Monday, May 23, 2016

Jian Ghomeshi Not Guilty on 5 Counts of Sexual Assault

Last March in the first of two sexual assault trials, Mr. Ghomeshi was acquitted of all charges. A second trial that addresses a complaint of a co-worker is set to begin on June 6.

Mr. Ghomeshi leaves court with his lawyer. (Image: The Guardian)

Initially Mr. Ghomeshi was charged with eight counts of sexual assault. He has been acquitted of five of them now. Two more were dropped by the prosecution citing a low chance of conviction. The second trial will begin in two weeks time.

Even after the ruling the case remains highly controversial. A good indicator is usually the various ways the press reports about it. CBC, Mr. Ghomeshi's former employer writes about the ruling:

"Judge William Horkins, in a searing rebuke of the complainants, said that their "deceptive and manipulative" evidence raised a reasonable doubt in the guilt of Ghomeshi."

The judge accused one woman of playing chicken with the justice system. On the other hand judge Horkins also stressed:

"...acquittal was not the same as asserting the events in question never happened."

I was puzzled. Frankly, I believe as a judge you cannot have it both ways. Judge Horkins said that in the course of the trial it became clear that each witness was “less than full and frank and forthcoming” in their statements to media, police and the court.

Besides the difficulty of securing a conviction in a sexual assault trial, the case highlights the privilige of money that helps pays for an expensive - and often more succesful - defense. Ghomeshi hired Marie Henein, one of Canada’s most prominent defense attorneys, who meticulously pored over details in each accuser’s story during cross-examination and, with an eye toward reasonable doubt, highlighted any inconsistencies she found.

The second trial deals with sexual assault in the workplace. The woman who came forward and complained to management was told "that Ghomeshi, a popular public figure, “was the way he was” and she’d have to “figure out how to cope with that.”"

A conviction is by no means guaranteed. Many legal observers doubt that the prosecution will be able to present a compelling case, the main reason for that seems an unduly influence of the past on the future.



Note:
Today, May 26,  I read a post by Not Just Bitchy, published shortly after the verdict: "I believe you." For some reason the presiding judge stressed that acquittal was not the same as asserting the events in question never happened. My gut reaction was "uh?" A red flag, if ever there was one. My post sums up the facts. Her post is personal and maybe worth reading. A list of resources is included at the end.

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