— Photo by Rosie Mullaley/The Telegram
Moments after the jury foreman read the 10th and final not-guilty verdict, a teary-eyed RCMP Cpl. Steven Blackmore walked out of the prisoner’s dock.
Proceedings hadn’t ended yet, but the 40-year-old opened the gate and went to the back of the courtroom to sit with his girlfriend in the observers’ seating area.
Blackmore held her hand and cried.
He was no longer a suspected criminal.
After just a day of deliberations, the seven men and five women of the jury acquitted Blackmore on all counts Thursday following a three-week trial in Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s.
“We’re relieved, obviously, for our client,” defence co-counsel Erin Breen told reporters outside the court. “He’s had an ordeal that I can’t describe — going from being a corporal with the RCMP to very publicly being accused of the most heinous crimes possible.”
Breen said while Blackmore is a resilient man, the ordeal has taken an emotional toll.
“It has been hell on him,” she said.
“It’s been a very difficult position for him, obviously, being an RCMP officer and then being investigated and charged by his own force.
“I can only imagine that he’s feeling very twisted about some of that, ... has some mixed emotions.”
Blackmore had been charged with six counts of assault, two counts of sexual assault and single counts of assault with a weapon (a knife) and careless use of a firearm.
He was accused of violent acts — both physical and sexual — against one woman and of assaulting a younger woman. He was charged in June 2012 and had not been in custody.
The incidents were said to have happened between 2005 and 2012 in various parts of the province where Blackmore had been stationed.
The main complainant, from whom most of the charges stemmed, had testified during the trial that Blackmore attacked her many times — grabbing her by the face and throat and throwing her to the floor, holding a knife to her throat, smothering her with a pillow and choking her to the point she thought she was going to die. She also said Blackmore forced himself on her sexually on two occasions.
The young woman testified that Blackmore pushed her with such force, she landed 10 feet across the room, injuring her wrist and head.
When he took the stand, Blackmore denied committing any violent acts towards them. He said any force he used was minimal and meant only to calm them down.
A he said-she said case, the issue came down to the women’s reliability.
“We felt the Crown witnesses here did not have any credibility,” Breen said.
In closing arguments earlier this week, defence co-counsel Bob Simmonds said the women were liars and presented several examples of how they lied to the police and to the court.
The careless use of a firearm charge stemmed from an incident when an on-duty Blackmore reportedly passed around his loaded service rifle to a group of people.
Blackmore testified he had ejected the magazine containing the ammunition before allowing them to touch it.
Breen criticized RCMP investigators and said much of what came out in court should have been picked up by officers handling the case.
“We brought to light in the trial a lot of evidence that the police never had in the original investigation, which I think was a problem from day No. 1,” she said.
“There was clearly an investigation here that we felt was very one-sided and was full of tunnel vision and we feel we brought the full picture to light to the jury, and obviously the jury agreed.”
Blackmore lives in Gander and had been assigned to the Carmanville detachment. He hasn’t been on active duty while the case was before the court.
Before leaving the courtroom, Blackmore wiped tears, smiled and hugged his family members. He then shook Simmonds’ hand and hugged Breen.
Breen said Blackmore, who has a background in psychology, is unsure of his future, but will eventually decide the direction his life will take.
“At this point,” Breen said, “I don’t think he’s in a place to make that decision yet.”
(This story has been altered to fix a typo.)