Taxi driver convicted of sexual assault denied appeal after death
Taxis are seen in downtown Halifax in this undated photo.
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Published Tuesday, December 5, 2017 4:47PM AST
Last Updated Tuesday, December 5, 2017 8:47PM AST
ANTIGONISH, N.S. -- Nova Scotia's Supreme Court has dismissed a bid to continue an appeal of a sexual assault conviction by a taxi driver who has since died.
William Roger MacLellan was convicted last year after a university student accused him of molesting her in his vehicle.
The young woman alleged MacLellan put his hands down her pants after she got into his taxi on the early morning of Oct. 19, 2014.
He was convicted of one count of sexual assault but had filed an appeal before his death last April.
His lawyer applied to have MacLellan's sister continue the appeal, arguing the case raised identification issues because MacLellan was of African descent.
He was alternately described by witnesses as Latin, Filipino or Mexican. A police officer who knew MacLellan identified his slightly accented voice in the background of a recorded 911 call made by the victim just after the assault.
The court dismissed the application to continue the appeal, saying the trial judge recognized and properly dealt with those issues.
"The court must be extremely vigilant when dealing with this type of evidence because of the danger that it may lead to a wrongful conviction," wrote Judge Timothy Gabriel for the Supreme Court.
But he said the trial judge "was alive to the dangers inherent in identification evidence, particularly with respect to the recognition of Mr. MacLellan's voice in the 911 call."
Moreover, the case did not solely depend on such factors, Gabriel noted.
Video evidence confirmed that about 30 minutes prior to the victim's 911 call, MacLellan was at a gas station near where she was picked up. He was seen in the footage with a dark coloured van and wearing a dark shirt that matched descriptions later provided by witnesses.
On the whole, Gabriel said he was not convinced that continuing the appeal would likely lead to an acquittal.