Not guilty verdict in rape trial

A jury in a rape trial in which a woman claimed she had been drugged found the defendant Shane Connor not guilty last week.

He was charged after an incident in March 2012 when he was in a bar and saw a woman he knew from school days. They subsequently left in her car and arrived at his house, where sexual intercourse took place.

Rape is unlawful sexual intercourse with a person (man or woman) who did not consent and the defendant knew it or was reckless as to whether that person consented. Since the complainant in this case was a woman, Justice Charles Quin referred only to “she” and “her” when explaining the law.

He said a woman consents if she agrees by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice. Drunken consent is still consent, he noted.

In considering whether Mr. Connor believed the woman was consenting, the presence or absence of grounds for that belief was relevant, the judge said.

An allegation of rape often involves conflicting accounts of what took place, usually in private, the judge pointed out. Any independent evidence is therefore useful to see if it supports or contradicts one account or the other.

One piece of independent evidence came from a camera at the bar. The woman had said she left alone. The jury saw CCTV footage that showed her leaving with Mr. Connor.

A crown witness who was a friend of the woman also said that the woman left the bar alone. When asked about the CCTV, she replied that she didn’t want to answer that question.

Other independent evidence came from phone records. The woman said she did not give Mr. Connor her phone number, but it was in his phone. After she left his house, records showed a call from him going to her voice mail. Shortly after that, there was a call from him to her and from her to him, but neither one got through.

There was also evidence that, while at the bar, both Mr. Connor and the woman had talked by phone to a mutual acquaintance.

After the woman gave her account of what had happened, it was suggested to her that she had had a one-night stand and regretted it. She said no, she believed she had been drugged and raped. She recalled urinating on herself in her car and said that had never happened before.

She agreed she did not tell anyone what had happened between her and Mr. Connor or report the incident to police until nine days later, but said it was because she was ashamed.

Justice Quin pointed out that evidence of a recent complaint of rape cannot be used as proof a man did what he is accused of. A delayed complaint may be relevant in undermining the complainant’s credibility.

Mr. Connor also gave evidence. He said he went with the woman in her car. She could have dropped him near his home, but she drove there and parked behind the house. He said she appeared normal and when she drove she was not swerving or anything like that. She was not complaining about not feeling well. “She gave me the vibe that everything was cool,” he told the court. “Most women will tell you they have a boyfriend and reject you immediately: she didn’t do that.”

Crown counsel Kenneth Ferguson suggested that the woman was not a willing participant in what occurred. Mr. Connor referred to some of the activity the woman had described and said it could not physically have happened if she had not been willing.

In summary, Mr. Ferguson had said the crown’s case was that the woman was a witness of truth. She had been raped three times and she was either drugged or drunk and the defendant knew it but carried on regardless.

Defence counsel Paul Keleher, instructed by local attorney Amelia Fosuhene, emphasized the issue of consent and his client’s belief that the woman was consenting.

The jury of five women and two men deliberated for about two and a half hours before arriving at their verdict. By a division of six to one, they found Mr. Connor not guilty.

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