City: Oshawa, Ontario
Our Client: Ms. B.
Complainant: Ms. M.
Lawyer: Edmund Chan, B.A., J.D
Date of Acquittal: May 3, 2016
Background: Ms. B. is a step-mother caught between loyalties when her step-daughter, Ms. M. confides in her but Ms. B. feels compelled to share the information with her common-law spouse, Mr. M., the girl’s father. Later, the girl, her father and her boyfriend who had been out for dinner, come home to find a “For Sale” sign on the lawn. An argument erupts between Ms. B., whose house it is, and Mr. M., who is angry at the sale and that he would not be getting any of the proceeds. In the course of that argument some things are said. The step-daughter, in her room with her boyfriend, over-hears the argument between her father and Ms. B. in the next room and realizes that Ms. B. had revealed the secret to her father. The girl flies into a rage and storms into the room towards Ms. B. who grabs Ms. M. by the arm. Ms. M. falls to the floor. Enraged, by what has just occurred, Mr. M. attacks Ms. B., throws her down on the couch and starts to choke her. The step-daughter’s boyfriend pulled Mr. M. off Ms. B. Both Mr. M. and Ms. B. call 911. Only Ms. B. is charged with assault.
The court is to hear four different versions of the events, each of which supports one of two basic narratives. In one narrative Ms. B. strikes, or pushes and shoves the girl to the floor – which would be an assault. In the other, the girl comes at Ms. B., and Ms. B., anticipating that the girl would shove her or push her, raises her hand in a defensive gesture and touches the girl in a way to prevent the girl from assaulting her. The girl trips and falls.
Strategy: This case depended on the testimony of four witnesses. Each would have a different version of the events. It would be our challenge to stitch together from the evidence, a narrative favourable to our client. To do so, we would, through cross-examination have to bring into question the reliability and/or credibility of the witness testimony that was unfavourable to our client and to highlight the contradictions in that testimony, and then make submissions arguing for a finding in favour of our client’s version of the facts.
Verdict: The judge accepted the narrative that we had crafted and did not find the opposing narrative to be reliable. The judge commented: “I want to say to Ms. Nadarajah . . . you did an excellent job for your client in bringing out the various contradictions, and I wanted to thank you on behalf of your client for the excellent work you did . . . .” Ms. B. was acquitted.