Warning: Contains graphic content.
What happened in the jury room where 10 men and two women decided that Hedley attacker Jacob Hoggard guilty of sexually assaulting a young woman from Ottawa but not guilty of raping and groping a teenage fan is a secret under Canadian law.
Several lawyers and legal experts who spoke to The Star over the course of the trial say the conviction’s guilt and agonizing six days of deliberation — during which the jury twice told the court it had deadlocked on “certain charges” — could suggest at least some jurors believed That the former fan was telling the truth, even if in the end they couldn’t be sure beyond a reasonable doubt.
“It seemed to me like they were really struggling internally,” said Dawn Way, a lawyer who often represents sexual assault complainants.
But legally, Hoggard’s innocence must now be presumed in relation to the allegations of the teenage complainant, who testified that Hoggard groped her after Hedley’s show in April 2016 when she was 15 and raped months after she turned 16.
“Our courts have always said that proving innocence amounts to proving innocence because we are innocent until proven guilty,” said defense attorney Daniel Brown, who has authored a legal book on sexual assault law.
This also means that the teen complainant’s evidence cannot be used in any future court application that would argue Hoggard had a pattern of abuse, Brown said.
However, finding the guilt means the Ottawa woman’s testimony can be used in Hoggard’s next trial, for the 2016 sexual assault charge of causing bodily harm that allegedly occurred in Kirkland Lake. Hoggard denied this claim.
In a statement from his attorney Monday night, Hoggard said he was “disappointed with the verdict, but grateful that the jury rightly acquitted him” of the teen complainant’s allegations.
“While the verdict was not what Mr. Hoggard had hoped for, we thank the jury for its diligence and careful attention, and its recognition of the fact that the evidence on some of the charges was too weak and dangerous to support a conviction.”
Whatever the speculation about what the finding of non-conviction result means, Brown said, that cannot enter into the final ruling imposed by Supreme Court Justice Gillian Roberts.
Roberts said Hoggard would likely face a “significant prison sentence” for sexual assault causing bodily harm.
At the sentencing hearing, Roberts will also have to provide factual findings about what happened in a downtown Toronto hotel room.
The Ottawa woman testified that after meeting him in a hotel room in downtown Toronto, Hoggard pinned and raped her vaginally, anally and orally, slapped and strangled her so hard that she thought she was going to die, and spat in her mouth. She described bleeding afterward and thought her vagina was tears.
The jurors could have determined that the woman did not consent to one, some, or all of the sexual acts causing physical harm, or had differing opinions. Finding physical harm can mean “any harm or injury that interferes with the complainant’s health, comfort, and psychological well-being in more than a brief or fleeting way.”
Other legal experts noted that the teenage complainant’s testimony appeared balanced and low-key, while the Ottawa woman appeared more emotional on the podium. While the jury was warned to assume how the “real victim” would act, they were also able to use the complainants’ behavior to assess their credibility—a task even seasoned judges may find difficult to balance.
It’s always worrying, Wai said, that jurors rely on harmful stereotypes about how the “perfect victim” should behave.
She also said there can be a problem when jurors or judges hold the complainant’s evidence – especially about events that occurred more than a year before it was reported to the police – to an impossibly high standard.
“I think it’s very difficult to begin to dissect evidence for side issues from previous years,” she said.
Brown said there is always a concern that a jury can sometimes split a difference or reach a compromise after long deliberations, but that there is no reason to believe that has happened here because the rulings do not conflict with each other.
“This was not a rush to judgment.” / Several experts said the emotional phone call between the Ottawa woman and Hoggard, which was secretly recorded in the days following the sexual assault and revealed to her shortly before she was questioned about it. In court, he could have played a role in the jury’s decision to convict Hoggard.
The defense made the call after the complainant said she remembered only a 30-second conversation, and suggested she was lying to a jury to make Hoggard look like a rapist.
The complainant shook and cried in front of the jury when the 15-minute call began, and the jury was told that they could take into account the complainant’s behavior and tone of voice on the call to assess her credibility.
As a layperson, “I’m going to stick to my sense of reasoning at this point and say: How hard is it to fake this?” Defense attorney Chris Suratan said.
It is impossible to determine whether the jury’s skewed gender balance played any role in their deliberations or even their ability to debate the graphic sexual allegations.
Ciuratan said there is no constitutional right to a particular jury composition — only a fairly selected jury. Instead, the focus was on trying to make the pool of potential jurors more representative of the community.
Hoggard is expected to appeal the guilty verdict – and the crown prince could appeal the acquittal. Appeals must be based on errors of law, as jurors do not give reasons for their decisions.
If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual violence or abuse, you can call the Abused Women Helpline at 416863 0511 or 0511 1866863 or text #SAFE (#7233) on your Bell, Rogers, Fido or Telus mobile phone.
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