Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'A Case Can Be Built on Circumstantial Evidence:' Experts Discuss Cormier Trial

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'A Case Can Be Built on Circumstantial Evidence:' Experts Discuss Cormier Trial

Article excerpt

Experts weigh in on Winnipeg murder trial

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Legal experts say a lack of physical evidence in the death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine makes it difficult, but not impossible, for a jury to convict her accused killer in what has become a symbolic case for Indigenous women in Canada.

Criminologist Steven Kohm at the University of Winnipeg says people have been found guilty without direct proof, even when the bodies of victims haven't been found.

"It is not a requirement that there be physical evidence of a crime in order for a conviction to be entered," Kohm says.

"A case can be built of circumstantial evidence. But there has to be ... enough to remove any reasonable doubt on the part of the jurors."

Tina's body, wrapped in a duvet cover, was pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg several days after she disappeared in August 2014.

But the second-degree murder trial of Raymond Cormier has heard that the cause of the girl's death could not be determined. No DNA was found linking Cormier to her body. And there were no witnesses to the alleged slaying.

Tina was an exploited youth who had been living at a hotel in the care of social services when she was reported missing. Court heard that she had met Cormier, a methamphetamine and crack user, earlier that summer and he gave her drugs and had sex with her.

The Crown has argued Cormier, 56, killed Tina because he feared he would be arrested for having sex with a minor. In audio recordings during an undercover police operation, Cormier said he would bet that Tina was killed because "I found out she was 15 years old.''

The defence pointed out that there are too many holes in the case and Tina could have died of a drug overdose.

The jury began it's deliberations Wednesday afternoon.

Kohm says the enormity of the case is likely to weigh on the minds of the jurors. …

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