Judge wrong to use woman’s email to police in sex-assault conviction

Judge wrong to use woman's email in sex case

TORONTO — A judge’s finding that an email a woman sent to police helped prove she had been sexually assaulted is enough to quash a conviction against her alleged attacker, Ontario’s top court ruled Friday.

In ordering a new hearing for Bo Zou, the Court of Appeal found the judge was wrong to view the email sent a day after the incident as confirmation of her account at trial.

The case arose when the then-18-year-old woman, who can only be identified as A.Y., went to Zou’s condominium in Toronto for a photo shoot in July 2012.

She alleged that Zou, then 33, who held himself out as a fashion photographer under the name Jay Dreamcollector, attacked her. Despite her protestations, she testified, he took off her clothes and raped her. For his part, Zou testified it was A.Y. who made advances on him, and that she was angry because he rebuffed them.

At trial, A.Y. gave an account of what happened in Zou’s studio. She also testified that, on the morning after the alleged assault, she angrily fired off an anonymous email to police that described in detail what allegedly had happened. The email version of events, the prosecution noted, was consistent with her oral testimony.

In July 2015, Superior Court Justice Robert Goldstein convicted Zou of sexually assaulting the woman and sentenced him to two years less a day. Among other things, Goldstein said Zou’s account made no sense. He also said he found A.Y. to be credible.

“Most importantly, I find A.Y.’s email, sent contemporaneously with the events, to be corroboration of her evidence,” Goldstein said.

Zou appealed, arguing the email could not legally have been used to support A.Y.’s testimony about the assault.

For its part, the prosecution maintained the judge only used the email as circumstantial evidence to support A.Y.’s testimony about her state of mind after the alleged attack.

However, defence lawyer Marie Henein countered that it might have been proper to use the note to show the woman was angry at Zou, but that using its contents to confirm her account of what happened flawed the conviction.

The Appeal Court agreed with Zou, saying the email was not from an independent source that could confirm the truth of A.Y.’s story.

“The trial judge’s use of the word ‘corroboration’ in the context of a prior consistent statement by a witness is troubling,” the Appeal Court said.

“That word, as commonly understood, refers to evidence from a source other than the witness whose evidence is challenged which is capable of confirming the veracity of the evidence of the challenged witness.”

The Appeal Court pointed out that Goldstein referred to the email six times in his reasons for conviction.


Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Kelowna RCMP use spike belt to apprehend alleged car thieves

Both suspects were expected in court Thursday morning

Kelowna RCMP ask for assistance to identify suspects

The break and enter resulted in a firearm being stolen

TELUS works with YMCA for Okanagan youth

A four week employment program will assist at-risk youth

First recreational cannabis store in Okanagan has quiet opening near Lake Country

Indigenous Bloom has opened on Okanagan Indian Band land

New Lake Country school sports fields to include track and field oval

School rec facilities to be developed on former Aspen Grove golf course

B.C. opioid crisis to get same world-renowned treatment approach as HIV/AIDS

A program that focuses on treatment as prevention will roll out Jan. 17

Ex-Liberal candidate in Burnaby, B.C., says volunteer wrote controversial post

Karen Wang dropped out following online post singling out NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s ethnicity

Asteroids are smacking Earth twice as often as before

The team counted 29 craters that were no older than 290 million years

Canada’s arrest of Huawei exec an act of ‘backstabbing,’ Chinese ambassador says

China has called Canada’s arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou ‘politically motivated’

Remorse high for Vernon man sentenced for car surfing death

Driver of car that killed friend who was car surfing gets nine months in jail

In limbo: Leftover embryos challenge clinics, couples

Some are outright abandoned by people who quit paying storage fees and other couples struggle with tough decisions

BREAKING: Jury finds man accused of killing B.C. girl, 12, guilty

Twelve-year-old Monica Jack disappeared in May 1978 while riding her bike along a highway in Merritt, B.C.

AC/DC tribute ready to rock Okanagan

Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton stops on LA Bonfire tour

B.C. government extends coastal log export rules for six months

Premier John Horgan promises reform at loggers’ convention

Most Read