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Robert Dziekanski death: Key witness at RCMP officer's perjury trial portrayed as unreliable

02/06/2015 02:21 EST | Updated 04/07/2015 05:59 EDT
The defence painted a witness central to the Crown's case in the perjury trial of RCMP Const. Gerry Rundel as unreliable and motivated by acrimony on Thursday.

Lawyer Glen Orris portrayed Janice Norgard as vindictive and angry at her ex-spouse, who is a cousin of one of the officers prosecuted for perjury, RCMP Const. Bill Bentley. Orris is defending Const. Gerry Rundel who has been accused of lying six times at the 2009 Braidwood Inquiry into Robert Dziekanski's death. 

Rundel testified he never discussed details of the fatal encounter with his fellow officers.

The Crown believes its case against Rundel and the others was bolstered by Norgard, who came forward in August 2013 claiming her ex-spouse Brian Dietrich set up a secret meeting for the Mounties at the couple's home in Richmond, B.C. just before the officers began to testify.

Norgard told police she recalled the meeting after reading a news story that Const. Bentley had been acquitted because the judge found no evidence of collusion.

'Ms. Norgard was dissatisfied'

Orris pointed out Norgard's surprising recall came just a few weeks after a bitter court battle with her ex-spouse ended with a separation agreement in which Norgard lost her bid for child support.

"Ms. Norgard was dissatisfied, very unhappy and frustrated," Orris told Justice Miriam Gropper.

"It's a reasonable inference to draw that she came forward not as a result of any selfless concern, but rather as an attempt to damage or get back at Brian Dietrich through causing difficulties for his cousin."

As first reported by CBC News, Norgard didn't go to the police or call B.C.'s Criminal Justice Branch to report her memory. She instead went to former B.C. attorney general Wally Oppal, a family friend. 

It was Oppal who called the Braidwood Inquiry and later appointed Special Prosecutor Richard Peck.

Oppal sat with Norgard when questioned by a lawyer with Peck's firm and he was there when Norgard was interviewed by Vancouver Police detectives.

During her testimony, Norgard explained Oppal's presence by saying she couldn't afford a lawyer and was unfamiliar with the process she faced.

However, Oppal told CBC News last year he was not acting as her lawyer.

Orris suggested Oppal played a different role for Norgard.

"Her desire to have Mr. Oppal present … was simply a misguided attempt by her to use him to enhance her credibility."

"Her cross examination," Orris said, "demonstrates she was argumentative, internally inconsistent in her evidence and demonstrated a remarkable anger at her ex-spouse. Overall a very unreliable witness."

Norgard was adamant the alleged meeting happened on a weekend morning. Her evidence was already at odds with records showing the officers were never together in the same city on a weekend prior to testifying.

The Crown has since suggested the meeting could have occurred during the week.    

"They would then be inviting the court to say 'our witness is unreliable,'" Orris said, "and in fact she was being dishonest."

Collusion theory

Orris also attacked the prosecutor's other collusion theory that all four officers agreed to exaggerate the threat posed by Dziekanski, while they were still at Vancouver International Airport where he died.

"The four of them could get together and say 'look, we're in a lot of shit here,'" Orris told the judge, asking her to excuse his language.

However, he asked the judge to consider the implications.

"It basically says the Crown is of the view the RCMP generally are an immoral and likely-to-lie organization," Orris said.

"The Crown is saying these officers were prepared to form an unlawful conspiracy, to lie to their superiors and to lie whenever necessary thereafter to cover themselves. In other words to commit crimes and put their careers, their families and in fact their lives, their livelihoods, in jeopardy."

The Crown will give its closing arguments against Rundel on Feb. 20.

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