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Why Mandi Gray Is Pissed Off At The Judge Who Convicted Her Rapist

Legal expert says there are parallels between Justice Marvin Zuker and "knees together" judge Robin Camp.
Manisha Krishnan
Toronto, CA
September 16, 2016, 5:19pm
York University student Mandi Gray was raped by fellow student Mustafa Ururyar. Photo Alyson Hardwick for VICE News

For the last 48 hours, women's advocates have been celebrating the outcome of York University student Mustafa Ururyar's rape trial.

Ururyar, 29, was sentenced to 18 months in jail Wednesday for raping fellow student Mandi Gray in January 2015. The sentencing, like the guilty verdict before it, was delivered with conviction (pun not intended) by Ontario Court Justice Marvin Zuker, who gave Ururyar the maximum jail time possible for a summary offence. In a week that's seen several Alberta judges scrutinized for their handling of sex assault cases—most notably Federal Court Justice Robin Camp, who may lose his job because he asked a complainant "why couldn't you just keep your knees together?"—the Ururyar sentence seemed like a victory.

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But Gray doesn't feel that way.

Read more: 'Keep Your Knees Together' Judge Robin Camp Is Too Incompetent to Remain on the Bench

On Thursday, Ururyar was granted bail while he waits for his appeal of the verdict to be heard. Gray said the over-the-top statements Zuker made during both judgment and sentencing mean Ururyar's appeal likely has a better chance.

"I was really frustrated because it was just so much material and so unorthodox so it just provided the room for potentially a successful appeal," she told VICE.

While convicting Ururyar, Zuker quoted liberally from academic readings, including the Maya Angelou poem "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings." He dismissed Ururyar's version of events—that the former couple had had consensual sex—emphatically.

"To listen to Mr. Ururyar paint Ms. Gray as the seductive party animal is nothing short of incomprehensible. He went or tried to go to any length to discredit Ms. Gray if not invalidate her. Such twisted logic. It never happened this way. None of it," he said.

Taking on common rape myths, he declared, "No other crime is looked upon with the degree of blameworthiness, suspicion, and doubt as a rape victim. Victim blaming is unfortunately common and is one of the most significant barriers to justice and offender accountability."

He also noted that "for much of our history the 'good' rape victim, the 'credible' rape victim, has been a dead one."

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Then, during Wednesday's sentencing, he delivered his decision pretty much as soon as court started, not bothering to consider the submission of Ururyar's defence team, who asked that he be given a conditional sentence (no jail time).

Read more: Judge in York University Rape Trial Slams Justice System While Delivering Guilty Verdict.

"Althought his lawyer made the most outrageous submission… the judge was like 'I already made up my mind.' It wasn't really a great thing to do in terms of taking her submission seriously," said Gray.

Lawyers she's spoken to have advised her to be ready for a new trial.

Michael Lacy, vice president of the Criminal Lawyers' Association, told VICE there are actually parallels between both Zuker and Camp.

"The judges were not acting judicially and not acting impartially in assessing the evidence that was before them," Lacy told VICE. "Any time a judge comes to a case with a preconceived view of the nature of allegations. .. it undermines the administration of justice, it undermines the appearance of fairness, it undermines the rule of the law."

Whereas Camp was presiding over sex assault trials without a proper knowledge of criminal law or rape myths, Zuker appears to have walked into the Ururyar trial with the presumption that Gray should be believed, Lacy said.

"She wasn't looking for a judge who was going to blindly accept her allegations. She wanted a verdict that would withstand scrutiny."

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Gray said if Zuker were doing his job right, he would have intervened when Ururyar's lawyer Lisa Bristow was asking her questions about her sexual history on the stand, in contravention of Canada's rape shield laws. Instead, Gray told Bristow that the questions were inappropriate and Zuker agreed. Gray also had her lawyer David Butt write Bristow an email essentially telling her she was crossing the line.

"I shouldn't have to pay a lawyer to remind this woman of her responsibility," she said.

Gray said she doesn't know if she could handle going through another trial. "I got everything I wanted. I got back on campus. I'm feeling relatively OK about things. I don't really know what a new trial would prove," she said. "If he was acquitted, I couldn't even imagine the public scrutiny of it."

Ururyar is living in Vancouver with his partner—who is also his bail surety—while he waits for his appeal to be heard.

Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.