The media attention poured onto the Jian Ghomeshi trial – from the original accusations to today – could pose serious problems for the prosecution as the former CBC host’s defence team uses statements to the media and police to poke holes in the complainant’s story.
The first day of the sexual assault trial of the former CBC radio host, which is being closely followed across the country and around the world, saw Ghomeshi’s defence team tear into the inconsistent statements of a woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted.
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Dalhousie University law professor Elaine Craig says it’s a “very common” strategy used by defence lawyers in sexual assault case is to point out conflicting statements made by the complainant to police, media or pre-trial hearing.
“What is potentially unique here is in addition to the statement or statements to the police or examined by the crown you also have statements made to the CBC and the Star that obviously creates the potential for further inconsistencies,” Craig said. “Understandably, any of us giving multiple accounts of the same incident or incidents over time there is going to be some variance in the detail.”
“It poses potential challenges that might not be present in other cases that aren’t so high profile.”
Ghomeshi’s trial began Monday at Old City Hall court in Toronto where he faces four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcome resistance by choking. He has pleaded not guilty.
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Defence lawyer Marie Henein used her cross-examination of the first witness, whose identity is protected under publication ban, to point to several inconsistencies including the witnesses’ description of Ghomeshi’s car yellow Volkswagen Beetle, whether or not she wore hair extensions at the time of the incident, and conflicting court testimony and prior interviews with the Toronto, CBC’s The National and As It Happens.
The coverage of the trial has been extensive, with most media outlets, including the Global News, reporting live throughout the day’s court proceedings.
“It has got to be close to unprecedented,” said Craig. “Anytime you inject something new and unprecedented like that it has the potential to present challenges on both sides that we might not even anticipate at this point.”
The trial, which is being conducted before a judge only, heard Tuesday the alleged victim who said she went to great lengths to avoid any contact with Jian Ghomeshi admitted that she sent him flirtatious emails after the alleged attack in an attempt to “bait” him.
Henein produced two emails that appeared to contradict the woman’s earlier statements that she was so traumatized; she would “turn off” the TV or radio if he was on.
Peter Rosenthal, adjunct professor of law at the University of Toronto, said the discrepancies could pile up against the witness.
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