Judge blasts RCMP for shoddy investigative work
A Nunavut judge slammed RCMP for shoddy police work when found two people not guilty of aggravated assault after a trial in Iqaluit May 21.
“I conclude that the Crown’s ability to prosecute this case has been handicapped by an incomplete investigation by police,”Justice Robert Kilpatrick said.
He also criticized the non-appearance of the lead investigating officer as a witness.
On Aug. 9, 2009, Eegeesiak Shoo got into an argument with a man and a woman whose names he did not know in front of the Storehouse Bar and Grill in Iqaluit.
He turned away. While his back was turned someone kicked him in the leg from behind.
The blow severely fractured Shoo’s leg, and he passed out from the pain.
When he came to a few moments later, another woman was checking on him, telling him not to move.
When she left to get help, the woman involved in the argument kicked Shoo in the face as he lay on the ground.
The Crown’s case relied on the testimony of Storehouse manager Jeff Lem, who had not actually been present for the attack.
Lem testified that he had asked around the bar and found the names of the attackers, which he gave to police.
But at the trial of Aaron Kopalie and Inea Alikatuktuk, none of these supposed onlookers were among the Crown’s witnesses, so they couldn’t be cross-examined by defence lawyers.
Neither was the RCMP’s lead investigating officer on the case, who had been on out of town escorting a prisoner at the time of the trial.
When police interviewed Shoo in hospital he was intoxicated but in a great deal of pain from his injuries, Kilpatrick said, so he might have been unreliable.
Kilpatrick said RCMP should have interviewed Shoo later, while he was sober and not in such great pain.
And they should have given him a chance to identify his attackers with a photo lineup, which did not happen.
Police didn’t even ask Shoo for descriptions of the man and woman he argued with.
When police arrested Alikatuktuk, she had blood on her shoe that DNA testing revealed to be Shoo’s.
The Crown argued the blood must have come from when Alikatuktuk kicked Shoo in the face, but the defence argued Alikatuktuk may have just stepped into Shoo’s blood after someone else attacked him.
Kilpatrick criticized the Crown lawyers because they had not produced an expert witness, such as an RCMP forensic expert to examine the blood pattern and testify about how the blood probably got on Alikatuktuk’s shoe.
Kilpatrick called the blood on Alikatuktuk’s shoe “highly suspicious,” and said if the court’s legal standard of proof had been lower he might have found her guilty.
But he said the defence had established reasonable doubt, which made her acquittal legally necessary.
“I have a doubt,” he said. “It is a fragile doubt, but it is a doubt.”
And since Shoo had not seen whether it was the man or the woman who kicked him in the leg there was even less reason to convict Kopalie.
Shoo needed seven months to recover from his broken leg, which needed pins inserted to hold it together.