This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Friday, February 23, 2018

An Indigestible Acquittal

"She wants peace. She wants healing. She wants justice and we're going to continue to look for justice on her behalf."
"Justice was not served today. My community of Sagkeeng will be hurting as I go home today. The people in this country need to know Tina [Fontaine] was loved by everybody."
"The [justice] system has failed our people. We need to correct that. We need to right that for all the Indigenous people in this world."
Sagkeeng Chief Derrick Henderson
see caption
September 2013 school photograph -- Tina Fontaine

The young aboriginal woman, a teenager of 15 who had literally 'lost her way' in life, weighed all of 72 pounds. Her body was discovered, decomposing in the Red River outside of Winnipeg, wrapped in a duvet cover and a plastic bag. The duvet cover was one which witnesses claimed to be similar to one owned by the man accused of murdering her in 2014, and latterly on trial. Forensics could not establish the cause of her death, DNA evidence washed away by her eight days submerged in the river.

It took the jury eleven hours of deliberation to reach their conclusion of insufficient evidence leaving doubt that the 54 year old Raymond Cormier, charged in her death a year after the discovery of her body, was guilty of the girl's murder. She was a girl, her age of fifteen marking her as under-age for sexual exploitation, and Raymond Cormier had indulged himself, having sex with her, claiming he had no idea how old she was.

He had allowed Tina and her boyfriend to stay in his lodgings and provided them with drugs before having sex with her. Tina had left her home at the Sagkeeng First Nation an hour and a half drive north of Winnipeg, ostensibly to look for her mother. Tina had been raised by a great-aunt on the reserve that was her home. Evidently her father had recently died, murdered, and Tina felt traumatized, deciding to leave to join her mother in Winnipeg.

There were secret recordings made by police admitted into evidence at the trial. Although no DNA evidence linked the man on trial to the decomposing body and an autopsy failed to determine the cause of the girl's death, the words that came out of Raymond Cormier's mouth should have helped to convict him of her murder. Undercover investigators had bugged Cormier's apartment. There was a recording of him speaking to a woman that he would bet Tina was killed because of his having had sex with her: "I found out she was 15 years old".

Another recording had him arguing with a woman that there was a little girl in a "grave someplace screaming at the top of her lungs for me to finish the job. And guess what? I finished the job". Tina did scream at Cormier, accusing him of stealing her bicycle to pay for drugs. In the care of social services in Winnipeg, they had placed her in a Winnipeg hotel, and then she disappeared. To live on the street, it seems, where she was sexually exploited.

All 15 years of her, all 72 pounds of the girl, all the hurt and disappointment of her life, abandoned by her mother, raised by a relative, experiencing the trauma in the murder of her father, failed by social services and her own confusion over how life should be a promising future for a girl of fifteen. There was sufficient incriminating evidence to hold this despicable man for her murder, but evidently not sufficient enough.

"There are two distinct questions. Was Tina Fontaine's death caused by an unlawful act? Did Raymond Cormier commit the unlawful act? The defence is saying you should say no to both." Only if they are satisfied -- stressed Chief Justice Glenn Joyal in his final isntructions to the jury -- that her death was unlawful must they determine if it was Cormier who was responsible for her death.Yet simply because the cause of her death was undetermined it should not be inferred her death was lawful. Evidence, he said, indicated the unlikelihood she had died of an overdose or had committed suicide.

Her body, after all, had been wrapped and weighted down by rocks. Experts testified they had no idea how she died. The jury, according to legal experts, could convict her accused killer despite a lack of physical evidence. "It is not a requirement that there be physical evidence of a crime in order for a conviction to be entered. A case can be built of circumstantial evidence. But there has to be -- enough to remove any reasonable doubt on the part of the jurors", stressed criminologist Steven Kohn of the University of Winnipeg.

The jury, unfortunately, failed Tina Fontaine.

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