New trial ordered for man convicted of manslaughter in 2010
The Ontario Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial for the man convicted of the murder of Jennifer Stewart, a 36-year-old sex worker who was found dead in a Vanier parking lot in 2010.
Adrian Daou was convicted in 2015 of first degree murder in Stewart’s death and has been serving a life sentence without parole for 25 years.
Daou was already in custody at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Center when, in 2013, he approached police and confessed to killing Stewart – a confession that played a major role in the Crown’s case against him.
However, the Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed the conviction on Thursday, on the grounds that an opinion given by an Ottawa detective in the witness stand about the veracity of Daou’s confession was in fact inadmissible evidence.
“The jury should have been warned not to take this dangerous testimony completely into account. But there was no warning,” Judge Gary Trotter wrote in his June 3, 2021 decision. conclude with certainty that this evidence, and the lack of warning, had no impact on the verdict. “
The testimony had a “special aura”
In his ruling, Trotter wrote that Daou was exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia at the time he confessed and was on suicide watch in isolation.
When Daou met with two detectives from the Ottawa Police Service to admit killing Stewart, he first asked for assurances that he would be transferred out of segregation and placed in federal custody that evening, Trotter wrote. .
The next day, Daou was interviewed a second time for four and a half hours by Det. John Monette, the principal investigator.
Monette’s impressive resume – which included an investigation into more than 170 homicides and a peacekeeper post in South Sudan – ended up having a “special aura” during the trial, Trotter said.
Monette testified that he believed Daou’s confession was legitimate, given that Daou identified the murder weapon as an ax – information that had not been made public by police – and appeared to know where Stewart had. been injured.
“He had no special power”
However, Monette was not qualified to give an expert opinion on whether Daou was telling the truth, Trotter concluded.
“He had no special power, no training, or the ability to determine whether someone was telling the truth,” Trotter said. “Moreover, if he had been proposed as an expert, his impartiality and lack of independence would surely have been fatal to such a qualification.”
Daou also reneged on his confession at trial, the judge wrote, and confessed to another homicide which was “almost immediately dismissed as patently false.”
Trotter also disagreed with the Crown’s argument that, in the end, Monette’s opinion was “harmless” and did not affect the verdict.
“The grim backdrop to all of this was that a number of young women were murdered in the Ottawa area between 2008 and 2011. For the jury, determining the reliability of the confession would not have been an easy task.” , did he declare. “However, the jury’s challenge may have been facilitated by Detective Monette’s opinion that the confession was true.”