Savanna Scott Leslie: "Proving You Didn't Want It"
Q: Please answer my questions as simply as you can and try not to interrupt because the transcriptionist gets mad at us when we talk over each other. Okay. We’ll get started. You’re saying Mr. X robbed you?
A: That’s right, yes. He robbed me.
Q: He took something that was yours, and in your recollection, he didn’t have your permission?
A: He didn’t have my permission. That’s right.
Q: Alright. Let’s go back to thirteen years ago. You were friendly with Mr. X, weren’t you?
A: I’m not sure I’d call it ‘friendly.’
Q: Okay. What would you call it then?
A: I don’t know. I knew him, I guess.
Q: You spent quite a bit of time together, didn’t you?
A: I guess so, for a little while.
Q: You guess so, but you don’t actually remember?
A: No, I do remember. I did spend time with him back then but not often or, like, regularly.
Q: On at least one of these occasions where you spent time together, he was inside your home with you. Correct?
A: Yes. That’s correct.
Q: You invited him into your home with you?
A: Not exactly. He [inaudible]—
Q: It’s a simple question. You did or you didn’t invite him. Did you invite him?
A: I mean I don’t think I had called him or, you know, texted him and asked him to come. I think he came with friends that I had invited.
Q: You think so?
A: Yes. He did come with friends of mine that I had invited. He tagged along with them.
Q: And he just barged in, insinuated himself ?
A: What? No. He—
Q: Ma’am, this will go a lot faster if you let me ask the questions. Thank you. There’s no need for you to ask questions here today.
A: I’m sorry.
Q: Alright. Now answer the question, please.
A: Um. He didn’t just barge in. I let him in along with everyone else when they came in.
Q: You let him in?
Q: You permitted him to enter your home?
A: I didn’t stop him.
Q: In other words, you invited him to come in?
A: If that’s how you want to put it, okay. I let him come in with everyone else.
Q: You told me you never invited him.
A: I did, but like I just explained—
Q: A simple yes or no will suffice.
A: Okay. Yes.
Q: On this occasion, the first time you invited him into your home, you gave my client some things that belonged to you. Correct?
A: I didn’t give him anything.
Q: You didn’t [inaudible]—
A: Except food. I served everyone some food, drinks. Chips or something, you know.
Q: No, I don’t know. You’re here to explain.
A: I’m sorry. I think I gave everyone chips.
Q: What kind of chips?
A: I don’t know. I can’t remember.
Q: You can’t remember?
A: Barbecue, possibly. Maybe all-dressed.
Q: But you’re not sure?
A: I’m not sure.
Q: You don’t really remember the day, that first time you invited him into your home?
A: I wouldn’t say I don’t remember. I wouldn’t say that. I can’t remember what kind of chips.
Q: So you can’t remember everything. Okay. You’re not sure what kind of chips you gave Mr. X, but you’re certain that you did give him chips on that day?
A: Yes. Correct.
Q: Let’s move forward to the subsequent visit, where Mr. X again appeared at your home at your invitation. On that occasion, you gave him even more than you gave him at the first visit. What did you give him this time?
A: So, he came back with the same friends, the same shared mutual friends he came with before. Again, I don’t think I specifically invited him to my house but I didn’t turn him away.
Q: Answer the question, please.
A: I’m sorry. What was the question?
Q: What did you give Mr. X after welcoming him into your home on this occasion?
A: I didn’t give him anything to, like, take home with him or anything like that.
Q: You didn’t give him a single thing?
A: No. Why would—I mean I did give him dinner. It was a dinner party and he had come along sort of last-minute as a plus-one type of thing.
Q: Did you oppose the idea of him coming in?
A: Well, no. I wouldn’t say I opposed it. I wasn’t expecting to see him. We weren’t friends or anything.
Q: Okay. You weren’t friends, but at this point, you had already invited him in before and given him things already that previous time?
A: He had come over and had some food once before this. Yes. I wasn’t expecting him this time. But I mean it’s not like I was upset he was there. Um. I wouldn’t say I particularly welcomed him either.
Q: Are you in the habit of admitting people into your home who make you uncomfortable?
A: No, of course I’m not. I don’t admit people who make me, like, uncomfortable. But I’m not saying he made me uncomfortable at that point. I had no reason to turn him away. That would have been rude and just—no.
Q: Okay. You were comfortable inviting him in again, and you gave him even more this time. I’ll ask again. Ma’am, what did you give him this time?
Q: What else?
A: A salad. He might have had some bread.
Q: He might have had some bread, or you might have given him some bread?
A: I might have given him some bread.
Q: You might have given him some bread, or you did give him some bread?
A: I think I gave him some bread. I’m not sure.
Q: You’re not sure. Did you give him anything else?
A: I don’t think so. Just the food—the food that I mentioned already. And wine, water.
Q: Okay. So not just the food but also wine and water, actually. Let’s move ahead a few years now. In 2007, you gave away quite a lot of your property, right?
Q: 2007. Four years after you first became friendly with Mr. X.
A: I don’t remember giving anything away particularly.
Q: Did you move in 2007?
A: Right, yes. 2007 was the year I moved.
Q: You’re sure?
A: Yes. It was 2007.
Q: Did you not, prior to relocating, dispense much of your property to acquaintances?
A: Sure. Okay. Yes. I was moving to a smaller space, so I gave away a few things.
Q: A few things. Do you mean you gave away three things?
A: More than three.
Q: How many?
A: Excuse me.
Q: How many things did you give away?
A: I’m not sure. Most of my living room furniture, all my spare bedroom furniture. Odds and ends, you know. Maybe some things from other parts of the house. I didn’t give anything to Mr. X if that’s what you mean. I don’t have a list.
Q: That wasn’t my question, ma’am. Please stick to answering the questions and we can all get out of here a lot sooner.
A: Sorry. Okay.
Q: We spoke to your neighbour, a Mr. Y. He described you as, quote, a generous sort of girl, unquote. Would you agree with this characterization?
A: I don’t know. I would agree that that’s something he might have said.
Q: Were you aware that you had this sort of reputation at that time?
Q: At the time of the alleged robbery.
A: No. I wouldn’t say I was aware of having a reputation for, like, generosity or whatever.
Q: You donate to charities, ma’am?
Q: How many?
Q: And when [inaudible]—
A: Two regularly, every month. It comes out of my account. I donate to another one only sometimes, like a lump sum.
Q: So three charities, not two like you said earlier?
A: Right. I guess three in total.
Q: And how many people have received donations from you through these charities?
A: I don’t know. I couldn’t say. More than I could count, probably. It’s not like I know them.
Q: Okay. When did you start donating to these charities?
A: Gosh. Um. I think it was about ten years ago. Sorry. I can’t say for sure.
Q: You don’t remember?
A: I don’t remember the exact time. No. But it was about, um, ten years ago. I started making enough money that I could, like, afford to give some away.
Q: What happened in your life at that time? How did you find yourself suddenly capable of giving your property away? Before that, you hadn’t felt able to do that.
A: Well, I started making more money, like I said.
A: I got a better-paying job. And then from there, like, I kept getting raises, promotions, you know. I’ve just always been making more since around that time, more than I had been before. And so I’ve been donating to charity pretty regularly since then.
Q: Pretty regularly? What do you mean by that?
A: I mean, like I explained earlier, some charities I give to every month, like at the same time, so regularly. Sometimes I donate a lump sum, like one time, so that’s not as regularly.
Q: Let’s sum up your situation then. Please just answer yes or no to confirm these questions.
Q: And I’ll remind you that you’re under oath. I mean you’ve been affirmed.
Q: You have admitted Mr. X into your home?
Q: More than once?
Q: You have given away things that belong to you, by your own free will and with total self-awareness, to Mr. X?
A: I [inaudible]—
Q: Ma’am, it’s a yes or a no.
Q: Thank you. You have given to Mr. X on more than one occasion?
Q: You’ve given away a considerable portion of your household belongings to friends and acquaintances?
A: Yes, the one time.
Q: For ten years, you’ve given away things that belong to you, by your own free will and with total self-awareness, to more strangers than you can count? Ma’am, answer the question, please.
Q: Do you expect us to believe that two years ago, when Mr. X took some things from your home, he did so against your will?
A: I would expect you to believe it because it’s the truth. Like, he stole from me. I didn’t ask him to take that stuff. I didn’t give it to him or offer it to him or anything like that. I didn’t invite him in or say he could come. I didn’t want him to steal from me.
Q: Did he steal from you those previous times?
A: What times?
Q: On those prior occasions where he had visited your house.
A: No. I’d given him food. There’s a difference and [inaudible].
Q: What about those strangers affiliated with those charities? Did they steal from you too?
A: No. No, of course not. There’s a huge difference between stealing and giving away. I really can’t—
Q: There is a difference between stealing and giving things away. Exactly. That difference is what’s so important here today. I would put it to you and to this court that real victims of theft don’t welcome their robbers into their own homes. Real victims of theft don’t give things to their robbers and then, years later, accuse them of thieving, putting them through an ordeal that will scar them for life and affect their career prospects and relationships forever.
A: How is that—
Q: Real victims of theft don’t wait years to report the crime, and they remember their interactions with their robbers clearly. Real victims of theft don’t lie and contradict themselves when it comes to their history of exchanging their property with their so-called robbers.
Judge: Is there a question here, Counsel?
Q: Yes. My question for the Plaintiff is do you think it’s fair to represent yourself as a victim here when real victims of theft, who don’t keep being friendly with their robbers and who especially don’t continue to give things to them, who don’t wait until a convenient time to report that they’ve been robbed—when these real victims live through actual trauma and loss, do you think it’s fair to compare yourself and your experiences with my client to them?
A: I am a real victim of theft. I’m not comparing myself to anyone.
Q: Answer the question, ma’am.
Judge: Counsel, the Plaintiff has answered your question. Please move on.
A: He stole from me. Like, how can there be any question that he took my stuff? He robbed me and he doesn’t even have to sit up here and explain himself in his own trial [inaudible].
Q: Mr. X did take your things, ma’am. We’re not here to dispute that. Our job here today is to decide whether my client took your belongings without your consent. That’s quite a different question. Can we say, without reasonable doubt, that Mr. X took the Plaintiff’s belongings against her wishes and without her consent?
Q: Ma’am, please. I think it’s clear, given the Plaintiff’s extensive history with my client and her penchant for giving her things away not only to Mr. X but also to complete strangers, given the gaps in her memory and the contradictions in her testimony, given her sudden decision to report these events as a crime years after the event—given all these facts, that the Plaintiff’s testimony is neither credible nor reliable. The evidence that she didn’t want her things taken is simply not there. We can’t say, beyond a reasonable double, that the Plaintiff didn’t want my client to take the property. To assume my client’s guilt in this matter by suggesting, in retrospect, that this was robbery would be to establish an ugly precedent. This would mean that any person who accepts any gift could find themselves on trial years later because the giver insists that, just this one time, she didn’t really want to give away the property. Is this what a victim of robbery, a very serious crime, looks like? Is this dishonest and contradictory testimony conclusive proof of anything but the Plaintiff’s animosity toward my client? No further questions for the witness.
Savanna Scott Leslie's bylines include Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (CWILA), ANOKHI Magazine, and Editors Toronto. She has a BA in bioethics and Russian literature and a post-graduate certificate in publishing. She lives in Hamilton, Ontario, where she works as an editor.