Jury deliberating fate of N.L. police officer charged with sexual assault
Published Thursday, May 13, 2021 7:25PM ADT
For the third time in four years, the fate of a Newfoundland and Labrador police officer charged with sexually assaulting a 21-year-old woman in 2014 is in the hands of a jury. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- For the third time in four years, the fate of a Newfoundland and Labrador police officer charged with sexually assaulting a 21-year-old woman in 2014 is in the hands of a jury.
Const. Carl Douglas Snelgrove of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is accused of assaulting the woman in her house while he was on duty after giving her a ride home from a St. John's nightclub. He was acquitted of the charge in 2017, but following a successful appeal and a subsequent mistrial, a jury is once again sequestered to decide on a verdict.
Both the appeal and the mistrial were the results of judge's errors. On Thursday, Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice Vikas Khaladkar seemed determined to avoid a similar mistake, carefully outlining each question the jury must ask itself and each decision it must make, mapping out three possible paths to conviction.
"Make your decision without sympathy, prejudice or fear," Khaladkar told them. The judge said the jurors must determine beyond a reasonable doubt the woman did not consent to sex and Snelgrove knew she did not consent. That could happen in three ways, he said.
The jury could determine she was too drunk to consent, he said, referring back to her testimony that she left the club in the first place because she felt too drunk to be out at night.
They could determine she was unconscious when the sex began, or when the sexual activity changed, he said, reminding the jury that she testified she sat down in her living room, and when she came to Snelgrove was having sex with her.If they have a reasonable doubt that she consented, they have to find Snelgrove not guilty, he said. And if they decide he genuinely and reasonably believed she gave consent, again they have to find him not guilty.
However, Khaladkar explained to the jury that consent could be nullified if they decide that as a uniformed police officer who drove a young, intoxicated woman home in a police car, Snelgrove knowingly abused his position of trust and authority and induced the woman to have sex with him.
He told the jurors they "must still consider abuse of authority" even if they conclude the woman consented to having sex.
In Snelgrove's first trial in 2017, Justice Valerie Marshall did not explain this third option involving abuse of authority to the jury. The omission provided the grounds for the Crown's successful appeal the next year.
Fourteen jurors sat through the trial. When the judge finished his instructions, a court clerk cranked the handle on a gold-coloured raffle drum to randomly draw the numbers of the two alternate jurors who would not carry on to deliberations. Last September, a mistrial was declared after Justice Garrett Handrigan did not randomly select the two jurors who were able to leave.
The jury was to deliberate until 7 p.m. on Thursday and resume Friday morning.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2021.