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Questioning justice in the Ghomeshi trial

Photo: Joe Gratz/flickr

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Did he do it? Of course.

Did the Crown prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Jian Ghomeshi sexually assaulted three women?

That's more complicated.

Let's start with what we know. Three women went to police alleging Ghomeshi sexually assaulted them, each story strikingly similar: Ghomeshi punched and choked them without consent, without warning, and with no logical or romantic connection to what happened before or after. We know other women also came forward, though not to police, with eerily comparable tales.

Cobble those together, and we know what we believe.

But in a criminal case, the Crown must -- rightly -- prove the truth of each allegation beyond reasonable doubt.

That's never easy, but he-said-she-said sexual assault allegations -- with no witnesses, no physical evidence, where time has passed and peripheral memories faded -- create a proof-mountain to daunt even the most resourceful prosecutor.

The Crown must hope the complainants are credible, and there are enough of them -- providing similar independent allegations -- to convince the judge they must be telling the truth.

The defence faces a similar hurdle, but in reverse: no witnesses, no physical evidence to prove the assault didn't happen. Its only recourse is to undermine the accusers' credibility.

Questioning what happened between each woman and Ghomeshi in the hours, days, months after the assault seems, on balance, fair. The Crown and the complainants must show -- as they did -- that their behaviour was reasonable in context. (Many of us, regardless of gender, will understand the desire not to confront, to move on.)

It's up to the judge to balance any doubts with their responses.

The fact two of the complainants shared their stories with each other in 5,000 emails, texts, social media before the court case is more problematic. The judge must now decide whether their allegations are really independent.

It's as easy to believe Ghomeshi will be acquitted as found guilty.

But what happens in court now almost doesn't matter. The complainants have rightly become social media heroes because they stood up, and because they started an important discussion. Ghomeshi has long since lost what matters most deeply to him. His reputation is shot, his career in tatters.

Justice has been served.

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber's Halifax Metro column.

Photo: Joe Gratz/flickr

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