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Lawyers deliver closing arguments in Kamloops serial sexual assault trial

Joel Eric Carlson is seen entering the Kamloops courthouse on June 13, 2024.

CONTENT ADVISORY: This story contains details of sexual violence

An eight-day trial in Kamloops came to a close Tuesday as lawyers gave their closing arguments, recounting testimony from more than a half dozen women.

Seven women told a Kamloops jury Joel Eric Carlson sexually assaulted them, some dating back as far back as ten years.

Carlson didn’t call any evidence in his defence, but his lawyer Lisa Helps told the jury the complainants are unreliable.

Many were women he either dated or cheated on girlfriends with, and they all had "an axe to grind,” Helps said.

The Crown urged the jury to trust in the accounts of the complainants, who came forward years after their alleged assaults, but Carlson's defence suggested the testimonies came from seven angry women.

BC Supreme Court Justice Paul Riley told the jury he expects they will be sequestered by Wednesday afternoon. The court will then await their decision on each of the ten sexual assault charges against Carlson.

Helps and Crown prosecutor Laura Drake delivered their closing arguments Tuesday. Both touched on evidence from the seven complainants, all of whom had different accounts of alleged sexual assaults.

JONESIE: How Canadian news became victims in its own story

They included an ex-girlfriend, who said Carlson raped her three times in three months after she and Carlson had broken up. Each time, she let Carlson inside her home after he climbed onto her balcony. The third time that she screamed so loudly a neighbour called 911.

Helps said it's "not reasonable" to believe the woman would have let him inside two more times after she was already raped. Helps instead suggested the pair were in an argument in the third incident, but that there isn't enough evidence to say she was raped.

Helps also said the complainant isn't credible because she was "very angry" with Carlson, which "shone through" her testimony.

That similar anger was present among the other complainants, who felt wronged by the way Carlson treated them, Helps said.

"I suggest the anger these women have is reasonable, but it's about how they were treated in relationships and how they feel about that treatment by Joel, not about sexual assaults. You heard some terrible things about Joel in his 20s," Helps said. "He behaved very badly. In a former generation he'd be a cad. Today we might call him a player."

She told the jury he cheated on some of the complainants by having sex with the others, with the exception of one who was only a friend.

READ MORE: CONTROL AND POWER: Seven women testify against alleged Kamloops serial rapist

"They were all so angry about his behaviour toward them," Helps said. "Some of them, I think, have decided after the fact a type of buyer's remorse, that they never should have done anything with him and decided it was sexual assault."

Three of Carlson's sexual assault charges are attributed to the three separate alleged rapes at his ex-girlfriend's home. Two are attributed to another former girlfriend, who told the jury he once forced her to have anal sex against her wishes, then sexually touched her while she slept months later. A single count remains for each of the other five complainants.

Drake summarized each of the complainants' allegations for the jury, where the circumstances are different for each one. The first woman, Drake said, testified she would only have sex with him with a condom.

"She explained to you it was her personal rule and she always followed it," Drake said to the jury.

Without a condom, she said he forced her to have sex despite her attempts to fight him off. She said she managed to kick him off the bed, but she eventually gave up.

READ MORE: First of seven alleged victims tell Kamloops jury of sexual assault 11 years ago

Another met Carlson on Tinder, but they agreed to only be friends, she told the jury. When he took her home from a bar, feeling much more intoxicated than she'd expected, she said she was sexually assaulted.

She tried, but might not have managed, to say no as Carlson kissed her in his bed. She then awoke in a shirt that wasn't hers atop the bedding, with her own clothes strewn about the room. She had no recollection of having sex, but she said she did find a vaginal tear, something that wasn't uncommon for her even after consensual sex.

Most of the complainants went to police years after the alleged assaults, many prompted by news coverage of Carlson in 2020.

Justice Riley delivered his instructions to the jury Tuesday afternoon, but he said it will likely be Wednesday before they are sent off for their deliberations.

NOTE TO READERS: If you find yourself in need of support please contact one of these organizations. Help is available 24 hours a day at each of these phone numbers:

  • VictimLinkBC: 1-800-563-0808
  • Vancouver Rape Relief crisis line: 604-872-8212
  • Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre crisis line: 1-888-974-7278

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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