No positive ID, no conviction

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Rosie Mullaley
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Young woman acquitted on all charges in connection with attempted armed robberies

A woman who tried to hold up two businesses with a knife late last year had blonde hair and a slight build.
So does Alexandra Gough-Hollahan.

Alexandra Gough-Hollahan sits in provincial court in St. John’s Friday to await the judge’s verdict in her case. She was found not guilty on all charges.
— Photo by Rosie Mullaley/The Telegram

But the similarities weren’t distinct enough to pin the crimes on her, a St. John’s judge ruled Friday.

“Positive identification is very narrow,” Judge Lori Marshall said in handing down not-guilty verdicts in Gough-Hollahan’s case at provincial court in St. John’s.

The 18-year-old — who had spent almost seven months in jail — showed no emotion as she was led out of the courtroom, but a young woman in the back said, “Oh my God. I’m so happy!”

Gough-Hollahan was arrested as a result of the two attempted robberies that happened on the same day, Dec. 10, 2013 — one at the Esso gas station on Highland Drive, at Torbay Road, at 3 p.m. and the other two hours later at Marie’s Mini Mart in Paradise, near Octagon Pond.

Video surveillance from the stores showed a woman with similar features to Gough-Hollahan.

During the trial last month, several witnesses — including counsellors and a social worker who had dealt with Gough-Hollahan in the past — testified that on review of the video, they recognized the woman as being Gough-Hollahan from her size, movements and idiosyncrasies.

In closing arguments, Crown prosecutor Glynne Faulkner had argued there were similarities about the suspect in both incidents — she had the same physical features, was wearing the same clothes and had a knife in both places, and the incidents happened just two hours apart.

But defence lawyer Kevin Baker had argued they were just assumptions.

He said with the high angle of the stores’ video cameras and the distance away from the incident, it wasn’t possible to pick out distinctive facial features of the suspect.

Baker said the court could not rely on the witnesses’ testimony, since neither could point to unique idiosyncracies, behaviour or features about the woman in the video that could positively say it was Gough-Hollahan or anything that would set her apart from anyone else.

Judge Lori Marshall agreed with Baker’s assessment and said concerning questions about identification left reasonable doubt.

The judge also noted two of the witnesses, while credible, had reviewed the video together, raising concerns they could have influenced each other.

“Identification in this context is inherently dangerous,” Marshall said.

The store clerks also admitted they could not say for certain it was Gough-Hollahan.

“I have reviewed it myself,” the judge said, “and even I am not able to identify her in the video.”

Gough-Hollahan was found not guilty on two counts each of attempted armed robbery and possessing a weapon dangerous to the public.

She was also originally charged with a Dec. 5 armed robbery at Marie’s Mini Mart on Crosbie Road, but the Crown withdrew that charge due to lack of identification evidence.

rmullaley@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TelyCourt

Organizations: Mini Mart, Esso

Geographic location: Highland Drive, Torbay Road, Paradise Crosbie Road

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