Thursday, June 10, 2010

 

Basi, Virk, and Basi in Courtroom 54, June 10, 2010. Thursday.

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A reader's guide to the courtroom today.

By Robin Mathews

The court holds the judge, the jury, a few sheriffs, and nine lawyers.  The gallery number ebbs and flows - now only about 15, an hour later 30.  In the gallery are the press, a few people attached (by employment) to Crown counsel in the court, one man who occupies the time waiting for the almost-certain, late appearance of the judge by doing various crossword puzzles, an MLA with an aide or two, and (sometimes nodding off) a man who has been attending since pre-trial began over three years ago (and contributes some very sharp observations from time to time)  ...  others ... as well as occasional visitors who are relations of various lawyer-people in the court.

For those who haven't visited this trial - a word-sketch of procedure follows:

Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie enters (robed) to a court and gallery after the court clerk has stood and said "Order in the Court". People assembled in the court and gallery rise.  Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie nods, and all sit.  When all counsel are in their places and more or less settled, she nods to the sheriff who leaves and then announces: "the jury my lady".  All rise for the jury.  (This is not, apparently always practice.)

The jury sits, and so does everyone else.  A signal has been given for the witness to enter the court, and - in this case, today - Martyn Brown, Gordon Campbell's Chief of Staff, attired in a pale summer suit of off-off gray-olive, a white shirt, and a tie lightly hued with diagonal dark stripes takes the witness box, entering from outside the courtroom - as do all others (except the judge, the clerk, and, sometimes, sheriffs).

Martyn Brown sits in such a way that he is in profile (to the gallery), but faces the jury whom he addresses across the room, unless he looks up and addresses the judge.  His examiner says "tell the ladies and gentlemen of the jury ...."  (Six women and six men make up the jury.) The jury sits along the wall to the left of the gallery sitters.  The people in the gallery face the backs of the lawyers who, with the gallery sitters, face the judge.

All of this has a certain traditional splendor - the judge and lawyers in robes, the colourful Canadian scutcheon over the judge's bench, the scarlet rugs and brass rails.

Mr. Kevin McCullough, who is engaging Mr. Brown in cross-examination, stands at a lecturn diagonally across the room.  Mr. McCullough moves about, consulting printed materials, selecting some for special attention, and occasionally crossing the room to hand a document to Mr. Brown (and Crown counsel) for identification ... or not.

There is a theatrical quality to the whole.

Attention, then, focusses on Mr. Brown and Mr. McCullough - except when Mr. Berardino, Special Prosecutor, rises to object.  He usually objects because Mr. McCullough (Berardino believes) is editorializing, because he is not asking questions, and so on. Today Mr. Berardino objected because the accused were reacting visibly to statements from Martyn Brown - showing incredulity, amusement, or shaking their heads in disapproval - telegraphing, it would seem, messages to the possibly-observing jury.

In almost every case of objection the jury is asked to leave while the matter is thrashed out.

In reply, Mr. McCullough countered with the claim that the three Crown Prosecutor members put their heads together and chat (or other) in the midst of cross-examination - distracting attention, and perhaps, unwonted, gaining attention of the jury.  He pressed the fact that Mr. Virk had been pointed out when the jury was present as making various responses in the accused box  - responses which might be believed to have been intended actions.  Madam Justice MacKenzie
mended that when the jury came back by saying Mr. Virk did not act his responses.

She also said that all present in the court agreed to attempt unruffled demeanors and bland responses to events around them.

That said, some people in the gallery found it difficult to stifle responses to Mr. Martyn Brown's replies.  Indeed, in the corridors a few asked if his style of reply - while not perjury - could be called contempt of court?

They asked that because Mr. Brown went through several hours of cross examination today (and days previously) without being able to remember - almost anything.  Here is one of the most powerful men in British Columbia carrying enormous responsibilities with the memory of an amnesiac.

Was he involved in analysis of job cuts to be caused by the transfer of BC Rail to CNR? Mr. Brown didn't remember.  Did he remember in a meeting so chastising a Ministerial assistant that she broke into tears?  No he didn't remember.  Did he (in 2002 - 3) follow how Railways were operated in Canada and the world?  Well, there was a lot of talk, but he was not 'knowledgeable'. Did premier Campbell attend a private meeting involving Patrick Kinsella, McLean (of CNR), Dobell, and Armstrong on Savary Island? Mr. Brown couldn't speculate about that.  Did Bob Virk bring up the Savary Island meeting with him?  Mr. Brown couldn't remember. Asked several questions about the profitability of BC Rail in years before the 2001 election - and in 2001, 2002, and 2003, Mr. Brown didn't know. When asked the financial state of BC Rail and the public position of the Campbellites, Mr. Brown repeated the extremely dubious (to say the least) mantra of a debt-ridden, failing, inefficient enterprise.

Asked if the write-off matters were really debt, Mr. Brown said "ask BC Rail".  Asked if the Campbell business management team told others to speak of the BC Rail as a billion dollars in debt, Mr. Brown couldn't recall that. Asked if the people Gordon Campbell had used to make a Board of Directors of BC Rail were in a position to simply do what Campbell wanted, Mr. Brown's answer was "preposterous".

Was there a decision by Gordon Campbell to "sell" BC Rail within five years?  Mr. Brown didn't know.  A "fairness advisor' was appointed by the government in the sale of BC Rail.  How much was the fairness advisor paid?  Mr. Brown didn't remember. When asked if he knew if Charles River and Associates (Fairness advisor) was based in Boston, Massachusetts, Mr. Brown said he didn't know, thought they were B.C.  Did Gordon Campbell - when he went to speak in New York - attempt to get the Fairness advisor to assure that the room would be full to hear Campbell?  Sounds unlikely, said Brown.  I'm not aware of it.  Did Mr. Brown know that Partnership BC people asked why they were not handling the BC Rail matter?  No, he didn't.  He didn't remember a reported conversation he had about the matter.  Did he remember calling Bob Virk on his cell phone and shouting at him to come and speak about (his superior) Judith Reid's performance on TV with Campbell"  No. Brown couldn't remember.  Asked if he told Bob Virk that Judith Reid had to improve or be gone, Mr. Brown didn't recall saying that, didn't believe he said that, didn't recall saying that.  Asked if any of the "Northern Caucus" (formed over the proposed transfer of BC Rail to CNR) went to him to ask for information about BC Rail,  Mr. Brown couldn't recall.  Did he ever have conversation with Christie Clark (deputy premier) about Eric Bornmann?  Brown couldn't recall. Did he ever ask Christie Clark if she had met Pat Brough - CEO of Omnitrax, a bidder for BC Rail?  Brown couldn't remember.

The day unwound in that fashion.  By now, there is probably not a person in the gallery who believes what Martyn Brown is saying. And he hasn't been cross examined by Michael Bolton, counsel for Dave Basi.

Will thirty or so Crown witnesses conduct themselves in the same way?  Will they make a mockery of the administration of justice?  There is much to say about the (mal)administration of justice in the Basi, Virk, and Basi case.  That is for another day. For now, I want readers to have some idea of what it would have been like if they had been in court today.

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Premier ordered leak ...

CanIndia News - June 10, 2010

http://www.canindia.com/canada/53-cbc-canadian-news/30168-premier-ordered-leak-bc-rail-trial-told

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Lynx comments: 


Thanks, Mary.

Great work, Robin.

We are lucky to receive these reports from you. You bring the courtroom alive for those of us who would love to have a front row seat there.


Martyn Brown seems to be following the same script as HR Haldeman, another known control freak, who also suddenly and conveniently developed amnesia during the Watergate trial.( Despite all his lack of recall, Haldeman was found guilty and sentenced to prison for conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Imagine that! - an actual bonafide conspiracy..and conspirator,finally acknowledged - Please take note, all those who say there are no conspiracies: eg. nada nada, no way, never, absolutely never, certainly not, you must be kidding.........)

Much in the following quote sounds very familiar.... love the last line .... it certainly tells all:

"Just be damned sure you say, 'I don't remember, I can't recall.' " Ben-Veniste then cited numerous "I don't recall" answers in Haldeman's subsequent grand-jury testimony. Inadvertently dramatizing the prosecutor's point, Haldeman in just one hour responded with "I don't recollect" no fewer than 18 times to Ben-Veniste's questions. Despite his forgetfulness, Haldeman conceded that he did have a reputation as a detail man in the White House, and had even approved a $25-a-month raise for a Nixon gardener at San Clemente."

The link below is from an often forgotten "Open Letter to Premier Gordon Campbell" from the Opposition under Joy MacPhail, January 15, 2004, a couple of weeks after the raid. Funny, how someone so forgetful as Mr. Brown and now posing as a far, far off Broadway participant merely hanging about the periphery of events - seeing, hearing, touching nothing, is accorded such prominence "in conjunction" with the premier in this letter. An important excerpt from it that reveals his central place in the PO that Mr. Brown now seems to be denying:


"Given that the Solicitor General took it upon himself to brief you and your top political appointee, and given the Solicitor's partisan defense of your government's actions to contain the political damage flowing from the raids, questions have arisen concerning the appropriateness of the Solicitor General's actions. Why, for example, was it necessary for Mr. Brown to be briefed in the first place? Mr. Brown operates as a political functionary responsible for protecting the government's political interests. It's not at all clear why he would be privy to a personal briefing from the Solicitor General given that the information could only be used by him for political purposes."

Here's the link to this most interesting letter:

http://www.bcndp.ca/newsroom/open-letter-premier-gordon-campbell

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BC Mary comment: I am so proud of the commentors who have so much to offer on this important issue. More about this later. I just wanted to say, here and now, that we're seeing the rewards of 4 years' hard work, when there are people who know the details, the history, and can argue the significance of staying with this trial and seeing it through. Blessings upon us all who see the hope at the end of this tunnel. 

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Comments:
Robin Mathews, your coverage rocks.

You didn't cover this part of today's proceedings, but in an article on the Globe & Mails website there was some questions regarding ministerial assistants using government computers for certain things and personal computers for things that couldn't be accessed by FOI requests. In my suspicious mind this conjures up the image of people keeping two sets of books, one for the taxman and the other for less than lawful reasons. Now, according to Martyn Brown, who seems to be suffering from an advanced case of Alzheimer's disease on most questions so far, official government information can be on the government computers, but anything that could be considered unofficial should only appear on said personal computers.

It just makes one wonder if anything this current government has done has been on the up-and-up.
 
To my way of thinkin', if there is PROOF of the correct answers to any of the questions asked of Brown - he must be charged with contempt of court at least. If not perjury.

It's time to end his run at power too...he enjoys it too much, with absolutely no accountability.
 
Mr. Brown should be charged with contempt of court immediately. If this is allowed to continue then the next witness will do more of the same. What a waste of tax dollars and a slap in the face to justice everywhere and anywhere.

What level of loyalty will Campbell's minions give him for christssakes?

islandcynic
 
I'm of the opinion that when Michael Bolton gets a chance at Brown his (Browns') whole world is going to crumble around him.

Thanks for this Robin. It's great to see another perspective. Even if it isn't accredited reporting.

I hope others present from the public can write in and give their thoughts on the proceedings.
 
I can hardly wait for Campbell to take the stand and try the "I won't comment because the matter is before the court" tactic LOL

Justice Bennett: "Mr. Campbell, it's before this court. Answer the question."

He's most likely to spew pablum like "I did what I thought was best for British Columbians" etc...
 
As always another fine piece of journalism, keeping the people informed. Thanks Robin JW
 
Martyn Brown is proving to be just a hired hand, not a thought in his head as to what the politicians he works for were up to with BC Rail.

Long gone Reid, former minister responsible for the sale of BC Rail should be more forthcoming because she hasn't had to fill her silly little head with government nonsense for the past seven years.
 
I'm reminded of US Grand Juries and Congressional/Senate Committees where "answer the question, please", if not responded to appropriately, can result in contempt charges.

Not "oh, gee, I don't remember" which is something like saying "I was only there collecting salary, and mostly being paid not to hear or do anything. Especially now."

It's interesting, too, that the defendants' expressing incredulity, disgust etc. can be construed as "contempt" when they are natural reactions to untruth, and to denial. It's the untruth and denial that's in contempt, not the reactions of those accused by their former paymasters....
 
I can hardly wait for Campbell to take the stand and try the "I won't comment because the matter is before the court" tactic LOL

Justice Mackenzie: "Mr. Campbell, it's before this court. Answer the question."

He's most likely to spew pablum like "I did what I thought was best for British Columbians" etc...
 
I find it completely unacceptable and a sign of the fix being in that (in)Justice MacKenzie can be so assiduous about censuring the defendants and their counsel against any sign of reaction to the laughable attempts to avoid answering questions or claim amnesia demonstrated by Mr. Brown (as in telling the jury, after yet another jury time out) "....that all present in the court agreed to attempt unruffled demeanors and bland responses to events around them." No one (well the real un-named defendants in this case) wouldn't want the jury to get the impression that anything here was of importance.

Yet J-Mac for some reason can't seem to bring herself to mention to Martyn Brown that his almost total amnesia would appear to be too much too believe and verging on either contempt or perjury. After all, it isn't unheard of for a real judge to remind a witness to ANSWER the question and not play games.

I'm confident Justice Bennett would have had a word or two to say to Mr. "I don't recall anything I said or heard for the last 15-20 years." Of course I'm also quite confident that is why Justice Bennett was elevated to the Appeal Court and is not conducting this trial that could be so damaging to the wrong (well actually the right) people!

Although some corresspondents, "accredited" or not have indicated that (in)Justice MacKenzie goes out of her way to treat the jury well (as they should be). They must feel like yoyos being constantly herded in and out of the courtroom for discussions that can be covered by the publication ban. Also as juror I would feel definitely mistreated if I got up in the morning as happened occasionally during the last couple of weeks, and got my ass down the Robson and Smithe only to be sent packing back home due to someone's sniffles or more pre-trial wrangling - ESPECIALLY if I noticed that the "accredited" propaganda artists apparently had not had to waste a trip, having been considered important enough to be informed in advance, while I was allowed to waste another morning or day slogging downtown and back for NUTHIN'
 
The further question to previous is:

"WHICH British Columbians??"

Those who live on the Republic of Savary Island, presumably.

And "does doing what's best for British Columbians include lying to them on the campaign trail??"

It won't happen from this trial, but somewhere along the way "electoral fraud" should be entered into the criminal code, with stiff penalties.
 
Another fine piece of JOURNALISM, delivering, in precise and careful WORDS, the actual feeling and atmosphere of the place and the people in it.

I hope the WORKING JOURNALISTS, especially those four individuals who comprise the 'Supreme Court of BC accreditation committee' are paying attention.

You want to know why newspapers in this country are on their last legs?
 
Yes, indeed, excellent writing, Robin Matthews! Daily, I look for any and every word that you publish regarding this trial.

When the trial is over, I will eagerly buy the book I hope/trust that you write.
 
This Just IN:

Blair Leckstrom resigns from cabinet and caucus over the HST - who's next?
 
Koot, I'm sorry, I see this more as a cynical move in preparation for the next election.

I'm sure other MLA's will watch for voter reaction to this, if it's positive...they'll likely do the same, for the same reason. To get elected again next time around.

I might have believed he had his constituents best interests at heart had he voted against the HST from the get-go, but he followed along defending it instead. Now that recall in the fall is the next step, and appears that it might be successful...those who are sensitive to it will likely suddenly remember those they serve, just in time to be re-elected. Especially if they haven't had their nose in the trough long enough to get their pensions.
 
Excellent reporting. Just like sitting in the court room yourself.

Still absolutely amazed these guys haven't copped a plea.?
Either they're asking too much or Campbell& co are willing to throw them under the bus because he arrogant enough to think he can ride this out ( unlikely) or the court fix is in play (more likely).
CGHZD
 
BC Mary your diligence and careful analysis to present all the angles in tandem with your 'eyes & ears' in the courtroom, Prof. Robin . . . the Masterful painter whose brush escapes no detail as you paint the picture for those who cannot attend the unfolding drama in court.

What a delicious smorgasbord Mary you lay out for our devoted readers. Again thank you both for all you are doing to help bring justice forward in whatever form it may take. You and Robin are the unsurpassed 'A Team'!

I firmly believe that it is only through determination with the truth held high above the chaos, that true justice prevails.
 
Thanks, Mary.

Great work, Robin.

We are lucky to receive these reports from you. You bring the courtroom alive for those of us who would love to have a front row seat there.



Martyn Brown seems to be following the same script as HR Haldeman, another known control freak, who also suddenly and conveniently developed amnesia during the Watergate trial.( Despite all his lack of recall, Haldeman was found guilty and sentenced to prison for conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Imagine that! - an actual bonafide conspiracy..and conspirator,finally acknowledged - Please take note, all those who say there are no conspiracies: eg. nada nada, no way, never, absolutely never, certainly not, you must be kidding.........)

Much in the following quote sounds very familiar.... love the last line .... it certainly tells all:

"Just be damned sure you say, 'I don't remember, I can't recall.' " Ben-Veniste then cited numerous "I don't recall" answers in Haldeman's subsequent grand-jury testimony. Inadvertently dramatizing the prosecutor's point, Haldeman in just one hour responded with "I don't recollect" no fewer than 18 times to Ben-Veniste's questions. Despite his forgetfulness, Haldeman conceded that he did have a reputation as a detail man in the White House, and had even approved a $25-a-month raise for a Nixon gardener at San Clemente."

The link below is from an often forgotten "Open Letter to Premier Gordon Campbell" from the Opposition under Joy MacPhail, January 15, 2004, a couple of weeks after the raid. Funny, how someone so forgetful as Mr. Brown and now posing as a far, far off Broadway participant merely hanging about the periphery of events - seeing, hearing, touching nothing, is accorded such prominence "in conjunction" with the premier in this letter. An important excerpt from it that reveals his central place in the PO that Mr. Brown now seems to be denying:


"Given that the Solicitor General took it upon himself to brief you and your top political appointee, and given the Solicitor's partisan defense of your government's actions to contain the political damage flowing from the raids, questions have arisen concerning the appropriateness of the Solicitor General's actions. Why, for example, was it necessary for Mr. Brown to be briefed in the first place? Mr. Brown operates as a political functionary responsible for protecting the government's political interests. It's not at all clear why he would be privy to a personal briefing from the Solicitor General given that the information could only be used by him for political purposes."

Here's the link to this most interesting letter:

http://www.bcndp.ca/newsroom/open-letter-premier-gordon-campbell
 
I'm with Leah. I don't believe Mr.Leckstrom saw a burning bush or anything like that. Perhaps the sight of a roasting bureaucrat may have done something though. Not enough time at the trough for a pension eh? A lot of money could be saved by making sure that never happens.
 
Lynx--

One of the most fantastic demonstrations of creative comment writing I have ever come across, seriously!!!

Heckfire, I am going to spend the evening searching out that Herb Kalmbach letter that Hunter Thompson trotted out to demonstrate how the various Watergate Amnesiacs started to turn on each other when they realized that they, personally, could be in legal jeopardy.

Thanks so much.

.

.
 
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