The “defence did not call any of its own evidence”

That’s the subhed to the CBC’s online story about Raymond Cormier’s acquittal on charges of murdering 15 year-old Tina Fontaine:

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The trial, which began on Jan. 29, was originally scheduled to last five weeks, but the Crown rested its case after presenting evidence over the course of 12 days, and the defence did not call any of its own evidence.

In a criminal matter, the accused doesn’t necessarily have to call any evidence in his own defence.  For most charges – including murder – the burden of proof lies completely with the Crown, and it’s not enough to show that the accused probably did it.  Nothing less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt is required.

In this case, it certainly appears that the evidence – including conclusive proof that this young girl was actually murdered – simply wasn’t there:

The Crown had no forensic evidence or eyewitnesses directly linking Cormier to Tina’s death, and the cause of her death remains undetermined.

Instead, the Crown’s largely circumstantial case relied on secretly recorded statements made by Cormier, along with testimony from witnesses who said they saw Cormier and Tina together in the days before she disappeared from the Best Western Charterhouse hotel in downtown Winnipeg on Aug. 8, 2014.

The Crown had no forensic evidence or eyewitnesses directly linking Cormier to Tina’s death, and the cause of her death remains undetermined.

Instead, the Crown’s largely circumstantial case relied on secretly recorded statements made by Cormier, along with testimony from witnesses who said they saw Cormier and Tina together in the days before she disappeared from the Best Western Charterhouse hotel in downtown Winnipeg on Aug. 8, 2014.

[…]

Cormier’s defence lawyers, Tony Kavanagh and Andrew Synyshyn, challenged that evidence, arguing the Crown’s case was built on inferences made from recordings that are difficult to hear.

First, with no cause of death, Kavanagh argued in his closing remarks that the jury cannot know for certain that Tina died as a result of an unlawful act, and Cormier should be acquitted “on that alone.”

They argued those statements allegedly made by Cormier in transcripts prepared by police could not be verified by listening to the audio recordings and pointed out that at no point in the transcripts did Cormier admit to the killing.

Even if the jurors accept the accuracy of the words written in police transcripts, defence lawyer Kavanagh argued that rather than admissions of guilt, Cormier’s words should be interpreted as those of a man who feels guilty for not doing more to help Tina.

“That is the guilt that is eating him,” Kavanagh said.

They also challenged the memories of witnesses who said they saw Cormier with the duvet cover and suggested there are other potential suspects who might have harmed Tina.

“We say that justice for Tina Fontaine does not result in an injustice for Raymond Cormier,” Kavanagh said.

Coming so soon after the Gerald Stanley case – another in which a white man was acquitted of killing a young First Nations person – the anger over Cormier’s acquittal is already trending on social media.  For me, the real question is whether a defendant of aboriginal descent, charged with murdering a young white person, would have received the same same benefit of the doubt.

A Halifax couple’s adoption nightmare

After months of work and thousands of dollars spent, Adam and Pam Webber – a couple of good friends of mine – have had their worst dears confirmed:

A Halifax couple says their dreams of adopting a child have been crushed by Russian politics.

Pam and Adam Webber were in the final stages of a year-long adoption process. They thought they’d be flying to Russia this fall to bring home a toddler, but then they heard Canadian adoptions of Russian children were in limbo.

“It’s just heart wrenching and really hard to take,” said Pam.

International adoption was the end of the line for her. She and her husband tried fertility treatment and adopting from within the province with no luck.

“We wanted a family. We wanted a young family. We wanted a very involved family. I was the little girl who asked Santa for her own baby,” she said.

Adam Webber said they chose Russia because they heard the process is quicker.

“Quick being a year or two, as opposed to three or more years like a lot of places,” he said.

[…]

A Russian law banning adoptions by U.S. citizens was rushed through parliament in December and sped to President Vladimir Putin’s desk in less than 10 days in retaliation over a U.S. law calling for sanctions on Russians identified as human-rights violators.

Then, earlier this month, the country stopped adoptions to Sweden because it allows same-sex marriages.

But there was no word on Canada, so the Webbers prepared a toddler’s room and Pam quit her job so she could fly to Russia at a moment’s notice this fall.

Still, they braced for bad news. On Tuesday the Webber’s fears were confirmed by their Ontario adoption agency.

“It’s been a long couple of weeks trying to get answers and officially we found out today that Canada-Russia adoptions are suspended,” she said.

An increasingly nationalist Russia has been shutting the door on international adoptions for quite some time – first against the United States (ostensibly because of some admittedly heartbreaking cases in which adopted children were hurt or killed, but mainly as revenge) and now against other Western countries.  And this is what awaits them in their own country:

Russian authorities have ordered the arrest of two nurses they said severely beat three young children at an orphanage during a night of drinking. According to the authorities, they beat the children to get them to stop crying. One of the victims, a 7-month-old, was wrapped in a sheet and stuffed in a plastic container to muffle the cries.

The other children, a 3-year-old boy and a 10-month-old girl, were hospitalized with multiple injuries, Russia’s Investigative Committee said Thursday. The 7-month-old child was initially in a coma. Their current conditions were not immediately known.

[…]

…critics say little has been done to improve conditions at Russian orphanages or to promote adoptions domestically. More than 600,000 Russian children live outside the custody of their biological parents, many in foster homes. But about 130,000, many with physical and mental health problems, live in orphanages, where they are sometimes neglected and abused.

It was not clear how many children lived at the orphanage in the Khabarovsk region, or whether there had been a history of abuse there.

Investigators said the beatings began after several children awoke during the night and started crying. The children were not found until the next morning, when other workers arrived. Only then were they were taken to the hospital.

More at adoptanewattitude.com.