After a week of testimony and a full day of closing arguments, the jury in the Jake Vertanen sexual assault trial has begun deliberations at BC Supreme Court.
When he took the stand in his own defence, Virtanen testified sex with the then 18-year-old accuser in his downtown Vancouver hotel room in September 2017 was consensual.
In his closing argument, Virtanen’s lawyer Brock Martland urged the jury to believe that testimony, telling the court, “I say that Jake Virtanen was an honest, straight forward and reasonable witness. He told the truth.”
The accuser, referred to in court by her initials M.S., testified she was clear and unequivocal in her words and actions that she was not consenting to sex with Virtanen.
Martland suggested she is only telling herself that now.
“Over time has she come to believe she didn’t say yes,” he told the jury, suggesting that’s partly because she has animosity toward Virtanen for never contacting her again after the sexual encounter.
Martland also suggested M.S. has a financial motive for coming forward years later and saying that the encounter was a sexual assault, pointing out she has filed a civil suit against Virtanen.
In his closing argument, Crown counsel Alan Ip pushed back, saying Virtanen was an evasive witness who wasn’t believable, and some of the details he recounted wouldn’t have been memorable to him.
“I submit Mr. Virtanen concocted and reconstructed much of his evidence,” said Ip.
He argued M.S. was a much more reliable and credible witness, and her testimony about the events of that night made more sense than Virtanen’s. If the jury believes M.S.’ account beyond a reasonable doubt, Ip said her testimony is enough to convict Virtanen of sexual assault.
On the issue of consent, Ip told the jury it can’t simply be implied.
“One no is enough. The law is more than no means no. The law is you have to get a yes. And Mr. Virtanen did not get a yes,” he said.
Virtanen testified MS never verbally said yes to sex, but she consented with her actions.
In her final instructions to the jury, the judge said consent is at the heart of this case and should be the focus of deliberations.
Jurors will be sequestered until they reach a unanimous verdict. If they cannot agree and are impossibly deadlocked, the judge can declare a mistrial.