Constable Kelsey Muise told a St. John’s, N.L., courtroom Wednesday that in January 2015, a woman in the back of her patrol car said she had been assaulted by a police officer.
Muise said she pulled the car over, flicked on the overhead light and turned around in her seat to face the woman.
“She was visibly upset,” Muise told the trial, adding that the woman was drunk and grew more distraught the longer she was in the vehicle. She said she put the woman’s allegation “through the chain of command” at the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary “because of the nature of the complaint.”
On Wednesday, Muise was the first witness to take the stand during the third trial for Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer Carl Douglas Snelgrove, who is accused of sexually assaulting a woman in her home while on duty in December 2014. This is the third time he’ll be tried for the charge, following a successful appeal of a verdict and a subsequent mistrial.
The trial is taking place in a makeshift courtroom set up in a former St. John’s school to allow for the physical distancing required by provincial COVID-19 protocols.
Crown prosecutor Lloyd Strickland began his opening statements Wednesday afternoon, shortly after the jury was selected. “The issue during this trial will be consent,” Strickland said. And consent, he added, “is not always about saying yes or no.”
Strickland said the jury will have to decide if the alleged victim was too intoxicated to give consent and whether Snelgrove owed her – and then breached – a duty of care.
He said that in the coming days, the alleged victim will testify she left a downtown St. John’s bar on a late December night in 2014, where she encountered Snelgrove, who gave her a ride home and then sexually assaulted her in her house.
Judge Vikas Khaladkar said 14 jurors had been selected but only 12 will deliberate; two jurors will be dismissed by a random draw before deliberations begin.
He told the jury it was the Crown’s job to prove Snelgrove’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. To do so, Khaladkar said, the Crown must prove Snelgrove sexually touched the complainant, that she did not consent and that Snelgrove knew she did not consent.
Keep an open mind, Khaladkar told them. “Fairness and impartiality is one of the best traditions of our legal system,” he said.
Muise is expected to resume her testimony on Thursday, and the trial is scheduled to run until May 17.
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