Natuashish man acquitted of attempted murder after conflicting testimony from victim

·2 min read

A Natuashish man accused of attempted murder is walking free after being acquitted at Supreme Court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Wednesday morning.

Nigel Raphael Rich was accused of stabbing Darren Penunsi 16 times with a pair of scissors in August 2018. He was charged with aggravated assault, assault with weapon or imitation, uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm, and attempted murder.

Chief Justice Raymond P. Whalen acquitted Rich of all charges Wednesday morning, saying the case against him hadn't been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

But the judge didn't believe everything Rich had to say, either.

Rich testified he hadn't even seen Penunsi on the night in question and didn't hear about the stabbing until he was on the Northern Ranger coastal boat to go to Nain to buy alcohol. He also said he didn't know police were looking for him for several days, and didn't turn himself in as he was on probation and was afraid he'd go to jail.

In delivering his decision, Whalen said he didn't believe Rich.

"In recognizing the self-serving nature of Mr. Rich's evidence, I do not accept Mr. Rich's evidence as being true," Whalen said. That doesn't mean he's convinced Rich stabbed Penunsi, though, he said.

Lost in translation

Whalen noted the only description of events was given by Penunsi himself through a translator, adding that Penunsi appeared to be intimidated by the process of giving evidence.

The judge said Penunsi appeared frightened and shy, and may have had some comprehension difficulties during the process of giving evidence, "all of which was exacerbated by the necessity to hear the evidence through a translator," the judge said.

"One could argue that a lot was lost in translation," Whalen said, but acknowledged there is no doubt Penunsi was "brutally" stabbed with severe lacerations to his face, neck and hands.

Penunsi testified Rich was the perpetrator, but Whalen noted Penunsi also admitted he was drunk on the night in question.

He said the RCMP investigating officer confirmed Penunsi was intoxicated at the clinic in Natuashish where he was being treated.

"Mr. Penunsi also testified that he has blanks in his memory of that night because he was drunk, and on cross-examination agreed with defence counsel that because he was drunk on the night in question, he didn't remember who stabbed him," he said.

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