A man imprisoned for nearly three decades on wrongful sexual assault convictions didn't know another suspect had lived across the street, a British Columbia court has heard.
Ivan Henry's lawyer said in closing arguments that the Crown failed to disclose crucial details about another suspect that would have helped his defence in a 1983 trial.
"The evidence at the trial was that Henry lived in the heart of where the assaults were taking place. Well, here was someone else who not only lived in the heart, but had actually lived there for years," Marilyn Sandford told B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday.
She said Henry moved to the neighbourhood in 1982, years after the sexual assaults had been occurring. The other suspect had been surveilled by police in connection with the crimes, had a history of sexual predation and more closely resembled a composite photo, she added.
Henry was acquitted by the B.C. Court of Appeal in 2010 on 10 counts of sexual assault involving eight women and is suing the province for compensation.
The federal government and the City of Vancouver recently settled with Henry, leaving B.C. as the only remaining defendant.
Sandford argued that if more evidence had been disclosed to Henry in the trial in 1983 — when he defended himself — the outcome would have been different.
If Henry had known about the other suspect, he could have shed new light on testimony from one woman, who saw her assailant on a bus shortly after an attack, Sandford said.
The woman said the man was holding an envelope with Henry's address on it, court heard.
But Henry's address was similar to the other suspect's address, Sandford pointed out.
She said while police moved away from the other suspect as they pursued their "tainted" investigation of Henry, the man was not eliminated through forensic evidence and was not shown to victims in a police lineup.
The Crown also failed to tell Henry that biological material, including semen and pubic hair, had not been examined, or disclose information gathered from a tracking device on his car, Sandford told court.
The province is expected to deliver its closing arguments at a later time. It has argued that even if the Crown had disclosed more evidence to Henry, he would not have known what to do with it.
Sandford said that on the contrary, her client showed considerable motivation and diligence for a poorly educated and unrepresented accused. He produced lengthy written alibis, brought court applications and wrote disclosure letters, she said.
Henry didn't need "Perry Mason courtroom skills" in order to receive the disclosure, Sandford said, referring to an old TV series about a master criminal defence lawyer.
She said the Crown's argument was, "If the accused is ill-equipped enough, we somehow avoid liability for disclosing.
"That simply cannot be the law."