Hung jury in Button trial
New trial expected in Inuvik sex case
Yellowknife ( May 22/00) - It will take several months and a new trial to determine the outcome of a sex crimes case involving a longtime Inuvik educator and a former student.
After deliberating for more than six hours May 17, a Yellowknife Supreme Court jury was unable to reach a verdict on charges against Dave Button.
Button, a resident of Inuvik, faces charges of indecent assault on a teenage male, gross indecency and attempted buggery.
The charges relate to allegations that date back to 1971-78, when Button was a guidance counsellor at Samuel Hearne high school.
Evidence heard in a 1998 sexual assault case against Paul Leroux, a supervisor at Grollier Hall, a former residential school in Inuvik, led to an investigation of Button and the subsequent charges.
"(The complainant in this case) disclosed his relationship to (Button) during the period he was getting counselling from him," explained Crown counsel Clifton Purvis.
"In a general sense, (the complainant) testified when he attended Samuel Hearne high school, the accused was his guidance counsellor, and over a two-year period when he was receiving guidance counselling, he was sexually assaulted by the accused -- fondling his genitals and they engaged in mutual masturbation," said Purvis.
He added that a key issue in the case was Button's position of authority over the complainant, who cannot be identified.
Button took the stand in his own defence Tuesday.
"He was a guidance counsellor at the time, he remembered (the complainant) as his student and he'd seen him in his office on a number of occasions on referral from other teachers," defence lawyer Adrian Wright said of Button's testimony.
The jury began deliberating the case at 10 a.m., and court was reconvened at 1:30 p.m. as the jurors sought clarification on the charge of indecent assault.
"If you believe evidence that they engaged in mutual masturbation and did so not because (the complainant) wanted to but because Button wanted to ... that is evidence that the Crown (has proven its case)," Justice J.E. Richard explained to them.
Another sign of difficulty reaching a verdict came after five-and-a-half hours of deliberation.
Justice Richard reconvened the court to tell the Crown and defence the jury felt they may not be able to make a decision.
"There is a standard directive I can give to the jury to try harder, longer," he said.
But my impression was that the jury was quite attentive during the trial."
As the 12 jurors again entered the courtroom, Button stood silent and calm beside his lawyer.
Justice Richard again addressed the panel, giving them the option to continue deliberations.
"I just want to say to you that if you cannot reach a unanimous agreement I will have to order a new trial and the process will have to be repeated with 12 new jurors," he said. "Sometimes when juries are given more time to deliberate they are able to reach an agreement."
They went back into the jury room but returned to the court at about 5 p.m., looking fatigued, and without a verdict.
At that point it was clear that further deliberations were futile.
"I think we have given it a fair shot," said Justice Richard. "So I will be declaring a mistrial and will be putting (this case) on the list to be rescheduled."
Jurors were reminded upon release from their duties that all deliberations are to be kept secret.
A new trial will likely take place in the fall in Yellowknife.
Button is currently not in custody.