Day 6

The Jian Ghomeshi acquittal: fair judgment?

Former CBC broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted Thursday in a Toronto courtroom, when Ontario Justice William Horkins found him not guilty on four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking.
An Ontario Court of Justice judge has acquitted former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi on four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking, saying there were significant issues raised about the credibility of complainants. (David Donnelly/CBC News)

Former CBC broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi walked out of an Toronto courtroom a free man on Thursday, after an Ontario Court judge found insufficient evidence to convict him of four counts of sexual assault and one charge of overcoming resistance by choking.

Day 6 assembled three legal experts to assess the case and weigh in on whether Judge William Horkins' comments that the complainants were "deceptive" and "manipulative" are fair.

Pamela Cross, the legal director of Luke's Place, a support and resource centre for abused women and children, said that, in her view, Judge Horkins didn't properly understand the impact of the trauma caused by sexual assault and the effect if can have on a victim's memory of events. "What we need is a criminal response to sexual assault," she tells Brent. "That trauma has a profound effect."

But Ingrid Grant, a Toronto criminal-defense lawyer who frequently handles sexual-assault cases, said Judge Horkins had no choice but to acquit Ghomeshi. She, like Judge Horkins, found the testimony lacking credibility. "People have reasons to lie and are willing to do it," she says, adding that this is true in all criminal trials. 

Sandy Garossino agreed: "These witnesses were discredited. I'm very sorry to say this as a feminist." Garossino, a former Crown prosecutor in British Columbia, says that many of her legal colleagues watching the trial said the Crown should have dropped the case. "The failure of the evidence was that severe," she says.

Cross says the unfortunate result of the case is that for many, it will serve to reinforce the fear sexual assault victims feel in coming forward. 

The trial was "rife with insidious connections to rape mythology that still linger with us," she says.

Garossino says that sexual assault victims should not judge the system by the Ghomeshi case. "They were not candid and sincere witnesses. And that was obvious to any experienced lawyer watching this evidence go in. This does mislead the public about what the experience in the courtroom is going to be."