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Feb 05, 2013  |  Vote 0    0

Defence attacks reliability of testimony in torture trial

London Community News

Defence lawyers in London’s torture trial attacked the reliability of the Crown’s star witness during their cross-examination Tuesday morning (Feb. 5).

In closing his case, Assistant Crown Attorney Fraser Ball recommended withdrawing one charge of aggravated assault due to a lack of evidence presented during his examination of the witness/victim in the case, a 27-year-old woman with cerebral palsy and an intellectual delay. Her identity is the subject of a publication ban by the court.

Johnathon Rick, 38 and Cynthia Anderson, 36, face a total of 10 charges including aggravated sexual assault and unlawful confinement.

Anderson’s lawyer, Wally Libis, spent his cross-examination of the alleged victim eroding the reliability of her answers to police and to questions posed during Ball’s chief examination. He painted a picture of a woman easily confused, eager to please those questioning her and under duress after years of hardship, beginning with alleged sexual abuse alleged at the hands of family members, a series of relationship breakdowns including one she hoped to continue with Rick himself and culminating in the “incidents” she testified to in four years of living with the co-accused.

Previously the 27-year-old had testified she was beaten, scalded, raped and held captive in a storage closet by Rick and Anderson.

In questioning the witness, Libis got her to agree that it was hard to remember things that happened near the end of her ordeal, which concluded when she was found by police on a balcony with obvious burn wounds in mid-August 2011, let alone what occurred when she initially moved in with Rick and Anderson in 2007.

He insinuated Anderson actually urged her to go to the hospital to have her injuries treated, described as burns to almost 20 percent of her body, but that she repeatedly refused because she believed they would have committed her to a psychiatric institution.

“They would have asked a lot of questions,” she said.

Concluding his cross-examination before the morning recess, he asked:

“So I don’t know about Johnathon, but Cynthia had very little to do with this, right?”

“Yes,” she said.

He said in the absence of any evidence on social media accounts she held, or conversations she never had with friends about the events she testified to (including being whipped with cords and burned with boiling water from a teakettle for breaking rules or failing to perform sex acts on either of the accused to their liking), they had to rely on what she said she remembered.

“Because you were confused, you had to piece your mind together about what you were going to say?”

“Yes,” she said.

When Rick’s lawyer, Antin Jaremchuk took over cross-examination, he submitted that the witness would agree to just about anything that was suggested to her.

When police questioned her at the hospital in 2011 it was “pretty stressful and confusing, right?” Jaremchuk asked.

“Yes,” she responded.

He suggested she was “bombarded” with questions, but she said she didn’t understand what that words meant.

“It was one question after another?” he re-phrased.

“Like you guys!” she exclaimed.

He continued, suggesting that when she knew the police “wanted an answer,” she may have offered information even though she may not have recalled exactly what happened.

“Sometimes it’s easier to agree with people than disagree, right?”

“Yes,” she responded.

“So Cynthia didn’t really play a role in this?”

“Yes.”

“And neither did Johnathon?”

“Yes.”

Jaremchuk had previously taken a line of questioning that described Rick as a caring figure, who, with Anderson, purchased medical supplies such as non-stick gauze, anti-septic spray and antibiotic cream to treat her wounds. He said Rick helped her organize her finances, including using her ODSP funding to pay bills and buy food, which she admitted was “still complicated” for her to do.

He said Rick helped save her from an ex-boyfriend, the father of her daughter, who was allegedly financially abusing her.

“So Johnathon stepped in and helped you with that?”

“Yes.”

Through her answers to Libis’ questions during his morning cross-examination, it was revealed the alleged victim had returned to London after living for a few months in another city with her ex-boyfriend and other individuals he connected with over Plenty of Fish.

But they split and he returned to London because he didn’t like the “dating arrangement” there. The witness said she stayed in contact with him and when she returned to London, she stayed on the couch of his father, a “nice old guy” she trusted, but that was a short-term arrangement. That’s when she moved into a one-bedroom apartment with Anderson and Rick.

When Rick and Anderson had a fight, Anderson moved to another city herself for a number of months and the victim testified and Rick effectively became a couple. But Anderson returned to Rick after conversing for some time with him online, which the victim agreed was “hurtful” to her.

“You must have felt horrible,” Libis said.

“Yes,” she responded.

Court heard that in the months prior to her being found by police (in mid-August 2011), Rick had told her he and Anderson were getting married, and that she would have to move out.

“That must have really upset you,” Libis said.

“Yes.”

Ball’s only question once cross-examination was finished was to ask her what the word “reconstruct” means to her.

“I don’t know what that means,” she responded.

Libis said he intended to call two other witnesses, and possibly Anderson herself, while presenting his case but that the two unnamed witnesses were not available this week.

Ontario Court Justice Lynne Leitch conferred with the court coordinator over the lunch recess then adjourned the case to Feb. 19.

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