Defence questions complainant’s credibility
Trial of aboriginal healer on charge of sexual assault ended Thursday; judge’s verdict is expected Friday
Closing arguments in a trial of an aboriginal healer focused on the credibility of the young woman who says he sexually assaulted her.
Defence lawyer Lauren Wilhelm argued Thursday that the woman’s credibility is undermined if she has the wrong date of the alleged offence.
Wilhelm presented defence witnesses earlier this week who testified Walter Cooke was not at work in his office where the assault was to have taken place on the day in question early last year.
Assistant Crown attorney Andrew Scott poked holes in that testimony and argued that the evidence of the woman and her boyfriend — who were both shocked at what allegedly happened — rang true.
“A significant core aspect of their evidence is how distraught she is,” he said. “They talk about her lying on the floor and crying.”
Cooke, 68, is an elder and counsellor on staff at the De dwa da dehs Nye> s Aboriginal Health Centre on Main Street East in Hamilton.
His trial on one count of sexual assault wrapped up on Thursday with summations. Cooke has pleaded not guilty.
Justice Richard Jennis is expected to render his verdict Friday morning.
The alleged victim — who was 18 at the time — testified at the start of trial that she was at Cooke’s office, where she often saw him for advice and counselling. He also performed a smudging, an aboriginal cleansing and healing, on her, she said. Cooke followed this with an energy healing, which involved floating his hands above her body.
But then, he rubbed her stomach and put a hand down her jeans and under her underwear, she said. He pulled his hand out as soon as she said “hey,” but he commented about how nice her private parts were, she testified.
In the trial’s closing submissions Thursday, Wilhelm said the complainant’s evidence is fraught with problems, including not reporting the alleged incident until a day later and that the assault took place on a day when Cooke was not in his office.
Cooke’s wife, Deb Cooke, testified earlier that Cooke was sick on the day in question. Two of his coworkers said they did not see him that day at the office.
“If you don’t accept he wasn’t there, it’s still sufficient for reasonable doubt,” Wilhelm said.
Scott argued that only Cooke’s wife was adamant he was not at work that day. One co-worker went to his office twice that day to talk to him, but just didn’t see him; and the other saw only the complainant, he argued.
Court heard earlier that Cooke did not keep or work time records as required at the centre.
Scott also maintained that any discrepancies in the woman and her boyfriend’s individual testimony show they did not collaborate on their evidence. He argued in any case that any inconsistencies in the date of the alleged offence “don’t go to the core of the allegation.”
Walter Cooke has pleaded not guilty.