In the recent British Columbia criminal case R. v. Mathis, the accused, Mr. Mathis, was charged with assaulting the complainant, Mr. Keuris, during a dance party after a baseball tournament in June 2016. Based on the testimonies of several witnesses, the judge was unable to convict the accused. While the judge determined that each witness provided a true and honest statement of the events, the varied recollections of their testimonies was attributed to the fact that the events occurred 18 months prior to the hearing.
As per the case, Regina v. C.W.H., 1991 CanLII 3956 (BC CA):
First, if you believe the evidence of the accused, obviously you must acquit. Secondly, if you do not believe the testimony of the accused but you are left in reasonable doubt by it, you must acquit. Thirdly, even if you are not left in doubt by the evidence of the accused, you must ask yourself whether, on the basis of the evidence which you do accept, you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt by that evidence of the guilt of the accused.
In a trial by jury, every juror must fully accept and understand the aforementioned instructions in terms of the credibility of the evidence. If the evidence in the case gives the jury any shred of reasonable doubt, it is incumbent upon them to acquit. Only jurors fully convinced of the evidence should convict.
Reasonable Doubt in the Assault Case
In this particular case, the only evidence available to review were the testimonies of the complainant, the accused, and the witnesses involved in the incident between them. The majority of the testimonies describe the complainant stepping in to defend his wife, who was involved in a mild verbal altercation with a member of another baseball team. The only physical interactions between the man from the other baseball team and the complainant were two mutual shoves, after which the men shook hands and ended on civil terms.
The subsequent events and how they transpired all vary from witness to witness. The general testimony is that the accused became aware of the minor altercation between the two men, and then proceeded to invite the complainant to fight. Many agree that the accused continued to beat the complainant while he lay unconscious. Other witnesses recalled him being awake. The complainant did not recall much of the details. Alcohol and fatigue were also factors in the mood and general behaviour of everyone involved.
While the judge was inclined to agree with the Crown’s argument, the conflicting testimonies continued to leave Judge Morgan in reasonable doubt as to what really happened. As it is the Crown’s duty to prove the case of assault against the accused beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge had no choice but to acquit.
The lawyers at Sicotte & Sandhu have years of experience winning assault cases. Contact us for a free consultation today.