Jian Ghomeshi trial: Defence hints accused won't testify

Jian Ghomeshi's defence team tells court it is ready to present closing arguments in the case of the former CBC Radio host, hinting he may not testify at his trial in Toronto on sex assault and choking charges.

Crown and defence arguing over admissibility of witness

Former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi walks past protesters as he arrives at a Toronto courthouse for the sixth day of his trial. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Jian Ghomeshi's defence team told court today it is ready to present closing arguments in the case of the former CBC Radio host, hinting he may not testify at his trial in Toronto on sex assault and choking charges.

On Tuesday, Judge William Horkins ruled he would allow a friend of Lucy DeCoutere to be called as a witness. Crown attorney Michael Callaghan had told court the friend would testify that she received a call from DeCoutere a decade ago about the alleged sexual assault.

The friend, whose identity is protected under a publication ban, will not appear in court because she lives in Nova Scotia and a storm isn't allowing her to travel. But the Crown and defence agreed to allow a transcript of her statement into evidence that will be submitted on Wednesday.

Danielle Robitaille, co-counsel for Ghomeshi, had argued against allowing the friend to testify in the Ontario Court of Justice trial. She said allowing the new witness to testify "unnecessarily prolongs the trial when the defence is ready to close tomorrow." The fact that the defence is ready to present closing arguments so soon suggests no time is being allocated for Ghomeshi, who is under no legal obligation to testify.

​Ghomeshi, 48, who lives in Toronto, has pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking, all related to alleged assaults from 2002 to 2003. The identities of the two other complainants are protected under a publication ban, but DeCoutere, an actress and an air force captain, went to court to lift the ban on her name.

New witness's testimony 'very relevant'

On Tuesday morning, Callaghan argued that DeCoutere's friend would help rebut allegations by the defence that  DeCoutere has lied, that part of her motivation for coming forward was to seek media attention and that she had colluded with the third complainant.

Callaghan said the witness from Nova Scotia will testify that DeCoutere called her friend and told her in 2004 that she had been choked by Ghomeshi.

"That's very relevant," Callaghan said.

"It goes in to support the fact that Ms. DeCoutere did complain about sexual assault and rebut the allegation that she most recently fabricated the story for a number of other reasons. Or that she colluded with other witnesses in coming up with the allegations against Mr. Ghomeshi."

But Robitaille said that the defence will argue that DeCoutere's allegations are a "wholesale lie" and that the statement DeCoutere made to her friend does not help the judge.

"This witness simply does not assist your honour with grappling with the significant problems in Ms. Decoutere's evidence."

Horkins acknowledged that accepting this evidence was an exception to the general rule that a witness's claim is not more credible simply because he or she repeated the same story on a prior occasion.

But he said there is "probative value" in allowing the friend's testimony "to rebut the inference or allegation" by the defence of DeCoutere's version of events.