Witness For The Prosecution: Ghomeshi Acquitted

One of the most vexing prosecutions to the north was that of Jian Ghomeshi, a Canadian musician and radio star charged with sexual assault.  He was cool. He was a voice of social justice. And when he was the target of allegations by more than 23 accusations of sexual abuse, he was unemployed and a pariah. As is the fashion, he was assumed guilty by all, because “survivors” must be believed, and, as has been urged in the Bill Cosby allegations of rape, multiple accusers can’t possibly be wrong.

Ghomeshi was tried and acquitted of four counts of sexual abuse and one count of “overcoming resistance by choking” in a bench trial by Justice William B. Horkins.

While there is a problem when a defendant is convicted, that they can never sufficiently pay their debt to society, no matter what the crime, so that they can move on with a productive, law-abiding life, there is a collateral problem when a defendant is acquitted. Once accused, at least when it comes to a crime of gender, there is no way out. There is no debt to pay, no retribution to cleanse the hatred, no finality, because acquittal does not prove innocence. There is never innocence.

Which leaves a question that demands an answer: what went wrong? How did this obviously guilty person get away with it?  Unsurprisingly, the answer can be found in how “survivors” were failed by the system. Jezebel explains:

After Jian Ghomeshi’s acquittal Thursday morning on sexual abuse charges, two of the women who testified against him spoke to Chatelaine, a Canadian women’s magazine. Both actress Lucy DeCoutere and an anonymous woman say they were ill-prepared to testify; the anonymous woman has launched a website to help assault survivors prepare for court.

The first witness told Chatelaine she was unaware that her rambling, nervous police statement would ultimately be used in court and given to the defense:

They should have informed me that every word I said could be disclosed to the defence should there be a charge. When I went to the police, I felt like I was venting; there wasn’t much direction. The police won’t tell you to take your time, be descriptive, use words and not gestures. It would have been helpful if they had stressed that I check through emails to see if I had any communications with Jian. Jian was read his rights and told anything he says could be used against him in a court of law. It turns out anything a witness says can be used against them, too.

The Toronto police say otherwise, which Jezebel reluctantly offers in a parenthetical.

(The Toronto Police Service told Chatelaine in a statement that all the victims were made aware that their statements were being given under oath, that they could be used in court, and were asked to disclose any further contact they had with Ghomeshi following the alleged assaults.)

Perhaps the victim, unnamed still despite the fact of acquittal, never saw a TV show involving a trial. Who can blame her for that? Perhaps it came as a total surprise to learn that making a complaint of a crime to the police wasn’t the same as “venting” to her support group.  It could happen. Perhaps the idea that the person she accused would be entitled to a defense “felt” so very wrong, because she was the victim survivor. That’s certainly the message being broadcast loud and clear.

Or perhaps the problem was that, as Justice Horkins found, she was not a credible witness.

Meanwhile, actress Lucy DeCoutere was also interviewed by Boesveld, acknowledged that things “spectacularly” fell apart during the trial. She, too, was questioned about warm, flirtatious emails she sent to Ghomeshi followed the alleged assault (“I want to fuck your brains out, tonight” one read) and flowers she sent him:

Post-incident conduct — that term has come to haunt me. When I was concerned about emails with Jian, they were emails from before [the assault]. I wasn’t even thinking about after because I didn’t think it mattered — because it shouldn’t matter. Now I understand that it matters because it measures your memory. I didn’t know my memory was on trial.

Unlike the unnamed “first witness,” actress Lucy DeCoutere accused Ghomeshi publicly. She was the toast of victimhood.  What could it possibly have mattered that after her alleged attack, she emailed him “I want to fuck your brains out, tonight”?  Why would such a “flirtatious” (apparently, flirtatious has changed since my wayward youth) email suggest that she was, I dunno, not sexually assaulted?

But how dare a court put her “memory on trial.”  She was the victim. She was the survivor. And yet, the cruel system put her memory on trial?  At Slate, the failure of Ghomeshi’s trial to prove “guilt” was proved by embedded twits of observers who offered insight like:

That the notion is far more applicable to the innocent accused fails to register on the radar.  One need only believe survivors with absolute certainty to understand why the irony remains unnoticed.  But Slate XX philosopher-writer Christina Cauterucci goes to the source of her outrage.

But the judge’s most repulsive statement came when he proclaimed that believing alleged sexual assault victims are telling the truth is “equally dangerous” as assuming alleged rapists are innocent. The odds are stacked against sexual assault survivors, who must fight consistent blame, suspicion, and accusations of malice when they are brave enough to report the violence perpetrated against them. There is no comparison to the plight of alleged rapists, the vast majority of whom walk free.

It’s not that it’s “repulsive” for a judge to propound the bedrock principle of the presumption of innocence, at least when it applies to any crime not involving sexual assault. Other criminal defendants? Fine. Minority defendants? Absolutely. Rapists? Never.

Though the proponents repetition of the gender fantasy that sexual assault accusers are to be believed without regard to their ability to give credible testimony, tell the same story twice, survive cross-examination where their “memory is on trial,” might explain why the witnesses against Ghomeshi lacked sufficient awareness that they would be expected to give credible testimony.

Or, perhaps they were just lying, hopping aboard the victim-train to enjoy the fame that comes with victimhood at the hands of a celebrity.  Nah, that could never happen.

18 thoughts on “Witness For The Prosecution: Ghomeshi Acquitted

  1. PDB

    I wonder what these SJWs would do if a bisexual, black, Muslim man was accused of raping a conservative, Christian, white woman from the South. I think they’re heads would explode.

  2. Billy Bob

    So what is the lesson here? Go for the bench trial! A jury would have hung him. Juries seem to think they’re doing their job when they convict. Somebody should do a “study”, re: juries inherent bias toward conviction.

    1. SHG Post author

      Out of the mouths of babes, Bill. Had the venire consisted of the “right” sort of sensitive juror, testimony would have been wholly unnecessary, since everyone know that victims must be believed.

    2. Francois

      In Canada, a trial by judge is usual for these type of sex assault cases which go to a lower court instead of the the Superior Court.

      To make a precision, the alleged ‘survivors’ don’t lack credibility for behaving a certain way after the alleged attack. The problem is that they lied about it to the news, to the crown and the police. It is very disingenuous of them to say they didn’t know how it works, because they all retained their own lawyers to help them ‘navigate the process’ (and also publicists). There is also evidence of collusion between at least two witnesses (5000 messages before and after the accusations were made, ranting about how they wanted to bring him down).

      Still, Ghomeshi has another trial coming up in june on a separate case of sexual assault. More outrage to folllow.

  3. Corporate Tool

    Aside from that, the post hoc hand wringing demonstrates a criminal defense lawyer who clearly understood her case and did her job. If the Law Society of Upper Canada had an Atticus Finch award for defending hard cases, she’d be a contender.

    1. SHG Post author

      Even though that’s off topic, I’m going to let your comment slide through. She did an excellent job.

  4. kushiro

    The interviewed complainant and the Jezebel and Slate writers are being, at best, foolish, or, at worst dishonest. The verdict had little to do with post-incident behaviour or memory. In fact, the judge took care to point out that memories can be unreliable, and stereotypes about expected conduct should be avoided.

    The problem is that all three lied, through commission or omission, about their contacts, both with Ghomeshi and with each other. They only remembered those when confronted with them. One of them even had a sexual encounter with Ghomeshi after the alleged assault, but WHOOPS, didn’t bother to tell the police until just before she was to testify at trial. Two of them neglected to tell anyone about the 5,000 emails they sent to each other about the case, their experiences, and how to bring him down.

    Justice Horkins on the third complainant:

    “S.D. was clearly ‘playing chicken’ with the justice system. She was prepared to tell half the truth for as long as she thought she might get away with it.”

    But, no, to the victim crowd, it’s all about slightly imperfect memories and slut-shaming. Oh, also, how the accused should be forced to testify (because that’s worked out so well historically).

    The judgment is good reading, if only as a primer on how to be a terrible witness.

    1. SHG Post author

      This post isn’t really about the Ghomeshi verdict, but how post hoc excuses are created to vilify and excuse acquittal. Focus.

      1. kushiro

        Understood. I figured I was a little out of bounds, but given that there was quite a bit about “memory on trial”, and about the Ghomeshi case (as a narrative anchor for the post), I thought it was important to point out that one has very little to do with the other, except of course in the victimsphere.

        I apologize for my hijack. In future I will just read, unless of course I have a ridiculously witty one-liner that I can’t resist sharing (unlikely).

        I managed to avoid getting rapped on the knuckles until my third comment. NOT BAD.

        1. SHG Post author

          Nah, that wasn’t a knuckle wrap. I just didn’t want this post to become about Ghomeshi (which is why I didn’t discuss Horkins’ decision, even though I linked to it). The bigger issue than Ghomeshi is the distortions of the legal system used to justify the acquittal and shift blame away from the witnesses.

  5. Eliot Clingman

    Reading those Jezebel and Chatelaine articles between the lines, the writers and some Gomeishi prosecution witnesses believe it isn’t perjury or witness collusion if the defendant is guilty, because “feelz” and “social justice”.

    The same goes for the Orange Count Prosecutor. Ha! And when the shoe is on the other foot, the same goes for former President Clinton (law license suspended). I suspect this casual attitude to perjury is now culturally pervasive, and that’s a disaster.

  6. Lucas Beauchamp

    Christina Cauterucci explained why the “I want to fuck your brains out” comment and one complaining witness’s desire to meet Ghomeshi for drinks after the attack did not detract from their testimony: “This interpretation of events runs counter to what justice advocates and psychologists know about sexual abuse: A survivor’s feelings toward her abuser are often complex, and many abusers have mastered the ability to emotionally manipulate their victims.”

    If I understand her correctly, we should always believe victims of sexual abuse except when we don’t.

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