Judge says victim was attacked, but reasonable doubt remains as to who was the perpetrator
A provincial court judge does not deny that social media websites can provide relevant details for the purposes of a court case. But as such a site relates to a recent case involving an assault outside a Corner Brook bar, Judge Wayne Gorman said they should not substitute for proper identification procedures.
Stephanie Lynn McCarthy was acquitted of assault at Corner Brook provincial court on July 11.
According to evidence presented in court, the female victim and her boyfriend were at McHugh’s Bar during the early hours of Oct. 7, 2012. The victim was not feeling well as the bar was crowded. Her boyfriend testified she did not feel well due to the amount of beer she consumed and described her as “quite intoxicated.”
As she pushed her way through the crowd to reach an exit, the victim testified she was punched in the face and failed to see the punch or the person who hit her.
The pair left and went to another bar, only to return 15 minutes later. The victim said she heard someone say there was a person at the bar talking about her. Her boyfriend said he heard someone talk about punching “a skinny bitch,” and testified the woman looked like the person who hit his girlfriend in the bar.
The victim walked up to the woman she claimed was McCarthy and offered an apology. She said McCarthy declined and began “mouthing off.” An argument that involved cursing eventually led to the woman grabbing the victim by her hair, pushing her to the ground, and dragging the victim towards the door of the bar.
Neither the victim nor her boyfriend knew at the time who this woman was. They heard someone there refer to her as Stephanie McCarthy before leaving McHugh’s.
The boyfriend searched the name on Facebook with his phone. He found a person with that name who lived in the province. He testified he was not certain if there were one or two people in the Facebook user’s profile picture, but he testified it was the same person who hit his girlfriend and pulled her hair.
He showed his girlfriend the profile picture and told her he found the woman who assaulted her. But the victim told the court she initiated the search on Facebook the following day and found Stephanie McCarthy herself. She testified the woman in the profile picture attached to the Facebook account looked like the woman who assaulted her. She contacted police later that day.
Another witness at the scene indicated the victim’s boyfriend showed him a picture on Facebook. That witness identified McCarthy as the person who assaulted the victim. He also described himself as “pretty intoxicated.”
While Gorman was convinced an assault took place based on the testimony of the victim and other witnesses, the judge said there were discrepancies in the testimony and that they had all been drinking and did not know the accused prior to that night.
Gorman also noted there was no evidence presented about the nature of the profile picture in question and that there was no evidence to indicate whether or not police conducted its own identification procedure, which would allow the photo to be subject to judicial criticism.