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