Key Crown witness at officer's trial admits to perjury

Key Crown witness at officer's trial admits to perjury

A key eyewitness in the manslaughter trial of an Ottawa police officer admitted Wednesday she lied in court, a revelation that could taint her testimony.

Wendy Dunford is the first Crown witness to testify she had a clear view — and a clear memory — of the altercation between police officers and Abdirahman Abdi outside Abdi's Hintonburg apartment building on the morning of July 24, 2016.

Montsion has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in Abdi's death.

Over two days of testimony, Dunford characterized the force used by Montsion in subduing Abdi as excessive.

'I did not tell the truth'

During cross-examination earlier on Wednesday, defence lawyer Solomon Friedman asked Dunford if she had watched a surveillance video of the altercation online before beginning her testimony. Dunford told the court she had not.

"I tried very hard not to watch the video," she said.

Later, Friedman suggested that she actually had seen part of the video online. At that point, Dunford admitted she had seen part of the video before turning it off.

"I did not tell the truth," Dunford told the court from the witness box.

Friedman went on to suggest there were elements of Dunford's testimony that she could not possibly have witnessed from her vantage point about 40 meters away at the corner of Wellington Street W. and Hilda Street. 

Unknowingly broke court orders

Dunford also admitted to breaking two court orders, though she said she didn't realize she was breaking them at the time.

Early on in the trial, Justice Robert Kelly forbade witnesses from consuming any news media about the proceedings, or from speaking to other witnesses about what they had seen.

But Dunford said she was never told about that order.

Presented with several CBC News articles about the case on Wednesday, she admitted she had seen or heard them before testifying. The stories contained stills and videos from the surveillance camera at 55 Hilda St. 

Dunford said she had also discussed some elements of the trial with her husband, who was with her the morning of Abdi's arrest and is expected to testify later.

Lawyer's responsibility

It's the responsibility of the lawyers to inform their witnesses about any court orders issued by the judge, but it appears in this case that didn't happen.

Crown counsel Roger Shallow told the court that SIU investigators were tasked with informing Crown witnesses by email on Feb. 8, 2019, but said the request did not extend to civilian witnesses. The Crown is looking into whether Dunford and her husband were ever notified of the order by the SIU.

"It did not create a very good feeling," Shallow said after Dunford's revelations.

Dunford's testimony will continue Thursday.