Justice James Adams excluded DNA and other evidence found in Ray Newman’s home and car because of "egregious" violations of his rights by police.
Newman, now 35, was acquitted Wednesday in St. John's on a charge of second-degree murder in the death of his estranged wife after nearly all the Crown’s evidence was excluded by the judge in a series of six pre-trial rulings.
Chrissy Predham Newman, 28, was found dead in her St. John’s apartment in January 2007.
She had multiple stab wounds, and her throat had been cut.
Evidence the Crown wanted to introduce at trial included material analyzed for DNA, and a receipt found in Newman’s home for sneakers that matched seven bloody footprints made by an identical sneaker at the murder scene.
Previously-sealed court decisions detailing the excluded evidence were released late Wednesday.
'Egregious, flagrant and deliberate violations'
Adams ruled there is reasonable doubt that Newman gave a three-hour statement to Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers voluntarily on the night of the homicide, and said that his Charter rights were violated.
In tossing Newman’s entire statement to police, the judge cited the "egregious, flagrant and deliberate violations of his Charter rights ... and the negative impact its admission would have on the repute of the administration of justice."
Adams found that the police were at times "disingenuous," "self-serving," "not credible" and "less than forthcoming" in their testimony.
"This seriously aggravates the earlier Charter breaches," the judge wrote in one of the decisions.
Other evidence uncovered through search warrants was also excluded, largely because the warrants flowed from that initial improper encounter with police.
DNA, other evidence thrown out
Evidence of a stain found on the console of Newman’s car was excluded. An analysis of that stain found that both Newman and his wife were "potential contributors."
The car was used by the couple before they split up, and they were in it together as recently as three weeks before her death.
Adams decided the Crown had not proved that the stain was blood, or that the DNA came from the victim. He concluded that the "prejudicial effect" of this evidence outweighed its probative value.
The judge was harshly critical of RNC conduct in the search of the car.
'I found that the vehicle search was part and parcel of one systemic, deliberate and planned disregard by the police of Mr. Newman’s rights designed to obtain incriminating evidence from him.'—Justice James Adams
"I found that the vehicle search was part and parcel of one systemic, deliberate and planned disregard by the police of Mr. Newman’s rights designed to obtain incriminating evidence from him," Adams wrote.
Also thrown out was evidence collected by police at Newman’s home in Paradise. Adams ruled that RNC officers effectively seized control of the home four days before they actually got a search warrant, telling Newman to stay away.
"At the time the police told Mr. Newman he could not go near his house, they, by their own admission, had no grounds to detain him," the judge wrote.
Adams questioned the delay in getting that search warrant.
The judge also took issue with information used by the RNC to get the warrant, and other details left out by police.
And he noted that officers stayed in the house longer than the time frame the initial warrant permitted.
Adams criticized the police for their "laissez faire" approach to searching Newman’s residence.
He decided to exclude all evidence seized by police at the home.
What police found there
Lawyers for Newman successfully fought to have three things excluded from evidence: a stain in the hallway, the contents of a vacuum and a receipt for a pair of sneakers.
The stain in the hallway tested positive for the DNA of both Newman and his wife. It was detected only through the use of special lighting.
"It must be recalled that this was the matrimonial home of the deceased and the applicant when they were living together so it would not be unusual to find the DNA of both in the house," the judge wrote.
As for the vacuum, Adams said its contents yielded "inconsistent results for the presence of blood."
Then there was the receipt, for a pair of size 10 New Balance sneakers, model MX894, located in a drawer of Newman's bedroom night table.
Police forensic teams found "seven footwear impressions made by an identical sneaker in the blood at the scene of the murder," the judge wrote.
The sneakers were never found in Newman’s possession, the judge noted, and there is no direct evidence he actually bought them for himself.
After again criticizing police, Adams ultimately decided to exclude the receipt too.
Initial interview breached Charter rights
Police first spoke with Newman the night of the murder, locating him at his parents’ house.
RNC officers told Newman that his wife was dead; they did not initially say she had been murdered.
Police insisted he ride in an RNC car to headquarters for questioning.
Officers then began questioning him, without cautioning him and reading his rights.
In fact, according to the judge, police did not read Newman his rights until a half hour into their interview with him at the station — after having had him confirm that he had been at his wife’s apartment that morning around the time a neighbour heard screams and footsteps.
The police continued to question Newman for more than two hours, even though he said "on numerous occasions" he didn’t want to answer any more questions, and tried to follow his lawyer’s advice by remaining silent.
The judge called later police testimony — insisting that Newman’s requests to end the interview didn’t mean he wanted to leave police headquarters — as "disingenuous."
At the end of the interview, Newman acquiesed to having his arms and hands photographed by the RNC — something the judge ruled "he did not freely and willingly submit to."
Adams wrote that "the RNC had committed numerous and flagrant violations of Mr. Newman’s Charter rights almost from the first moment they encountered him."
Reaction to rulings
After Newman’s acquittal Wednesday, his defence team criticized the "very weak" Crown case.
"Justice was done here today," lawyer Mike King said. "We’re certainly relieved that it has come to an end. We’ve believed in our case, and in Mr. Newman, and in his innocence, from day one."
But the Crown has vowed to challenge the rulings. "This is not a situation where we withdrew the charge," prosecutor Phil LeFeuvre said.
"This is a situation where we proceeded fully through the courts. The courts have excluded the evidence we intended to call. Now essentially the evidence is gone, and we are taking steps to appeal those rulings."
The same day, RNC Chief Bob Johnston defended the force's conduct.