VERNON - The retrial of an Armstrong man whose 2015 conviction for rape was thrown out last year, started today at the Vernon courthouse.
Joseph Vance Caron, born in 1969, was originally found guilty of sexually assaulting a 21-year-old woman in 2015, for an incident that took place the in Armstrong in 2014. He was later sentenced in 2017 to six years in prison and designated a dangerous offender. Caron appealed his conviction for sexual assault, choking and uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm, and in 2018 the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled an error was made at trial and ordered the case to be heard again.
The case was set to be tried in front of a jury, but after deliberations by defence lawyer Alexander Watt regarding previous media coverage of the earlier trial, the jury was dismissed and the trial set to be heard in front of Justice Alison Beames alone. Caron has previous convictions for common assault and sexual assault and a lengthy criminal record.
Crown prosecutor Neil Wiberg told the court in his opening statement he intends to prove that he sexually assaulted the complainant, a stranger, in May 2014. He said the evidence wills how Caron found the complainant taking shelter from the rain in the porch of an Armstrong church somewhere between 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Caron had a chance social encounter with her before he pinned her down and raped her. The complainant then went home and told her boyfriend and called 911.
Wiberg told the court the DNA found on the beer can and cigarette butts matched that of Caron. The witness also remembers Caron wearing a jacket with 'Lavington' written on it. DNA found on the jacket also matched that of Caron.
The woman, who can't be named due to a court order protecting the victim's identity, told the court she had taken to going for walks in the evening after putting her baby to bed. She had gone for a walk and the weather had gotten worse so she sheltered under a church porch. That's when Caron appeared and walked towards her, she said.
"I was having a smoke... he asked for a cigarette. I said I just have menthol," she said. "He had one of my menthols then one of his," she said.
The woman said Caron was drinking a beer.
"Next thing I know I was being pinned to the stairs," she said. "I remember struggling and trying to get away... he put his hands on my throat. I didn't want to die, I did what I was told... he was too strong for me."
She said Caron raped her.
Defence lawyer Alexander Watt questioned the woman's version of events. Watt asked how old she was at the time of the incident in 2014 and after she failed to answer, asked about her cognitive condition called global delay.
"Mentally my maturity is lower than my age," she told the court.
Watt repeatedly asked her which step she was sitting on and how she was sitting on it, while in the porch of the church.
"The question I really want the answer to is where were you sitting when you first saw this man?" asked Watt.
"I can't remember right now," she said.
"Were you on the stairs when you first saw him?" asked Watt.
"I can't remember right now," she said again. "A lot of this I tried very hard to forget."
Watt said the woman failed to identify Caron from a police line-up during the first trial. The lawyer asked if she could identify the person that had assaulted her and she pointed at Caron.
The lawyer for the defence continued his line of questioning after the lunch break, but by this time the woman struggled to answer his questions. After a long silence, she said she was anxious and the court was adjourned.
The trial will continue tomorrow, March 6.
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