Sex assault trial starts more than a year after complainant's death
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, December 7, 2017 9:26AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 7, 2017 4:08PM EST
BARRIE, Ont. -- Kassidi Coyle took her own life before she could testify against the man she accused of sexually assaulting her, but statements the Ontario woman made to friends and police shortly after the alleged incident will be admitted as evidence at his trial, a judge has ruled.
In a ruling delivered just before the trial was set to begin, Ontario Court Justice Robert Gattrell said Coyle -- who he identified only as K.C. -- spoke to her friends in the "immediate aftermath" of the alleged incident and didn't have time or motive to fabricate the allegations against Shawn Roy, nor is there evidence that she was impaired at the time.
Furthermore, the 20-year-old's statements to a 911 operator and to police investigators were recorded, which allows the court to assess her demeanour, the judge wrote. And the results of a rape kit corroborate her perception of physical contact and "the nature of that contact," he wrote.
"I find that there are sufficient circumstantial and evidentiary guarantees that the statements in question are inherently trustworthy and they will be admitted," he wrote.
Roy's lawyer, David Wilcox, had argued that the statements should be excluded because Coyle cannot be cross-examined on several aspects of her account, the document shows. He suggested Coyle may have misperceived what happened.
Wilcox said Thursday that the ruling will affect how his client chooses to proceed and asked that the start of the judge-alone trial, which was scheduled for that day, be postponed. It is now set to begin on Dec. 12.
The identity of sexual assault complainants is typically protected by a publication ban but Coyle's family has said they fought so that her name could be made public.
The ruling lays out what Coyle told others happened in the early morning of July 1, 2016. She and two friends had gone to the drive-in and returned to the home where one friend lived with her father, the document says. Sometime after midnight, they were asked to go pick up the father's roommate and Roy, who was a friend.
The group arrived back at the house around 3 a.m. and some stayed up playing pool, it says. Coyle went to bed almost immediately in a room that had been designated for her and the two other women.
Coyle alleged she was woken up just before 5 a.m. by the realization that there was someone with her in the bed, and she felt that person try to penetrate her, the document says. She jumped out of bed, saw Roy and noticed her underwear and pyjama shorts were on the floor, it's alleged in the document.
She put her shorts on and went to tell the others what had happened, then later called her mother and police, it says. She was interviewed on camera and taken to do a rape kit, which found male DNA on her genitalia that was more likely to belong to Roy than to a randomly selected person from the same population, the document says.
Roy told the group he had accidentally gone into the wrong room but had not sexually assaulted Coyle, the document says.
Coyle took her own life four months later after months of struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, her family has said. The family's lawyer said it's incredibly rare to have a trial of this nature when the central witness isn't there to testify.
David Butt said Coyle sought counselling but couldn't get a timely appointment, though she received acute psychiatric care for a few crisis episodes.
Her story "raises another important, broader issue," he said. "Here, somebody who self-identified as a sexual assault survivor and desperately needed help was not able to access that help in sufficient time to make a difference."
One of Coyle's sisters started an online petition calling for more support for those who have been sexually assaulted. Close to 36,000 people had signed it as of Wednesday afternoon.
"We need to raise awareness of this growing problem and prevent someone else from losing their sister, aunt, daughter or friend because of the faults of the system," Chelsea Coyle wrote on the petition.