Appeal court hears from sex offender's aunt about 'incompetent' lawyer

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Nova Scotia’s highest court has reserved its decision in the case of a repeat sex offender who claims his lawyer in his last trial was incompetent. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
Nova Scotia’s highest court has reserved its decision in the case of a repeat sex offender who claims his lawyer in his last trial was incompetent. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia's highest court has reserved its decision in the case of a repeat sex offender who claims his lawyer in his last trial was incompetent.

During a hearing Monday morning before a three-member panel of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, the lawyer for Darrin Phillip Rouse argued there was key evidence missing from Rouse's trial on charges of sexual assault and sexual interference that could have led to an acquittal.

Ray Kuszelewski told the court that testimony from Rouse's aunt, Sandra Hudgins, could have undermined the credibility of the girl who accused Rouse.

The Court of Appeal allowed Hudgins to testify Monday morning by video link from Kentville. She testified about the timing of various home renovation projects that Rouse was working on.

Kuszelewski said the time line provided by Hudgins draws some of the girl's trial testimony into question.

'Desperate efforts to pin responsibility' on lawyer

But Justice Duncan Beveridge questioned the significance of that discrepancy.

"This isn't a one-off incident of sexual intercourse between the complainant and Mr. Rouse," the judge noted.

"The complainant testified that she had sexual intercourse with Mr. Rouse in his car, in her apartment, his apartment, his house before and after her 14th birthday."

Crown Prosecutor Mark Scott also questioned the significance of Hudgins's testimony.

"I would suggest that she was a plan C in a receding horizon of desperate efforts to try to pin responsibility on Mr. Stewart," Scott said. Rouse's trial lawyer was Robert Stewart, who has since retired.

"Trial counsel is entitled to be wrong," Scott added.

"It doesn't mean that they're ineffective. And because one lawyer might take a particular approach to a trial versus what another lawyer might do, there's no indicator whatsoever about the competence of trial counsel who's impugned."

There is no indication when the Court of Appeal might rule on Rouse's case.

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