Judge ap­points lawyer to as­sist Dun­can man in sex-as­sault trial

Times Colonist - - News - LOUISE DICK­SON

Vic­to­ria lawyer Ryan Drury has been ap­pointed to as­sist the sexual-as­sault trial of an un­rep­re­sented Dun­can man.

On Wed­nes­day, B.C. Supreme Court Jus­tice Keith Bracken told the jury for Peter Charles Leno’s trial that he had ap­pointed Drury to act as am­i­cus to make sure Leno’s trial is con­ducted fairly.

Ac­cord­ing to a le­gal dic­tionary, the court can ap­point an am­i­cus cu­riae, Latin for friend of the court, in cases that are a mat­ter of pub­lic in­ter­est, to rep­re­sent the un­rep­re­sented or to pre­vent an in­jus­tice.

At one point, Drury had as­sisted Leno, but then the two parted ways, Bracken said.

“The ev­i­dence we’re about to hear now is about DNA and what was done with it af­ter it left the in­ves­ti­ga­tors in 2003, and how it was com­pared and an­a­lyzed to the sam­ple Const. Rob Tay­lor took from Mr. Leno in 2016,” Bracken said.

“That’s com­plex ev­i­dence for all of us. And it was felt — and Mr. Leno agrees — that the as­sis­tance of coun­sel cros­sex­am­in­ing those wit­nesses on is­sues aris­ing or re­lated to the DNA would be help­ful.”

The judge ex­plained that Drury does not act for Leno, but will con­duct most of the cros­sex­am­i­na­tion of the DNA ex­perts and tech­ni­cians.

Drury’s ap­point­ment does not take away Leno’s right to ask his own ques­tions, Bracken said.

Be­fore Drury’s ap­point­ment, Leno cross-ex­am­ined North Cowichan-Dun­can RCMP Cpl. An­drew Bech­tel. The of­fi­cer had tes­ti­fied he re­ceived in­for­ma­tion about a DNA hit in the then 12-year-old case in Au­gust 2015. The hit iden­ti­fied Leno, Bech­tel told the court.

The cor­po­ral got a war­rant from a pro­vin­cial court judge to get a sam­ple of Leno’s DNA and ar­rested Leno at his home in Vic­to­ria. The two chat­ted at the Vic­to­ria po­lice sta­tion for about 10 min­utes while they waited for Tay­lor to take the blood sam­ple.

Leno asked Bech­tel what their con­ver­sa­tion was about that day. The of­fi­cer replied that they dis­cussed what the DNA war­rant was for and how it in­volved an old sexual as­sault.

“You brought up a cou­ple of other in­stances,” Bech­tel tes­ti­fied.

“You asked it if was about a rave. I said: ‘No, it wasn’t that.’ You brought up an­other in­stance where a fe­male had made a com­plaint against you. I said: ‘No, that’s not what it is.’ ”

He told Leno the case was from 2003 where a young girl was picked up at the 7-Eleven near the hospi­tal by three men who sex­u­ally as­saulted her.

Leno’s DNA came back as be­ing there with that girl, Bech­tel said.

Bracken stopped the pro­ceed­ings at that mo­ment.

When the jury came back, Bracken told the jury Bech­tel was quite proper in re­count­ing what the DNA war­rant was about.

“Mr. Leno then ap­par­ently started spec­u­lat­ing what in­ci­dent may have given rise to it and he men­tioned two in­ci­dents where he may have con­nected the DNA war­rant with in­ci­dents he had in his mind,” Bracken said.

“Those in­ci­dents have noth­ing to do with this case. There’s noth­ing to sug­gest any­thing un­to­ward took place. … But you should not, most im­por­tantly, take from what was said that there were other in­ci­dents, that an of­fence was com­mit­ted or a sexual as­sault was com­mit­ted.

“There’s noth­ing what­so­ever to sug­gest that.”

Leno also asked Bech­tel if he had fol­lowed up with the two friends he was hang­ing out with at that time, John Mur­ray and Ryan Young.

Bech­tel said he talked to Mur­ray but didn’t have enough in­for­ma­tion to pur­sue an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Bech­tel said he be­lieved Young was de­ceased.

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