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Judge approves Crown’s request to admit man’s statement to police instead of testimony
Josh Weir's time on the witness stand was short when he testified last week at the trial of the man he had earlier told police had robbed him, beat him with a gun, kidnapped him and tried to extort $10,000 from him.
"No, I don't remember," Weir replied to every question put to him by prosecutor Jude Hall about the alleged events of August 5, 2018 and his interactions with Justin Jennings.
"Do you recall what you were doing that evening? Do you recall where you were staying? Do you recall if you were beaten or hit that evening? Do you recall if anything was taken from you?" Hall asked Weir, who repeated the same response each time.
The only thing Weir did acknowledge was that he knew Jennings, telling the court he grew up with him and knew him by his nickname, Juice. After first telling Hall he recognized Jennings in the courtroom, Weir retracted the statement, saying he didn't know if Jennings was there or not.
Hall presented Weir a number of times with a 52-page transcript of a detailed interview he had given RNC investigators last fall. In the interview, he spoke of having been staying at the Captain's Quarters hotel in downtown St. John's when Jennings and another man he knew arrived. They took him from the bar area to his room, he said, where Jennings beat him in the face with a .45 calibre gun and the other man ripped off his jewelry. Jennings and his then-girlfriend took him in a cab to a home in C.B.S., Weir said, where they held him hostage before instructing him to leave in the cab and return with $10,000 or face trouble.
"I'm after reading this five, six, dozens of times, man. I don't remember any of it," Weir told Hall from the witness stand.
Given that Weir had agreed to give police the statement under caution that it could be later used in court, Hall applied to the court to enter the statement as evidence in Jennings' trial in lieu of Weir's testimony.
Thursday afternoon, Judge Mike Madden ruled to accept the statement instead of the testimony, but noted that didn't mean he had yet accepted the evidence in the statement as fact.
While defence lawyer Averill Baker had argued that Weir had been fatigued and possibly intoxicated when he gave police the statement, Madden said he was satisfied, after viewing the recorded video of the interview, that there was no evidence of that. He noted Weir had told a police officer he was "best kind" when she asked him how he was doing.
Jennings, 34, has pleaded not guilty to charges of robbery, forcible confinement, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, driving while disqualified and two court order breaches. Hall and Baker have concluded their evidence in the case, and will make their closing submissions next week.
Baker has repeatedly asked Hall to withdraw the charges and Madden to dismiss them, to no avail.
The court has heard testimony from an employee of the Captain's Quarters hotel, who confirmed records show someone with Weir's name stayed in the hotel the night in question, as well as RNC Cst. Debra Andrews, an investigator on the case.
A statement was presented from a Jiffy Cabs driver, now living outside the province, who said he had picked up two men and a woman from the hotel the night of Aug. 5, and had driven them to a home in C.B.S. He said the trio had gone inside the residence, and one of the men came back out about 10 minutes later and asked to go to a different location, telling the driver not to disclose to anyone where he had gone.
The driver stated he hadn't witnessed any violence, but had a bad feeling about the situation, so he texted the information to a friend of his in the RNC.
Surveillance video seized by police from a downtown gas station shows a cab pull up on the night of Aug. 5 and two people - alleged to be Jennings and Weir - get out. Jennings returns to the car with a slushie and a sandwich. Weir appears to be holding a cloth to his nose. Investigators later located the receipt for the slushie and sandwich.
Baker questioned Andrews on why the second male and the woman had not been charged along with Jennings.
Andrews said Weir had not given a positive identification of either person.
Baker asked the police officer about other witnesses in the Captain's Quarters hotel bar that night.
"If there was such a pile of people there, how could this take place without a member of the public reporting it? Did it not strike you as odd, or that (Weir) was not credible, given not a person complained?" Baker asked.
Andrews said it hadn't.
Baker pointed out the video and the cab driver's statement show Jennings as wearing a white dress shirt and shorts, while Weir had told police Jennings had been wearing a red and black tracksuit the night he kidnapped and assaulted him.
When Jennings' trial started earlier this month, Hall withdrew a number of weapons-related charges, saying there wasn't a likely prospect of conviction.
Weir had failed to show up on time when he was scheduled to testify, resulting in his arrest under a witness warrant. He was asked to come back to court the next day to answer further questions, but he didn't show up, resulting in a second warrant for his arrest last week.
He was taken into custody Thursday morning, and released after he once again testified that he remembered nothing.
Jennings was originally also charged with a number of offences related to a home invasion in St. John's in September, but Hall withdrew those for the same reason after a review of the details of the case.
Jennings had been accused of breaking into a man's home while armed with a handgun.
Baker told the court that when police responded to the report of that home invasion they found drug paraphernalia and equipment, and she said the complainant should have been charged instead of Jennings.
Jennings made headlines last May when Judge James Walsh released him from custody with a sentence of time served on three assault charges, a dangerous driving charge and court-ordered breaches, saying Jennings had suffered undue hardship as an inmate at Her Majesty's Penitentiary.