Lyle Howe trial hears from accuser's former roommate

The jury in the Lyle Howe trial heard testimony Monday from the former roommate of a woman who accuses the Halifax lawyer of drugging and sexually assaulting her.

Complainant finishes her testimony after taking stand for fifth day

The jury in the Lyle Howe trial heard testimony Monday from the former roommate of a woman who accuses the Halifax lawyer of drugging and sexually assaulting her.

The roommate is the second witness at Howe's trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court. His testimony follows that of the complainant, who took the stand for five days.

She didn't make sense. It wasn't because she was drunk, she wasn't coherent.- Complainant's roommate

The alleged victim, whose identity is banned from publication, faced more cross-examination Monday morning from defence lawyer Mike Taylor, followed by some redirect questions from the Crown. Her testimony wrapped up around 11 a.m.

Howe has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault and administering a stupefying drug. The charges were laid after an alleged incident on March 21, 2011, involving a 19-year-old woman.

The woman has testified that she woke up naked and disoriented in her apartment with condoms strewn about.

She’s told the court that she went out the night before with Howe and another man to a Halifax bar and then to the lawyer’s office.

The woman says the three later went to her apartment and played pool, but she testified she remembers little of what happened next.

The alleged victim was under cross-examination late last week and acknowledged significant gaps in her memory.

The woman told some friends that she suspected she'd been raped, but she sent texts to others saying nothing was wrong.

Roommate testifies

The woman's roommate told the courtroom he drank most of a 750 ml bottle of rum that March evening in 2011. He went out after the complainant, then returned to the apartment. Security video showed him staggering back upstairs.

He said he fell asleep and when he woke up the complainant was standing in his doorway, naked. He testified she sat down on his bed, then lay down on the floor. He covered her with a sleeping bag and lay down beside her to comfort her.

He said he couldn't understand what she was saying to him.

"She didn't make sense," he said. "It wasn't because I was drunk, she wasn't coherent."

In the morning, the man said he discovered condoms on the floor around the apartment. He testified he disposed of them in the toilet or the garbage. Later that day, he and the complainant found more condoms.

The man told the court he "wanted to be with" the complainant, but she didn't feel the same way. He told her of his feelings more than once. The most recent time he told her was shortly before they moved to the apartment where the alleged assault occurred.

The man described how he went with the complainant to the hospital the following day. They stopped so she could have a meeting with someone in a car. The complainant has testified she was meeting with Howe in the car.

The man said he stayed outside the car and wrote down the licence plate. He said that he did that because he "would not leave [the complainant]" and if the car moved, he planned to call police. He became emotional and broke down on the stand.

Roommate admits to drinking before court appearance

Late in the day, defence lawyer Mike Taylor asked the man if he had been drinking.

"A few in the morning," the man replied.  

"I think it's usually of concern when a witness comes to court and has been drinking. That's why the question was asked," Taylor told reporters outside the courtroom.  

"Certainly when someone is admittedly quite drunk the night an incident takes place, credibility becomes more heightened," he said. "There's no question the jury will have to consider that."

Darcy MacPherson, the lead Crown counsel, said he didn't believe the witness was impaired on the stand.

"I think he answered the questions to the best of his ability. He, like anybody else is in the difficult position of trying to remember events from just over three years ago. But I'm satisfied that he gave the best answers he could recall," said MacPherson.

The trial is expected to last the rest of this week and part of next.