EDMONTON – The Alberta Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial in the case of an Ontario trucker who was acquitted of first-degree murder in the death of an indigenous woman.
Back in March 2015, Bradley Barton was found not guilty by a jury in the death of Cindy Gladue.
Gladue, 36, was a sex-trade worker whose body was found in a bathtub in an Edmonton motel room in 2011.
She bled to death after a night of what Barton called consensual, rough sex.
The Court of Appeal has ruled there were serious errors during the trial, including how Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Graesser charged the jury about Barton’s conduct and on the law of sexual assault relating to consent.
The ruling released Friday said these errors negatively compromised the jury’s ability to properly assess the evidence and apply the law correctly.
“Despite our society’s recognition of individual autonomy and equality, there still remains an undeniable need for judges to ensure that the criminal law is not tainted by pernicious and unfair assumptions, whether about women, aboriginal people, or sex-trade workers,” said the written ruling by a panel of three judges, including Chief Justice Catherine Fraser.
“Failing to meet that need can undermine the jurors’ ability to apply the law objectively and correctly. Regrettably, in this case, the jury charge was deficient in all these respects.”
Defence lawyer Dino Bottos said Friday he is “very disappointed” at the ruling.
He said in particular, he was taken by surprise when the panel took the four grounds of appeal brought by the Crown and added their own, additional ground of appeal.
“The Court of Appeal believed the trial judge erred by instructing the jury incorrectly on post-offence misconduct,” Bottos said, adding it caught him unprepared, as counsel is usually given months’ notice as to what the issues are.
“To have a fifth ground conjured up and thrown at you is very unfair,” he said.
Bottos said such a move by the Court of Appeal is supposed to be unusual.
“In fact, our Court of Appeal has been corrected at least once on a major ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada on the fact that they are not supposed to come up with their own grounds of appeal very lightly.”
Bottos said his client is disappointed at the news.
Barton’s trial heard that he hired Gladue for two nights of sex in June 2011.
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He testified that during both nights he put his fist in her vagina, but on the second night she started bleeding.
Barton said when he woke up the next morning he found her dead in the motel room bathtub and called 911.
The Crown called a medical examiner at the trial who testified that an 11-centimetre cut in Gladue’s vagina wall was caused by a sharp object.
Gladue’s vagina had been preserved and the medical examiner used it as an exhibit as he described the wound to the jury.
The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund submitted a brief to court. The brief said Gladue was dehumanized and stereotyped during the trial as a native and a prostitute.