A Yellowknife man accused of sexually assaulting a woman as she slept in his apartment last fall has been acquitted of all charges.
Elvis Blackduck, 49, was found not guilty of sexual assault and uttering threats to cause death by Judge Garth Malakoe in NWT territorial court Friday.
Wiping away tears as she sat behind a testimonial aid screen to prevent her from seeing Blackduck, the woman told the court she passed out on a couch after getting drunk. When she awoke on a mattress, she said, her pants and underwear were down around her knees. She said she knew she’d been raped – and that Blackduck was the one who did it.
But on Friday, following closing submissions from the Crown and Blackduck’s lawyer on Thursday, Malakoe said there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Blackduck.
“It would be dangerous to convict on the evidence before me,” said Malakoe as he handed down his decision.
Malakoe said the woman’s testimony, of which the “Crown’s entire case,” relied on, was inconsistent.
He said her alcohol consumption that night left her memory hazy, and said that, at times, she appeared to be searching for memories that weren’t there. This led her to have a poor grasp on the timeline of events she outlined during her testimony, he said.
Malakoe said the woman didn’t embellish details and showed no apparent bias against Blackduck.
But two “major” inconsistencies in her testimony, Malakoe said, prompted cause for concern.
The woman first said she had been drinking with another woman and Blackduck, and that another man was in the room when she woke up in the morning. During cross-examination, she said she recalled the man being there the night before, too, but that she didn’t see him when she passed out.
Malakoe also pointed to the woman’s testimony about bruises she said she sustained on her wrists from Blackduck.
Malakoe noted she first said she didn’t know how she got the bruises, but then testified they were the result of Blackduck pulling her onto the mattress – a detail she didn’t tell police.
These inconsistencies, he said, “cast a shadow on her reliability,” one he said he couldn’t ignore.
During the trial, the court heard vaginal and rectal swabs taken from the woman were tested for male DNA, with none being found.
Semen was not tested for. The woman’s clothes, seized by RCMP, weren’t tested at all.
Therefore, Malakoe said, there was nothing to corroborate the woman’s testimony, except for photos of her bruised wrists, which he didn’t find compelling enough to convict Blackduck.
Malakoe said the evidence showed there were two men, Blackduck and the other man, in the apartment unit when the woman woke up.
“(There is) … no direct evidence linking Blackduck to the sexual assault anymore than (the other man) to the assault.
The other man and the woman who were drinking with the complainant at the apartment, didn’t testify. On Wednesday, the court heard from an RCMP officer who said she couldn’t located the two following the complainant’s police report.
Malakoe said it would have helped to hear from the potential witnesses.
“I am satisfied something happened to her that night, but the evidence leaves a doubt,” said Malakoe.