critique of their characters.”

The allegations against Mr. Ghomeshi came from three witnesses, each of whom was thoroughly discredited. That the Crown did not abort their case mid-trial is astonishing to me. I can only imagine the conversations between the Crown lawyers and their embarrassment as they presented their case.

The third witness/victim was referred to as S.D. She was a professional dancer and met Mr. Ghomeshi after a performance in Toronto. They had one dinner date and then met after one of her shows and took a walk to a local park. S.D. told the police that it was after dark when they sat on a park bench and kissed. She said she felt his hands and teeth on her neck. She said it was “not right”, “rough”, and unwelcome. She socialized with Mr. Ghomeshi at public events two or three times after that evening and then had no further relationship with him.

Her evidence at trial was problematic. It was imprecise and inconsistent. An excerpt from the trial illustrates this:

“ He had his hand-it was sort of-it was sort of his hands were on my shoulders, kind of my arms here, and then it was-and then I felt his teeth and his hands around my neck…It was rough but-yeah, it was rough.”

Question: “Were his hands open, were they closed?

Answer: “It’s really hard for me to say, but it was just-I felt his hands around my neck, all around my neck…And I –I think I tried to-I tried to get out of it and then his hand was on my mouth, sort of smothering me.”

When asked about her report to the police and the lack of detail she said she was still “trying to figure it out”. When asked if she had spoken to one of the other witnesses before providing her evidence to the police she said she had not. However, under cross-examination she admitted that she had.

Most damaging to S.D. were the Court’s findings that she and witness Lucy DeCoutere had joined forces to bring Mr. Ghomeshi “down”. S.D. and Ms. DeCoutere had exchanged 5,000 emails in a 12-month period. The Court described the strong bond forged between the two women as they discussed witnesses, court dates, and meetings with the Crown. They initially hired the same lawyer and shared a “publicist”, an unusual professional adjunct for a sexual assault victim.

S.D. was adamant that she cut off all further contact with Mr. Ghomeshi and tried to “keep her distance”. What she failed to disclose until the trial was that she and Mr. Ghomeshi had another date at her home where she admitted they “messed around”, describing the sexual acts she engaged in on that occasion. She was forced to admit she had deliberately lied and tried to conceal her continuing relationship with him.

She explained she didn’t think it was important and invoked the Bill Clinton defence “we did not have sexual relations”.  It didn’t work for Bill and clearly undermined her testimony.

The Court also learned that six months after the alleged assault she sent Mr. Ghomeshi an email inquiring whether he “still wanted to have that drink sometime?” Not exactly the sentiment of someone trying to keep their distance from an alleged sexual offender.

Of course we know that Mr. Ghomeshi was acquitted of all charges, thanks to the tenacity of his lawyer, Marie Henein. The Court commented on her skillful cross-examination of the three witnesses:

“The cross-examination dramatically demonstrated that each complainant was less then full, frank and forthcoming in the information they provided to the media, to the police, to Crown Counsel and to this Court.”

The sad truth is that once a witness perjures her or himself their credibility is lost. The Court said the “volume of serious deficiencies in the evidence left the Court with reasonable doubt.”

While some have tried to characterize this decision as gender discrimination, the truth is these witnesses can blame no one but themselves for the Court’s devastating critique of their characters.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

The Ghomeshi Verdict: Part 1

BarristerIn the aftermath of ex-CBC celebrity Jian Ghomeshi’s acquittal on sexual assault charges, you could feel sympathy for the misunderstood victims and their placard-waving supporters. Yes, you could…but you shouldn’t.

The ever-changing testimony of the three women who alleged that Mr. Ghomeshi assaulted them presented a field day for any lawyer with a rudimentary ability to cross-examine. For Mr. Ghomeshi’s highly skilled advocate, Marie Henein, it was “easy pickings” and here’s why.

The witness referred to as L.R. met Mr. Ghomeshi at the CBC Christmas party in 2002 where she was hired as a waitress. After a brief flirtation, he invited her to come to the CBC studio to see him tape his show. She attended several times alone and their sexual interaction was limited to kissing. One time as they sat in his car, he suddenly “pulled her hair”, which puzzled her, but did not impact their continuing relationship.  On the last occasion she came to the studio with a girlfriend. The three of them went out for drinks after the show, and later Mr. Ghomeshi suggested they go to his home. L.R. agreed, while her girlfriend declined.

L.R. and Mr. Ghomeshi were in the living room when suddenly “out of the blue” he came up behind her, grabbed her hair and pulled it.

He then punched her in the head several times and pulled her to her knees. The force of the blow was significant. She said it felt like walking into a pole or hitting her head on the pavement. L.R. thought she might pass out. She testified that as quickly as the violence started, Mr. Ghomeshi’s apparent rage subsided and he told her he would call her a taxi to take her home. L.R. admitted that she felt that he threw her out “like trash.”

Unfortunately for L.R., her evidence at trial contradicted what she told the police, recorded in a written witness statement, and did not jive with her media interviews before the trial. The discrepancies included:

L.R. said that Mr. Ghomeshi’s cute, bright yellow Volkswagen “bug” gave her a sense of comfort that he was a kind, nice guy. The only problem was that he did not purchase the vehicle until seven months after their “relationship” ended. And yet she was “so sure”.

The day after L.R.’s police interview, she called the investigating officer to let them know that she had now remembered that the assault in the car was not just hair pulling.  She said he also slammed her head against the car window. At trial she reversed herself, and denied she acted out the head-slamming scene for the police. A police video played in court proved otherwise.

In her initial police interview she did not tell the police that before the alleged assault at Mr. Ghomeshi’s home, they were kissing, a fact she revealed at trial. The import of this additional evidence served to turn an assault into a more serious sexual assault.

L.R. was adamant that after the second incident she ceased all contact with Mr. Ghomeshi. But it simply wasn’t true. She sent him multiple emails and a photograph of herself wearing a red string bikini. She never mentioned any of this to the police or the prosecution and was ambushed at trial with her glaring omissions.

Not surprisingly, L.R.’s evidence was rejected by the trial judge, William B. Horkins, who wrote in his Reasons:

“L.R. has been exposed as a witness willing to withhold relevant information from the police, from the Crown and from the Court. It is clear that she deliberately breached her oath to tell the truth. Her value as a reliable witness is diminished accordingly.”

However, L.R.’s difficulty with telling the truth, the whole truth, is eclipsed by the evidence of the two other women, whose evidence will be the subject of Parts 2 and 3 of The Ghomseshi Verdict.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang