A Moncton, N.B., man convicted of kidnapping a woman at knifepoint in 2010 and holding her captive for nearly a month while he sexually assaulted her is seeking to appeal the verdict and sentence.
On Tuesday, Romeo Jacques Cormier, 64, appeared at the New Brunswick Court of Appeal where his application for leave to appeal was being heard.
Cormier was sentenced to 18 years in prison last July after a jury found him guilty of six charges involving the woman, who was originally from Newfoundland, including kidnapping, sexual assault, unlawful confinement, robbery with a weapon, assault with a weapon and uttering threats.
Cormier, who was wearing leg shackles when he was escorted into the courtroom by two sheriffs, represented himself from the prisoner's box during the proceedings, sporting jeans, a blue T-shirt and a green jacket.
Cormier contends the sentence is too long in the more than 20 pages of documents — many in his own handwriting — he filed with the New Brunswick Court of Appeal.
He claims the sentence he received is the harshest ever imposed in Canada and, given his age, it's a death sentence, he said during his rambling oral arguments.
The Appeal Court judges frequently had to warn Cormier not to interrupt them as they questioned him about the grounds for his appeal.
Claims wrongly convicted
In the documents filed with the court, Cormier claims he is an "innocent man" who was wrongly convicted: "In my case, the newspapers, the media outlets, the internet, had already tried me and found me guilty before I ever went to trial."
He alleges the Crown conducted "a serious character assassination on him," and withheld evidence — pictures on his cellphone he claims show he and the victim snorting cocaine together.
He also alleges the judge erred and abused his rights to freedom of expression by using the word "horrendous" four times to describe the case, which Cormier says could "fuel harm" against him by other inmates.
In addition, Cormier says his defence lawyers didn't represent him properly. They should have made objections during the jury selection process because he was acquainted with two of the 12 jurors, he told the court.
The defence also should have made more of the fact that he did not appear on surveillance video in the shopping mall parking lot the victim — whom he describes as the "alleged victim" — says she was abducted from, he said. "I'm not a midget — I'm six feet tall."
'The jury was predisposed to convict because of the perception of anybody sitting inside of a [Plexiglas] cage, even an innocent person, would appear guilty.' — Romeo Cormier
Cormier claims the victim, who is in her 50s and whose identity is protected by a publication ban, lied during her testimony and that the case was "he said, she said," leaving enough room for doubt.
Cormier also complains he wasn't given enough time to "give [his] version of important detailed information pertaining to [his] high profile case," and is upset he had to sit in the Plexiglas prisoner's dock instead of with his lawyers.
"The jury was predisposed to convict because of the perception of anybody sitting inside of a [Plexiglas] cage, even an innocent person, would appear guilty," his documents state.
"It is better to set free 100 guilty men, than to lock up one innocent man."
Crown stands by conviction
In Moncton on Monday, several people questioned by CBC News expressed little sympathy for Cormier.
"I think he has a right to appeal, and I think he has a right to represent himself if he's really that silly. But 12 people said he's guilty, he's guilty as far I'm concerned," said Scott McDougall.
"It did look pretty evident that he was guilty there," agreed Peter Lynch.
The Crown, meanwhile, stands by the conviction and the sentence.
In a 51-page document submitted to the court, prosecutors argue none of Cormier's allegations are substantiated with evidence.
They are seeking to have his application for leave to appeal denied, or dismissed.
During the trial, the victim testified that she was held in a basement rooming house for 26 days and repeatedly sexually assaulted and threatened before she managed to escape.
The Crown had been looking for a sentence of life in prison.
The defence had sought a term of 10 to 12 years, arguing that Cormier suffers from narcissism and didn't deserve a life sentence.
Judge Zoel Dionne called Cormier's crimes "horrendous" and said there's very little chance he can be rehabilitated.
As it stands, Cormier will have to spend half his sentence — about 9½ years — behind bars before he can apply for parole.