A convenience store clerk's description of the man who robbed her wasn't clouded by his picture and voice in the news, a Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador judge has ruled - it was solidified by it.
On Tuesday, Justice Robert Stack convicted Justin Wiseman, 27, of robbing a Mount Pearl Marie's Mini Mart in March 2018 while disguised and armed with a knife, then making his getaway in a stolen pickup truck.
The store clerk testified in June she had been working in the convenience store around 8:30 a.m., when a man dressed in black and wearing a bandanna over his face entered with a knife.
Video footage showed the man jumping over the counter and rummaging through the cigarette cupboard and the till, leaving about a minute and a half later with what was determined to be $417.80 in cash and $1,209.87 worth of tobacco products.
The woman told the court she had been frightened by the knife, but had felt the robber wasn't going to hurt her, since he had apologized repeatedly, telling her that he was sorry for his actions but had no other choice because he was getting no help. He had called her "sweetie" and told her to relax, she said.
She testified she had been at home that evening when an NTV news report about an armed standoff taking place at a nearby home came on the television in the next room. Wiseman, said to have barricaded himself inside a residence on Jersey Avenue while armed with a knife, had called the TV station and given an interview to a reporter. The store clerk said she heard the voice in the interview and immediately recognized it as the man who robbed her.
The next morning, when she saw a picture of Wiseman on the front page of The Telegram, she recognized the tattoo above his eye.
In June, Wiseman's lawyer, Karen Rehner, argued the store clerk's memory of the robbery had been tainted by the media coverage. On Tuesday, Stack disagreed.
"I place a great deal of weight on the identification of the accused by (the clerk) from his voice on the NTV news and his photograph in The Telegram," Stack said while delivering his verdict.
The woman's recognition of Wiseman's voice was confirmed when she saw his photo in the paper, with a tattoo that resembled the one she had already described to police, the judge said.
The most compelling piece of evidence, however, was the truck, Stack said. The clerk saw a grey truck leaving the parking lot after the robbery, and recorded the licence plate number. Police discovered the truck had been stolen and when officers spotted it on the road three hours later, they followed it to the Jersey Avenue home where the standoff then took place.
"It was the grey truck that left the scene of the robbery that brought police to the accused," Stack said.
After learning Wiseman was inside the home and refusing to come out, police surrounded it. Wiseman appeared in the doorway of the home a number of times over the next seven hours, and was eventually arrested after police noticed smoke coming from the residence and stormed in. He pleaded guilty to a charge of arson that was laid as a result, and also faces a charge of possessing a knife for a dangerous purpose.
"I place a great deal of weight on the identification of the accused by (the clerk) from his voice on the NTV news and his photograph in The Telegram," — Judge Robert Stack
Forensic investigators told the court they found a partially burned hammer and a charred knife among debris in and around the living room fireplace inside the house. A pack of cigarettes, one of the same brands stolen from the store, was found in the basement.
Prosecutor Kathleen O'Reilly alleged the knife and hammer were the ones used in the armed robbery, the cigarettes were among the tobacco stolen, and Wiseman - the only man who entered or left the home after the stolen truck pulled into the driveway - was the robber.
Stack said he placed no value on the single pack of cigarettes in the basement, and explained the burned knife and hammer, by themselves, meant nothing.
"On their own, they would not implicate a person living (in the residence) of any wrongdoing. In the context of this case, however, they point to the accused destroying evidence linking him to the crime," the judge said.
While the evidence against Wiseman was circumstantial, it was enough, when viewed all together, to prove him guilty on three of the charges related to the armed robbery, Stack said.
Stack acquitted Wiseman of a charge related to the wielding of the hammer during the robbery, noting the clerk had not seen a hammer and video footage had shown Wiseman setting the hammer down on the floor.
Wiseman will be back in court on Friday to deal with the charges related to the standoff.