TORONTO – Witnesses testifying against Jian Ghomeshi may have suffered credibility issues, but the Crown’s closing statement should make some “serious noise” over whether that actually disproves the charges, one criminal lawyer suggests.
Closing arguments in the ex-CBC host’s sexual assault trial are set to begin Thursday, and lawyer Alvin Shidlowski says the Crown will likely stress the point that while Ghomeshi’s lawyers raised doubts over witness credibility, they said little about the alleged attacks themselves.
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As an example, he points to the first witness who claimed Ghomeshi punched her in the head three times.
“[Defence lawyer Marie Henein] didn’t ask a single question about that in cross-examination,” Shidlowski said.
“To the extent that the defence counsel has failed to ask or intentionally did not ask about those events, I expect the Crown attorney will make some noise.”
Forty-eight-year-old Ghomeshi has pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual assault, and one count of overcome resistance by choking. He acknowledged in 2014 that he engaged in rough sex acts, but said it was consensual.
Shidlowski says the defence exposed critical credibility issues in the Crown’s case, particularly with complainant Lucy DeCourtere, who sent Ghomeshi what the defence referred to as a “love letter” dated after the alleged assault.
“If I was the Crown attorney, I would give up on Lucy Decoutere’s allegations,” Shidlowski said. “I think the court likely has some very serious concerns about the reliability and credibility of those allegations.”
However, he says the testimony of two other witnesses would be less problematic for the court.
“Yes, are there some inconsistencies with their stories… but it shouldn’t be so much as to undermine confidence in all of their testimony in regard to the allegations of the actual events of violence,” he said.
As for the defence, Shidlowski said the closing argument is going to be “very straightforward,” focusing on witness credibility and ignoring allegations of violence.
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“The defence will argue that the reliability and credibility of each one of these witnesses has been so undermined that there’s no possible way that the judge could be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said. “And I think they’ll try to gloss over the fact that they didn’t ask details about the specific events of violence.”
Shidlowski said the case Crown’s case has gone very badly, and the outcome remains “anyone’s guess.” However, he predicts Ghomeshi will be at least partially exonerated.
“I would not be surprised if Ghomeshi were to be acquitted on most of the charges.”
Court convened briefly Wednesday to hear new evidence from a fourth witness, DeCoutere’s friend and Trailer Park Boys co-star Sara Dunsworth.
Since Ghomeshi did not testify, the Crown will be the first to make its closing argument when court reconvenes Thursday morning.
Ghomeshi will face a second trial in June on a separate charge of sexual assault, which arose from an alleged incident in January 2008 while he was the host of the CBC Radio show Q.
With a file from Adam Miller.