A Newfoundland man facing accusations that he broke into a St. John's home and sexually assaulted a teenager tried to end his trial Thursday by submitting a guilty plea — but told the court he only wanted to do so because he believed police were colluding to convict him.
"I feel at this point ... that the evidence presented so far is of virtually no merit," said the accused Stephen Hopkins, 31, who has elected to represent himself.
"Did I hear you say that having considered the evidence thus far, you consider it to be of no merit?" asked Justice Donald Burrage.
Yes, Hopkins answered, adding he wished to change his plea and explaining he was encountering difficulties introducing evidence.
"You wish to change your plea ... from not guilty to guilty, thereby bringing these proceedings to an end, so I might order an inquiry of some sort into the conduct of the [Royal Newfoundland Constabulary]. Do I understand you correctly?" asked Burrage.
"Yes. This way I may rest at the penitentiary while the investigation is underway," Hopkins said, "and if it comes to light there is misconduct, [the plea] is to be overturned and I may be released."
"It is not my role, nor do I have the authority ... to order or direct an inquiry into the conduct of the RNC," Burrage said.
The Supreme Court justice went on to say he couldn't accept Hopkins' attempt to withdraw his not guilty plea, since that decision was based on Hopkins' belief that the prosecution's evidence had no merit and the allegations against him were false.
"You don't consider yourself to be guilty," Burrage said. "I can't accept a change of plea from you ... if it is motivated by some desire to get this over with so there can be an inquiry of some sort."
Hopkins' trial, which began Monday, has been marked by repeated interruptions by the accused, who has been cross-examining Crown witnesses, which include neighbours of the complainant and police officers who responded to the scene the day of his alleged crimes in September 2020.
Hopkins has relied heavily on lines of questioning related to the age of the complainant, who was 17 at the time the alleged assault took place. On Wednesday, he referred to a photo of the teenager, suggesting that her face appeared to have "lost the lustre of youth."
Hopkins has suggested that RNC officers are conspiring to have him convicted, and on Thursday attempted to fire the amicus curiae — lawyer John Brooks — who has been appointed by the court to guide him through the proceedings.
"He's been ignorant and pointed," Hopkins said.
Burrage rejected Hopkins' request, telling him Brooks had done an "exemplary" job.
"You don't get to fire Mr. Brooks. Mr. Brooks is not hired by you, he's hired by the court," Burrage said.
"You can either accept his advice or not. Mr. Hopkins, you can lead a horse to water, sir, but you can't make them drink."
Hopkins' trial is set to continue Tuesday.