Judge said identification from witnesses was unreliable
James Randolph Oliver was found not guilty on four charges, including assaulting a man with a weapon and causing him bodily harm, by a Newfoundland Supreme Court judge Wednesday in St. John’s. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram
James Randolph Oliver pumped his hands in the air and whispered, “Yes!” The judge had just found him not guilty on all charges and he couldn’t hide his elation.
Outside the courtroom, Oliver wrapped his arms around the woman with him and kissed her on the lips.
Minutes later, outside the court house, his screams of joy could be heard almost a block away.
“I’m free!” he shouted as he rushed down the front steps of Newfoundland Supreme Court on Duckworth Street in downtown St. John’s.
But it’s no wonder Oliver was so delighted. The 46-year-old would likely have been looking at a lengthy jail sentence if convicted.
Instead, on Wednesday, Justice James Adams said there was insufficient evidence to convict Oliver on the four charges he faced — being unlawfully in a dwelling house, assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm and possession of a weapon.
The main reason for his decision was based on the fact that none of the witnesses who testified at the two-day trial in June could positively identify Oliver has the man responsible for the attack.
“Eye witness identification is difficult ground to substantiate a conviction,” Adams said. “Although the general public may think it’s the best evidence possible.
“But I found the eye witness identification in this case to be unreliable and of poor quality.”
Oliver was charged following an incident that happened July 24, 2010.
The complainant had been socializing at a house on 8A Howlett Ave. that night when one of women got into a heated argument while talking with an unknown person on the phone.
Another woman approached her and insisted she be quiet, since her parents were in bed.
That led to a physical altercation between the two women.
Police were called, but the woman who had been on the phone was gone by the time officers arrived. Officers left and the group continued to socialize.
Shortly afterwards, the woman who had been on the phone returned to the house with three men. One of the men was carrying a long stick that looked like a leg of a table or a pool cue.
They were shouting and the man made threatening gestures with the stick. He then struck one of the men on the head with the stick. The woman and the three men then left.
Police and an ambulance were called.
The injured man suffered a large gash to his head, which required 12 staples to close.
When questioned by police, he said he couldn’t identify who hit him and could not describe him, as he admitted to drinking more than 10 beer that night.
The only thing he said he could remember was the man had facial hair and looked old. At first he said the man looked to be around 35 years old, but he later revised that to 45 or 50.
On the witness stand, he said that two of the women at the house that night told him later that it was Oliver.
He picked him out of a photo lineup, but later confirmed it by looking at Oliver’s Facebook page.
He admitted seeing him at the preliminary inquiry and the trial helped shape his recollection of Oliver.
“He only had a fleeting glimpse of (the assailant) during a chaotic situation,” the judge said.
During their testimony, a few of the women at the house that night had sketchy recollections of what happened.
“The circumstances which the observations were made were difficult and chaotic,” Adams said.
Because of the poor memory and inconsistencies, he said he could not rely on their testimony.
As a result, there was enough reasonable doubt to acquit Oliver.