Article Source: The Star Phoenix
BY SEAN TREMBATH, THE STAR PHOENIX APRIL 2, 2015
More than 100 people rallying at Saskatoon City Hall applauded the announcement that Alberta prosecutors are appealing the acquittal of an Ontario trucker charged with murder in a case that has sparked protests and calls for justice for aboriginal women across the country.
“The appeal is a huge victory, because it shows courts are recognizing what is happening on the streets,” Erica Lee, one of the local rally’s organizers, said.
Rallies were held Thursday in several cities, including Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, in honour of Cindy Gladue, a 36-year-old prostitute found dead in a bathtub in an Edmonton motel room five years ago.
A jury found Bradley Barton not guilty last month of first-degree murder in her death.
“As First Nations people, when we look at the decision that was handed down, what kind of message is it sending to women?” Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said.
Bellegarde spoke at the Saskatoon rally, calling for changes to the justice system.
“As First Nations people, we’re under represented on juries but over represented in the jails and the justice system. We keep saying there’s got to be alternatives. The existing system is failing,” he said prior to taking the podium.
The Crown had argued at trial that Gladue had been cut with a weapon, but the defence attributed the injury to rough sex.
Gladue’s mother and three daughters attended a rally in Edmonton, along with several First Nations chiefs. Many demanded government action for missing and murdered aboriginal women.
WARNING: CONTENT MAY DISTURB SOME READERS
Barton’s trial heard that he had hired Gladue for two nights of sex in June 2011.
He testified that he put his fist in her vagina on the first evening. On the next night, after some drinking, he did the same — but she started bleeding. When she went to the bathroom, he fell asleep, he said.
The next morning he found her body in the tub, he told court. He later called 911.
Barton told the jury the sex was consensual.
The Crown called a medical examiner at the trial, who testified that an 11-centimetre cut to the woman’s vaginal wall had been caused by a sharp object. The victim’s vagina had been preserved and the medical expert used that exhibit as he described the fatal wound to the jury.
It’s believed to be the first time human tissue has been presented as evidence in a Canadian trial, said Barton’s lawyer Dino Bottos. He opposed the use of the body part, arguing that it was too disturbing and would inflame the jury.
The Crown said it was important for the jury to see and added that some autopsy photos were not as clear as they could have been.
Critics have said the use of Gladue’s tissue at trial was disrespectful and hope it won’t be used as evidence if there is another trial. They’ve also bashed the case because no aboriginal people were on the jury.
Alberta Justice said it couldn’t comment on facts of the case because of the appeal. In a release, Chief Crown prosecutor Michelle Doyle called Gladue’s death “shocking and appalling.”
The Crown’s appeal notice cites mistakes the judge made during his charge to the jury, including his instructions about how Barton could have been found guilty of manslaughter.
Barton’s lawyer confirmed there were no aboriginals on the jury, but there were two women and several visible minorities.
Bottos said while he respects the protesters, they did not attend the month-long trial. If they had, he said, they likely would have agreed with the jury.
“What they’ve done is they’ve taken this case and tried to hold it up as an example of how aboriginal women or aboriginal people are mistreated by the criminal justice system,” Bottos said.
“The jury in this case spent a day and a half deliberating. And it’s unfair to them to suggest that their verdict was misguided or based on race.”
– with Edmonton Journal files
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