Monday, September 29, 2008


Fiddling While Rome Burns

Courtroom 62.

Robin Mathews.

A beautiful Fall day. I walk past a homeless man sleeping in the shelter of my entrance gate on my way to court. Welcome to Gordon Campbell's British Columbia. The day is balmy. Courtroom 62 is clean and regal - scarlet carpets, light panelling of natural wood, North windows reflecting the rising sun from the glass highrise across the street. Male lawyers are mostly in black. (Eight counsel present) Six others sit in the gallery, among them an NDP MLA and the CanWest reporter.

Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett wears severely dark hair, a gray houndstooth jacket under which is a black vest and gold locket. Everything in the room is colour-coordinated and ... tasteful.

Except the events in the room. After two years of fighting about disclosure of materials needed by Defence counsel, after application upon application by Defence counsel asking for disclosure - fiddled and blocked and obstructed and apologized for, and....and... then this morning Janet Winteringham (on behalf of Special Prosecutor William Berardino) announced the availability of several binders of materials in question.

Discussion was of Boardroom meetings to go over the materials, Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett - one more time - expressing a desire to fix a schedule that will work over the next months. Next "open" court appearance will be October 20.

Defence made very clear that it could not proceed with Charter of Rights and Freedoms application, nor can it proceed on the wiretap matters and search warrant matters (all calling into question the basis of the charges) until absolutely essential material is disclosed. They said, in fact, to Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett that there can be no schedule, as such, unless those things are disposed of. She agreed that is true.

At one point a well-informed attender of the sessions was being asked (outside the courtroom) by the Globe and Mail reporter why the delay has been so outrageous (nearing a five year anniversary since the search warrant raid on the legislature on December 28, 2003)? The well-informed attender listed the RCMP, the Special Crown Prosecutor, and another reason. He left out Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett who, I assert, is a key to the delay, an absolutely essential component.

Her attempt at dispassionate balance is becoming a joke - a joke which reared its head again today.
Delay was mentioned. The desire to forge ahead was mentioned by Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett. In defence, Defence quite properly made the point that delay has been the instrument of the Prosecution, of William Berardino and George Copley (counsel for the Campbell cabinet) - not the instrument of the Defence which has been fighting years for mere information it must have and which Berardino and the RCMP and some government sources hold.

At which point Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett would not admit the truth that screams from every session in the pre-trial hearings. Instead, she lifted a magisterial hand in an enfolding gesture and spoke of "delay generally". The Defence, having made its point, said no more. Finally, finally (to be sure probably in the next weeks accompanied by cunning delays, missing documents, staged misunderstandings about necessary disclosure - and more - by the Special Crown Prosecutor) materials that Defence has been calling for (and that Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett has refrained from insisting be brought) will be delivered up.

Already, she is designing a schedule leaning into next year. And already the mutterings are that she is - one more time - dwelling in Cloud Coocoo Land. She sat, some will remember, for almost 136 days turning over what I call non-evidence in the process that helped destroy the political career of Glen Clark and the future of the NDP. Then she declared him innocent of all charges, when I believe she should have shut down the trial early as vexatious and without merit.

If I am correct, she is working true to form in the Basi, Virk, and Basi pretrial hearings.

When I returned home, the sun had climbed a little in the sky, the homeless man had gathered his things and departed in the morning warmth, except he left a pair of cotton work gloves on the grass. I don't know how to reach him to return them. Perhaps I will send them to Gordon Campbell.

Wonderful, Robin. The velvet scream. Thank you. - BC Mary.


Is the Campbell government still sending someone to monitor the proceedings?

Robin did mention 6 people, 3 of which may be media. With a control freak type premier, you can be sure someone is monitoring this case.
Hi Mary - in answer to Anon's question - no, there have been no signs of government monitors since I outed Stuart Chase of the Public Affairs Bureau last year!

For more on Chase's notes I FOI'd go to:
Hey, thanks Bill.

Is the cancellation of the fall session, do to the fact that the Campbell/Coleman administration do not want to answer questions about the crime, I mean trial, of the century? If so, YEPPIE!
Anon 9:21,

Whaddaya mean, "YEPPIE".

You agree with the big cover-up?

No Mary,
I don't agree with the BIG cover-up... If the session was cancelled because of the trial, that means

We almost have 'em!

Robin, from those of us that can't attend the trial thanks so much for letting us, through your wonderfully perceptive accounts, feel like we are sitting there right beside you. It is much appreciated.

I especially liked:

"Everything in the room is colour-coordinated and ... tasteful.

Except the events in the room"

Yes, exactly. Midst all the high falutin decor and pretense of justice, the court's behavior itself sinks abysmally lower and lower.
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