Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Robin Mathews as the BC Rail trial begins
A Little Time in Courtroom 55, April 28, 2010
By Robin Mathews
Courtroom 55 was packed today, standing room only - probably about 160 people, present for the process of jury selection. The three accused in the case Dave Basi, Bobby Virk, and Aneal Basi were present and replied clearly "Not Guilty" as the charges were read by the court clerk.
With the presentation of charges and the response of the accused, their counsel standing close by, the trial - so long awaited - in the BC Rail Scandal ... began... in fact.
Associate Chief Justice Madam Anne MacKenzie counselled the assembled potential jurors that the trial is estimated (roughly) to last six weeks ... but might run a few more. It is presently scheduled to begin May 17. Since the date has been changed countless times over the more than three years of pre-trial hearings, the beginning date may, of course, change again.
Associate Chief Justice MacKenzie, elevated to that position only days ago, appears to be ready to continue with the trial. Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett - upon being raised to the Appeals Court after nearly three years of pre-trial presidence - was removed or removed herself last Fall from the BC Rail Scandal case. Today - in the court lists - Justice Bennett was presiding at a Supreme Court (not an Appeals Court) procedure.
In my mind, Associate Chief Justice Anne MacKenzie will not have an easy time with the trial. To begin, her arrival took place under less than triumphant circumstances. The vacating of the position by Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett did not meet with universal approval.
In addition, recent actions of Associate Chief Justice MacKenzie have brought forward (to me, at least) questions of competence. The first publication ban announcement provided for a ban on and through the trial - an almost unheard of situation in Canadian experience. The trial is THE OPEN COURT enactment of the administration of justice in our system. To announce a publication ban on the trial could only have been an error - which should not have occurred.
Then in a recent hearing (involving Mr. Webster) the doors to the courtroom were closed and locked to the public without apparent reason or any announcement by Justice MacKenzie. Since a publication ban is sufficient (and it was in place) the transformation of the procedure into an 'in camera' event can be neither explained nor defended, I believe.
Finally, the question of the acceptability of the Special Crown Prosecutor to proceed with the trial has not gone away. I believe I presented Associate Chief Justice Anne MacKenzie (twice) with formal notice of reasons the Special Crown Prosecutor should be removed from the Basi, Virk, and Basi case (as being improperly appointed by a ministry with an "interested" Attorney General and an "interested" deputy Attorney General - both of whom had been long-time partners and colleagues of the person appointed as Special Crown Prosecutor.)
The only response to my (first) letter was a bland statement of disconnection to the situation, written by an agent of the Court judges addressed. My second letter on the matter has gone unanswered.
Pre-trial actions by (now) Associate Chief Justice Anne MacKenzie have not been reassuring. She will be under a microscope as the "trial proper" unfolds.
I am glad to hear the courtroom was packed... Hard for PAB to say noth'in here to see, keep on mov'in to the heards!!!!
Maybe Can'tWest will be forced to cover the specticle now!!
Indeed, the BC Rail Trial has started and that is wonderful news.
I'll certainly do my best to gather up the news and relay it via this blog.
I was wondering about the packed courtroom, too. Like, how did they know? I can vouch for the fact that it wasn't easy to find out when the next BCRail hearing would take place, or what the topic would be.
So I'm thinking that the courtroom was probably packed with those people who had been contacted as possible jurors.
That publication ban is a nuisance. We don't even know if they succeeded in selecting a jury of 12 + 2 and, if not, when the next hearing will be.
As Robin says, Judge MacKenzie will be under a microscope as this trial unfolds.
But we made it! Four (4) years later, we made it.
Good on us, eh?
Rather reminds me of a story about Begbie, I think it was in 1860 or 1861, who could not convene a jury in Lillooet because he could not find twelve British subjects - the case must have involved a Briton as Begbie would readily convene juries of "peers" of different groups, be they Germans for Germans, Americans for Americans, French for French, Chinese for Chinese etc...partly for linguistic reasons.(although the Chinese were largely, in fact, trusted to their own courts of sorts, notably in Barkerville where the Benevolent Association(s) were let to operate their own courts; only when a case "crossed over" ethnic lines were juries jointly chosen....so the story goes anyway).
I bet the BC Liberals would like to have only their own in the jury, just as they seem to have on the Crown table, and on the bench (and among the investigating police).