The detective accused of nodding and prompting a key witness at the Dustin Paxton torture trial testified that any movements made in the Calgary courtroom were done subconsciously.
Paxton's lawyers have suggested Det. Steve Harris deliberately sat in the witness's line of sight in order to help prompt answers, but the officer denied that allegation in court Thursday.
'Was I aware I was nodding that much? No.' — Det. Steve Harris
Paxton, 31, is accused of abusing his former roommate and business partner over 18 months, starting in October 2008. The alleged victim cannot be named under a publication ban.
Although the trial ended on Dec. 2, the judge hearing the case has yet to deliver a verdict because Paxton’s defence team has applied for a stay of proceedings. If the stay is approved, it could see charges against Paxton of sexual assault, forcible confinement and aggravated assault suspended.
The defence alleged Paxton didn't get a fair trial because of late disclosure of evidence and the handling of a Crown witness.
That Crown witness was Robert Cannon, who testified in September that he saw Paxton carry out horrific violence against the alleged victim.
On Thursday, Harris was shown a video of himself in the courtroom the day Cannon was testifying, which the defence said shows him gesturing a "keep going motion" with his hand and nodding while the witness spoke.
"Yes, clearly you can see I was nodding my head," said Harris. "Was I aware I was nodding that much? No."
The Calgary officer said he was working while in the courtroom, looking down at his BlackBerry and other notes in his lap.
He said he attended court to support Cannon and was pleased he was answering the questions so well. Harris said he did not tell Cannon he would be in court. The officer said he had told the witness to focus on the person asking him questions in court.
Crown witness distraught
Harris testified Cannon had had a rough night, at one point getting up and seeing his face on the front of newspapers and becoming very upset. By the time Harris arrived to pick him up, he testified Cannon was crumpled into a fetal position on the floor "dry heaving."
Harris said Cannon was "sobbing, very dejected. I said you know what? You just need to come tell your story."
The defence alleges a deal was made with Cannon on his outstanding charges of theft, breach of recognizance and failure to appear.
Calgary prosecutor Margot Engley testified earlier this month that she refused to handle the file given to her by the Crown prosecutor in the Paxton trial, who is her direct supervisor, on the charges facing Cannon because she thought it should be dealt with by an independent prosecutor. She said there is a protocol to follow when dealing with a Crown witness.
Engley testified her supervisor said Cannon was told he wouldn't get any jail time for the offences, but no promises were made.
Cannon was flown to Calgary by the prosecution in exchange for his testimony against Paxton.
A member of Paxton's legal team testified in a Calgary court Wednesday that the defence only found out about a meeting between detectives and Cannon while he was being cross-examined.
Paxton's co-counsel Andrea Serink said the defence didn't know who was involved or even when the meeting took place.
Facebook messages private, says defence
Serink also testified Wednesday that defence lawyers didn’t have full access to Facebook messages between the alleged victim's mother and the lead detective in the case, which they feel constitutes late disclosure of evidence.
Serink said one message from the mom to Det. Doug Crippen came the day after the alleged victim’s former girlfriend testified.
"Based on what I’ve heard in the media, Lyndsay is lying though her teeth," wrote the alleged victim’s mother. "I just spent days with her parents and got an entirely different account."
Crippen responded by saying, "Can you call me when you get a minute?"
The prosecutor pressed Serink on why she was searching Facebook, wondering if she was spying. She said she wasn’t spying, just trying to find information they should have been given via disclosure.
Serink said dozens of messages between Crippen, the alleged victim's mother and others were entered into evidence. Crippen is also Facebook friends with the alleged victim and his mother.
At one point Serink was asked about a court clerk writing "Happy Birthday" on the alleged victim’s wall.
Stay hearing prosecutor Gary Cornfield asked Serink if it was the words that concerned her.
She said no, it was the fact that they were communicating over a medium that the defence team didn’t have access to — information that is difficult to find or even know about.