Friday 13 July 2001

Camille Bains

U.S. girl's videotaped claim she was forced to hook should be admitted says Crown

VANCOUVER (CP) — An 11-year-old girl would need novelist Jane Austen's story-telling skills and rocker Courtney Love's street smarts to invent the tale of how she was drugged and forced into prostitution — unless she was telling the truth, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Henry Reiner was arguing in provincial court that the American child's videotaped statement to police should be admitted in the trial of three U.S. citizens charged with forcing the girl to work on Vancouver's hooker kiddie stroll.

"The narrative of what she talks about, the kind of detail and nuance, is something that a child simply can't make up," Reiner said.

Defence lawyers say the girl's statement to police is hearsay because it is not reliable or corroborated and she should be required to testify in court or via video link from her home in Portland, Ore.

The child is a ward of the state and she and her legal guardian have decided it's not in her interest to withstand the rigours of a trial before the three accused adults or even via video link, Reiner has said.

Judge William Kitchen has yet to decide whether the girl's Feb. 24 videotaped statement, the only evidence against the three adults, will be admissible.

Reiner has said that the case will be dismissed if the judge excludes the girl's statement about how she crossed the border Feb. 22 with two men, a woman and the woman's two-year-old son under the guise of attending a wedding in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond.

Portland residents Jabari McCrory, David Martin Walker and Mistenda Mae Carter, all in their 20s, are being tried on charges of abduction of a minor under the age of 14, living off the avails of prostitution, sexual interference and assault.

Reiner recounted examples of several American and Canadian cases Thursday in which witnesses were not required to testify because they were children, out of the jurisdiction or dead.

One of three major Canadian cases involves the sexual abuse of a 3½-year-old Ontario girl whose mother's testimony against the accused was admitted by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1990.

But defence lawyer Lawrence Meyers said there's a big difference between that case and the one involving the 11-year-old American girl, who has made dangerous allegations and appeared on the videotape to be competent enough to be cross-examined.

He also said the fact the girl is out of the jurisdiction isn't enough and that making a videotaped statement and not being available for cross-examination sends the wrong message.

"I say it's a serious inroad into our justice system," Meyers said.

"This woman is alive, she can give evidence," he said, pointing to the television set on which the child's statement was earlier shown in court.

"She's competent, she's happy, she's not distressed as she tells the story," he said.

"I would have found an 11-year-old under those circumstances to be terribly upset. She's not."

Defence lawyer Ian Donaldson said there's no psychological assessment before the court to indicate that testifying would be traumatic or harmful for the girl.

"The burden of proof is on the Crown," he said.

"On the evidence there isn't anything that implicates any of these accused … on anything in particular at all."

Reiner said the girl had no motive to lie in her statement, she had admitted to police during the interview that she had previously worked as a prostitute in Oregon and she told the adults she was 16.

"I say look at her demeanour, in particular her responsiveness," he said.

In the videotaped statement, the girl speaks in a relaxed, deep voice and appears much older than 11 as she talks about being beaten by the two men for not making enough money and by two "bad dates," one of whom threw her out of his car.

She also said she was given caffeine pills, LSD, marijuana and other drugs to keep her going and was provided with fake identification indicating she was 26 years old.

Reiner said the identification and a vial of wake-up pills were found in the woman's purse when police arrested the three accused in a place where the adults said they would pick her up.

"Did this 11-year-old child find this place by herself in a foreign country?" Reiner said of the kiddie stroll.

Police also seized a walkie-talkie and three pagers that the girl said the men used to keep tabs on her, however, the defence said earlier the pagers were not capable of functioning in Canada.

Reiner said although there were some contradictions in what the girl told police, they were of a general nature and minor, considering she had been drugged and sleep-deprived.

"This is a very bright little girl," he said of the child who provided police with street names, times and vivid descriptions of the accused and other prostitutes.

"What adult witness have you heard that can give you that type of description of people they've dealt with?"

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Created: July 13, 2001
Last modified: July 13, 2001
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