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7-year-old evidence overturns sexual assault conviction

There are many examples in the annals of law of a person's past coming back to haunt him or her. There are occasions, however, when old evidence can change an outcome for the better. A sexual assault case before a Toronto court was recently turned upside down by the new admission of some old evidence.

Near the end of 2011, a trial in Barrie, Ontario, saw a man facing charges of sexual assault filed by his ex-wife. The alleged assaults apparently took place in early 2009. Evidence was presented by the defence indicating the encounter was consensual, in the form of messages the man claimed his ex-wife sent to him and another woman via the social media application, Facebook. The woman claimed not to remember sending the messages, and the judge instructed the jury to ignore the evidence that had been alluded to by the defence. The man was found guilty of the charges.

After taking the case to the Appeals Court of Ontario at Osgoode Hall in Toronto, the evidence was reconsidered. Forensic analysis confirmed the validity of the messages, which were found in the defendant's new wife's computer. The court ruled that had the evidence been admitted at the original trial, it could have swayed the jury regarding the legitimacy of the plaintiff's claim the encounters were not consensual. Based upon that conclusion, the conviction was overturned. A new trial was ordered, but both sides agreed not to proceed.

For the defendant, the previously ignored evidence eventually cast doubt on the plaintiff's story of sexual assault. It is a good lesson to learn for anyone accused of a crime: a tenacious defence and extensive research into the facts and evidence can result in a positive outcome. An experienced lawyer may be able a person to present the court with a more accurate portrait of the alleged events.

Source: Toronto Sun, "Woman's Facebook message from 2009 undermines sex-assault conviction against ex-husband", Nov. 4, 2016

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