What a rape trial looks like: Inside the court room for eight days of a sexual assault prosecution

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OnTrialForRapeByAnnBrocklehurst

My series about a criminal rape trial is now an Amazon ebook.

This true story tells the tale of an alleged victim, seventeen years old at the time, and her alleged assailant, a star athlete on his way to winning a full sports scholarship to a US university.


“I said, ‘Stop, you’re being ridiculous.’ I kept repeating stop. I asked him, ‘Please take me home.’ He said, ‘You want it,’ and put the passenger seat back.”


She had substantial credibility problems on the witness stand. His testimony seemed far more convincing—most of the time. But this was more than just a “she said, he said”—or, as it turned out, “she lied, he lied”—case. There was an element of physical evidence against him: bruises on her arms and legs. The judge had to decide if the totality of the prosecutors’ case against the defendant was enough to send him to jail, brand him a sexual offender, and destroy his promising future.

Despite its sensational nature, this was a case that never made headlines. What I observed during my reporting was the farthest thing from a Jian Ghomeshi courthouse scene, with mobs of press and police. I was the sole reporter at the superior court trial and, on most days, the only observer not directly related to the case. The mother and grandmother of the accused, whom I will call Matthew in the reports that follow, attended throughout the trial. The complainant, who will be known as Ava, was supported by a representative from victim services and the detective in charge of her case.


“You left your panties behind,” says the defence lawyer, who reminds me of Matlock.  “No I did not,” replies the weeping complainant


Ava’s family and Matthew’s father were not permitted in the courtroom as they were all considered to be potential witnesses. They spent much of their time in the courthouse hallways, pacing or sitting nervously. Like everyone else, they knew that the events unfolding on the other side of the courtroom door would deeply affect the two young people’s lives.

The first two chapters of On Trial For Rape can be read for free here. To read the entire story, you can buy the ebook on Amazon:

Part 1: She Said
Part 2: Are You Sure?
Part 3: Can the Complainant Continue?
Part 4: The Facebook Test
Part 5: He Said
Part 6: “I’m Not a Rapist”
Part 7: Closing Arguments
Part 8: The Verdict


The complainant is reporting someone to the judge for making faces in court. “It was the girl with black hair,” she tells Justice Trotter, referring to the mother of the accused


Buy On Trial For Rape on Amazon

I’ll be watching on Amazon for your feedback and reviews.

Crown seeks direct indictment in Laura Babcock murder case

The Crown is seeking a direct indictment in the Laura Babcock murder case, raising further questions about the original investigation into her disappearance by Toronto police.

If the direct indictment is granted, it should be announced over the next few weeks and the case against the accused, Dellen Millard and Mark Smich, will proceed directly to trial without a preliminary hearing.

A direct indictment was granted last July for the related murder trial of Tim Bosma, where Millard and Smich are also charged. At the time, Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur commented: “I’m not going to speak about the case, but when this procedure is supported, it’s because there is good evidence that the person being accused will become convicted.”

Brendan Crawley, a spokesperson for the Attorney General, said the ministry does not comment on whether requests for direct indictments have been made in a specific case.

Smich and Millard are pleading not guilty on all counts and none of the allegations against them have been proven in court.

The Babcock case is very different from the Bosma murder in terms of what the public knows about the evidence. Police have said that Tim Bosma’s remains, burned beyond recognition, were found on Millard’s farm near Ayr, Ontario, and that Bosma’s truck was found in a trailer parked in the driveway of Millard’s mother, Madeleine Burns, in Kleinburg, north of Toronto. The Hamilton Spectator has reported that the victim was incinerated in a livestock incinerator found on Millard’s animal-less farm and purchased through Millardair.

In contrast, none of the evidence in the Laura Babcock case has been made public. There is also no body although the Hamilton Spectator reported that its sources believe Babcock was incinerated shortly after her disappearance in July 2012.

Many questions have been raised about how the Laura Babcock investigation was originally handled by Toronto police, who have been severely criticized for not following up on a mobile phone bill showing that the last eight phone calls she made were to Dellen Millard.

Sgt. Stephen Woodhouse — who was the lead detective in the original 2012 search for Laura Babcock told the National Post in May 2013 that investigators were never aware of any relationship between her and Dellen Millard. Contradicting her parents and ex-boyfriend, who said they had repeatedly brought the phone records to police attention, Sgt. Woodhouse said police did not see them until after Millard was arrested for the Tim Bosma murder. (Although, according to TPS operating procedures, investigators should have acquired the phone records of anyone missing under such circumstances, whether given to them by the family or not.)

“In this case we had no idea where Laura was living at the time, who her circle of friends were, what she was doing,” said Sgt. Woodhouse, who has since taken another position within Toronto Police and is no longer assigned to the case.

“In a city of 3 million people, where do you start?” he said. “We did the standard press release and put her picture out there… We followed the leads that we had.”

That the Crown would apply for a direct indictment indicates that they think they have a very strong case against Millard. This means that once police got serious about the Babcock disappearance investigation they don’t appear to have had too much difficulty finding evidence. It raises the question once again of why the investigation into Laura’s disappearance was so different pre- and post-Millard’s arrest.

In addition to the Bosma and Babcock murders, Dellen Millard has also been charged with the murder of his father, Wayne. No direct indictment is being sought in that case. Given that the Babcock and Bosma murder cases are being handled by different jurisdictions, it’s highly unlikely they will be joined and tried together.

Once again, none of the allegations against Millard and Smich have been proven in court. They are innocent until proven guilty.

A day in court with Matthew Ward-Jackson and his lawyer, Deepak Paradkar

Do you see the man with the blacked-out eye in the top righthand corner?

Matthew Ward-Jackson’s head tattoos include a man with a blacked-out eye. Wayne Millard was reportedly shot in the eye.

It’s Friday September 12th at Toronto’s Old City Hall courthouse. I’ve come to see Matthew Ward-Jackson aka Krucifix14 aka Big Iisho, who currently has three sets of charges pending against him, including having supplied Dellen Millard with the gun he allegedly used to kill his father Wayne. That’s the case I’m really interested in but it’s not the one on the dockets today. This session is about an earlier drug possession and intent-to-traffic case. (Ward-Jackson is pleading not guilty to all three sets of charges against him.)

Things were supposed to get underway at 10 a.m. but, because many judges operate in a parallel time universe, at 10:30 we were still all sitting around waiting for her honour to arrive. There was the accused, Matthew Ward-Jackson; the co-accused; the co-accused’s mother; the two defence lawyers, making (minimum) $300 an hour small talk; the wife and paralegal of one of the defence lawyers; the Crown; the court clerk; the court reporter; me; and the Toronto police constable guarding the prisoner and fixing her wonky chair.

When the door finally opened, we were all expecting the judge, but no, not yet. Instead it was a 50-something down-on-his-luck looking guy with long thinning brown hair, a leather Harley Davidson jacket, torn jeans, and some very well worn cowboy boots.

“Hey MJ,” he said to Ward-Jackson in the prisoner’s box.”How’re you doing? I put some money in the canteen for you. It’s only 20 bucks.”

“Thanks for coming,” Ward Jackson replied graciously. It was the second occasion I’ve seen him in person and he’s lost weight over the past two months. He’s also better dressed than he was last time, wearing what looks like a brand new Roots Maple Leafs jacket, a blue plaid shirt, dark wash jeans and navy sneaker-type shoes, all fresh and clean. He has enough hair growth on his shaven head that I can’t clearly make out the tattoos underneath, including the one I’d really like to see of the man with his eye blacked out.

MJ’s buddy sits down next to me while the police constable guarding the prisoner gives him the once over. “I know you,” she says. “You’re Butch. We went to high school together.”

Butch does a double take. “You’re the boxer,” he says. “You still box?”

Their conversation gets cut short as the judge finally makes her entrance. Apologetically, she tells us all she’d like to take care of the other case on her agenda, a brief sentencing, before hearing the further evidence in the Ward-Jackson case.   She says it will take half an hour so we all clear out of the courtroom. By now, it’s almost 11.

I ask Butch if he has time to talk. And he tells me I can join him for his smoke break. On the courthouse steps, he explains that he was Ward-Jackson’s cellmate at the Toronto South Detention Center from the Canada Day long weekend until a few days ago when he was released. He was there for violating probation for an assault charge. He’d run into his lawyer in the courthouse halls earlier and she’d asked him what in hell he was doing here. Just showing support for a friend, he had explained much to her relief.

I told Butch I was interested in Ward-Jackson because of the gun trafficking charges related to the Millard case. “Whaaat?” he asked “Who?” I gave him a primer on Tim Bosma, Wayne Millard, Laura Babcock, etc. Butch only knew the vaguest of outlines. He said that prisoners don’t talk to each other about stuff like that.

He also emphasized that Matthew was a good guy, not dumb, and not guilty. That’s why he’d come to court to support him.

“At the very least he did some dumb things,” I suggested.

“Who hasn’t?” said Butch. “That’s why pencils have erasers.”

I kind of liked Butch. If you’ve got to have a cellmate, he seemed like just about the best you could have. Putting $20 in the canteen for MJ was a generous move.

We headed back inside and up to the courtroom where I spotted some familiar faces. There was a young blonde woman who looked like one of the Gotass Girls from Big Iisho’s various videos. And the guy with her was definitely Blanco Oro, a rapper and music producer.

“You’re Blanco Oro, right?” I said as I introduced myself. He looked simultaneously worried and disappointed. No doubt when he’d imagined people recognizing him from his videos, it was young fangirls not nosy reporters old enough to be his mother.

Like Butch, Blanco said he knew nothing Millard-related. He just wanted to see Matthew — who he described as an “up and coming artist” — get back to making music. I gave him my business card and a high five and sat down to wait for the judge. The sentencing was taking way longer than half an hour.

Butch was now talking to Blanco who had taken him aside to show him something on his phone. I assume it was my National Post article on Matthew Ward-Jackson and his ties to the Millard case because after that Butch stopped speaking to me. At noon when we eventually filed back in to the court room, no one wanted to sit beside me. Given that the kickboxing police woman was now chatting and joking with Ward-Jackson as she escorted him in and out, I felt it was unjust that I was the most feared and unpopular person in the room.

According to the dockets, we were there for a further evidence session, which began with the crown summing up the evidence against the accused. In a nutshell, some $50,000 worth of cocaine and $13,000 in in cash had been found in an apartment allegedly occupied by Ward-Jackson and his co-accused, who was his ex-GF. In my laywoman’s opinion, the crown made some good points but it was hardly an airtight case.

I was especially puzzled by the crown’s reference to marijuana supposedly found in the apartment between the mattresses.The crown said veteran drug squad officers recognized it as marijuana and not, for example, oregano, which would have been in the kitchen not the bedroom.

WTF?! I thought. This all seems very vague. Why didn’t they just test it? You don’t need to be CSI to tell oregano from marijuana. As it turned out, this was a subject the defence would later address although not the oregano angle.

Ward-Jackson’s lawyer for these charges is Deepak Paradkar, who is also Dellen Millard’s lawyer, defending him against all three charges of first degree murder. Along with wanting to talk to people who knew Ward-Jackson, Paradkar was the other reason I’d come to court. I wanted to see him in action.

As the crown wrapped up and we were about to break for lunch, he asked the judge if he could have two minutes. One of the points he raised was the marijuana issue. “If these officers are so veteran, why didn’t they seize it and inventory it?” he asked. “I have serious concerns.”

After lunch, both Paradkar and the co-accused’s lawyer made their case for a directed verdict. Paradkar is an impressive and forceful speaker, with a sarcastic streak when it comes to the cops. He was out to show the crown needed more proof his client had lived in the apartment where the cocaine was found. “Where is the lease, cable records, Bell records?” he asked. “Police college 101.”

“My friend,” he said, referring to the Crown, “emphasized that these were veteran officers, but that can be to their detriment.” Paradkar went on to cite a kidnapping case where 25-year veterans hadn’t followed the basic rules of evidence collection or performed what should be standard due diligence.

Amused, at one point, by his turn of phrase, I LOLled, which caused Butch to turn around and give me the stink eye. I wanted to explain I wasn’t laughing at his friend’s lawyer, I was laughing with him. But it was too late. I’d lost Butch.

As court wrapped up, Ward-Jackson thanked the judge for everything including her order that he receive a meal. Is he flirting with her? I wondered. Earlier, he’d called out cheekily to his co-accused as she walked by the prisoner’s box, plus there was all that chitchat with the kickboxing constable. Ward-Jackson appeared to think — not necessarily incorrectly — that he had a way with the ladies. Or maybe he was just genuinely grateful to be getting a non-prison meal. Butch had told me earlier that the food at Toronto South sucked and, as the old joke goes, there wasn’t enough of it.

The judge’s ruling is scheduled to be delivered on October 29 at 10 a.m. Ontario standard judge time. I promise to let you know what happens.

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What happened to Jeffrey Boucher? Read my new e-book on the case of the missing runner

Read my new e-book: The Mysterious Death of Jeffrey Boucher

You can buy it on Amazon

It’s an account of the events surrounding the disappearance of the Whitby dad and my theory on what happened to Jeffrey Boucher.

Buy The Mysterious Death of Jeffrey Boucher (or read the free sample)

Tim Bosma murder trial may be fast tracked

In an unusual move, the Crown attorneys in the Tim Bosma murder case have asked the Ontario attorney general to go straight to trial, skipping a preliminary hearing scheduled for September, the Hamilton Spectator has reported:

The Spectator has learned assistant Crowns Tony Leitch and Craig Fraser of Hamilton have applied for a direct indictment, which — if granted — would eliminate the need for a preliminary hearing.

Direct indictments are very rare, are only granted in the most serious and complicated cases and generally indicate the Crown believes it has a strong likelihood of conviction.

The preliminary hearing for Dellen Millard, 28, and Mark Smich, 26, is scheduled to begin Sept. 8 and is set to last eight weeks. Its purpose is to allow a judge to determine if there is enough evidence to commit the case to trial.

There are a number of upcoming court dates for Millard and Smich. While they are just brief appearances designed to deal with procedural issues, mostly by video, some interesting information does occasionally come out.

Here are the scheduled appearances including for the accused in a related weapons trafficking case :

Matthew Ward-Jackson has been accused of illegal possession of an AK-47

Matthew Ward-Jackson has been accused of illegal possession of an AK-47 among other things. Source: Instagram

June 26 Matthew Ward Jackson, charged with weapons trafficking and believed to have provided Dellen Millard with the gun he used to allegedly kill his father, will appear in person in Toronto court over a previous set of drug and weapon possession charges. Also appearing in person on those charges will be Joseph Michael Horth aka Spiken Mike.

July 7 Dellen Millard and Mark Smich will appear via video for the first degree murder of Laura Babcock. The charges against Millard for the murder of his father Wayne Millard will also be addressed.

July 7 Matthew Odlum and Matthew Wawrykiewycz on weapons trafficking charges allegedly related to the death of Wayne Millard. Unlike his co-accused, Matthew Ward-Jackson who is in custody, Wawrykiewych is out on bail, as is the third co-accused Matthew Odlum, whose case is scheduled for July 21.

August 7 Dellen Millard and Mark Smich will appear via video in Hamilton for the Tim Bosma Murder. Millard’s girlfriend, Christina Noudga, charged as an accessory after the fact, is also scheduled to make a video appearance.

August 8 Matthew Ward-Jackson trial for drug possession with intent to traffic begins in Toronto court. His lawyer for the case is Deepak Paradkar, who is defending Dellen Millard on all three of the murder charges against him.

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