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Lawyers have final say at sexual assault trial before St. John's court

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It’s one thing to call in a prank to your mother, Crown prosecutor Paul Thistle told a jury in Newfoundland Supreme Court Wednesday. It’s another thing to lie on the stand in a courtroom.

Thistle and defence lawyer Rosellen Sullivan each addressed the 12 jurors, giving their closing remarks in the sexual assault trial of Claude Parsons, 63. Parsons is accused of assaulting a 14-year-old girl three times over the course of a barbecue party at a cabin in Conception Bay North two years ago, by putting his hand inside her clothes and fondling her.

Thistle told the jurors the case comes down to whether or not they believe the complainant, now 16, pointing out she “was unable to consent, and moreover, she did not consent” to any sexual activity. By law, a 14-year-old cannot consent to sexual activity with a person more than five years older. All sexual activity without consent is illegal.

Thistle acknowledged there were a number of inconsistencies in the girl’s testimony, and said it’s common for a witness to forget some details when recalling evidence, especially after a period of time.

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The girl admitted making mistakes in some of the details, Thistle pointed out, and he reminded the jury of her age, saying her reasoning was often immature and unsophisticated because of that.

“(She) was adamant those three incidents happened like that. She was cross-examined on her account of them and she never wavered,” he said.

“I’d suggest to you that on the central details, she was consistent.”

Thistle also addressed criminal charges the girl herself is currently facing, which had been brought up by Sullivan during the trial. The teenager is charged with three counts of mischief for a prank in which she and her then-boyfriend allegedly contacted her mother to say she had been hit by a car and killed. Police and rescue personnel attended the scene of the reported accident, blocking off the road for a period of time.

“They are two different circumstances,” Thistle said. 

“The central question for you now is, do you believe (the complainant’s) account of what happened? As a follow-up to that, does she have any reason to lie? (She) had nothing to gain in lying about this.”

Sullivan painted a picture of a teenager who was mad at Parsons and his wife for allegedly calling child-protection authorities to report her family, and who wanted revenge. 

The girl’s evidence “defies logic,” Rosellen said, pointing to inconsistencies in her testimony.

“That kind of inconsistency can’t be explained by age or immaturity or unsophistication,” Sullivan said. “That is an attempt to cover up deceit.

“I would ask you to consider the number of times when I questioned her on the inconsistencies and she said, ‘I told the police officer that, but he never wrote it down,’ or, ‘I have a bad memory.’ Bad memory is a big red flag when it comes to reasonable doubt.

“If any allowance is made for the fact that she was 14, it’s that she doesn’t appreciate consequences.”

Justice Rosalie McGrath instructed the 12 jurors on the law before sending them away to deliberate, telling them to focus on the evidence and use their own common sense when deciding on a verdict.

The jurors hadn’t agreed on a verdict by 7 p.m. Wednesday, and were sequestered at a hotel for the night, and will continue deliberating Thursday morning.

 

Tara.bradbury@thetelegram.com

Twitter: tara_bradbury

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