True crime podcasts and two new books

Dear readers,

It’s been a long time since my last newsletter, so thank you for your patience.

So many true crime podcasts, so little time

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While my dog rolls in the snow and on the grass, I listen to podcasts and (in the future) the War and Peace audiobook

I listen to a lot of podcasts while I walk my very stubborn and slow moving dog twice a day. In past weeks, I’ve been binge listening to true crime including several recently released new podcasts that I can highly recommend. You can subscribe to all of them for free through iTunes.

Accused

This is the fascinating story of a 1978 murder case, where the accused was acquitted at his murder trial and then found not liable in a civil case. But despite the fact that two juries didn’t believe he did it, police and prosecutors remained so convinced he was guilty, they refused to pursue other possible suspects.

This series is not as slick as Serial, to which it pays nudge nudge, wink wink homage, but it has a better underlying story to work with. The reporting team, led by Amber Hunt, has also managed to score interviews with just about all the key players, a feat which eluded Serial’s Sarah Koenig.

And, added bonus, Accused comes out twice a week, so you don’t have to wait a full seven days to get your fix.

Up and Vanished

When I first started listening to this one, I had a sinking feeling. The producer, host and writer Payne Lindsey seemed awfully green and episode one was rather formulaic. But the case of Tara Grinsted, a small town teacher and beauty queen who disappeared in 2005, was compelling enough to keep me listening, and I’m glad I did.

By episode two, Payne was getting all sorts of Georgia good ole boys to talk, racking up the scoops, and putting his grandma in the podcast. While she baked Cowboy cookies, it was revealed that she knew someone who knew something about the missing woman. Payne was adorable. No wonder everyone was spilling their guts to him. Not to mention that he held a Cowboy cookie giveaway.

The podcast is on a short hiatus as Payne gets married this weekend. You can catch up on all three episodes while he’s on his honeymoon. Congratulations to the bride and groom.

In the Dark

Just as this podcast about the unsolved 1989 abduction and murder of Jacob Wetterling was about to launch, the killer confessed. Needless to say that caused some last-minute revamping of a project that its creators had already been working on for a year.

The first three episodes have been both timely and strong as they look at why it took 27 years to bring a killer, who should have been a suspect very early on, to justice. The big question for me is whether they will be able to keep it up for five more episodes now that the murderer has confessed

Reading list

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-2-37-55-pmJust a reminder that my book, Dark Ambition: The Shocking Crime of Dellen Millard and Mark Smich, is coming out in November. You can read more about it and pre-order by clicking here.

Christie Blatchford’s new book Life Sentence: Stories from four decades of court reporting – or, how I fell out of love with the Canadian justice system (especially judges) will be for sale next Tuesday and a piece on judges gone wild is excerpted in the National Post.

 

Have a good weekend, everyone. Next newsletter will be next week.

AnnB

Week of July 11, 2016

I will be in court today to see the Crown’s certiorari motion re Matthew Ward-Jackson and the AK-47 charges.

I am also sitting in on a sexual assault trial with an eye to doing a bigger project on the current state of sexual assault prosecutions. My interest in looking beyond the conventional wisdom about sexual assault began when I did this eight-part series on a rape trial. You can read the first two parts here.

OnTrialForRapeByAnnBrocklehurst

Read the first two chapters for free

1,001 days from the disappearance of Tim Bosma to opening statements at trial

And so the actual trial part of the Tim Bosma trial finally begins on Monday — 1001 days after Tim Bosma disappeared, 997 days after Dellen Millard was arrested and 985 days after Mark Smich was arrested.

Both Dellen Millard and Mark Smich are pleading not guilty to first degree murder of Tim Bosma, and it goes without saying that none of the allegations against them have yet been proven in court. They are innocent until proven guilty.

It should not take this long for a case to get to trial, but, in Ontario, most murders aren’t tried until two years after charges are laid. This places a tremendous burden on both the family of the victim and the accused as well. Witnesses are also affected as memories fade, a dark cloud looms endlessly over them, and sometimes people even die.

That’s no excuse for this type of delay. By way of comparison, the Boston Marathon bombing took place on April 15, 2013, the month before Tim Bosma was killed. It was both a hugely complex, terrorism-related investigation and a death penalty case to boot, yet the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev began on March 4, 2015 and ended with a verdict on April 8, 2015. It was quite exceptional in the US where murder cases are almost always tried within a year, as they should be in Canada too.

After watching Justice Andrew Goodman handle the pre-trial motions and jury selection in the Bosma case, I’ve decided he may just be the man to help fix the oh-so-slow Ontario criminal justice system. He took over as the trial judge in October 2015 after the well respected Justice Stephen Glithero fell sick and had to step down.

Justice Goodman got up to speed on the complicated case almost immediately, kept the knotty pre-trial motions on schedule, and arranged the jury selection so it ran like a well oiled machine for six days starting on January 18th. He had calculated and allotted an average of 90 seconds for each prospective juror, coordinated all the various jury panels, and even arranged a Plan B should a flu bug sweep through the chosen jurors before opening statements. The lead prosecutor Tony Leitch said after day one of the process that he had never seen jury selection move so fast.

By way of another comparison, when I was last present for what was supposed to be jury selection in Superior Court in Toronto earlier this year, the trial had to be delayed for two days because there was no jury panel available. I was told this was not unusual. There used to be too many jury panels brought in on Mondays, and prospective jurors complained about the waste of time sitting around. The “fix” was to cut the number of Monday panels across the board regardless of how many trials were scheduled to start on the first day of any given week. As a result, there were now sometimes too few panels on Mondays and trials were getting delayed. This kind of problem is all part and parcel of why the justice system in Ontario is so bogged down and why trials don’t happen within a reasonable time framework. (If only Uber’s inventors would turn their attention to the courts.)

Which brings me to Tim Bosma’s family, who have had to wait almost three years for this trial to begin. In the face of all these delays, they have been amazingly stoic — and, on occasion, cheerful. On December 18, the last day of the pre-trial motions,Tim’s father Hank shook hands with many of the lawyers, police officers and reporters present, and wished everyone Merry Christmas. He and his wife Mary were smiling and outwardly happy despite the senseless tragedy they have lived through. This, I thought to my atheist self, must be what it’s like to have the kind of faith they have.

When I see the Bosmas, I always think back to something the police officer in charge of this case said when he was asked, back in May 2013 by a reporter, what it was like to break the news of Tim’s murder to his family. “As the leader of my team, I think that’s my job to do the hard jobs, and it was a very hard job to notify the family of a loved one,” Detective Sergeant Matt Kavanagh of the Hamilton Police said. “I’m sorry for the Bosma family. I have no idea what they’re experiencing right now.

Throughout the jury selection process, the Bosmas kept to themselves, more than they had during pre-trial motions, although Hank Bosma did come over when I was chatting with Molly Hayes, a Hamilton Spectator reporter, to thank her and her colleague Susan Clairmont for their articles about the opening of the trial.

Monday, the evidence portion of the trial, finally begins. Whether the Crown will give a long opening statement or just a short one and jump right into calling witnesses remains to be seen, as does who the first witnesses will be.

A number of people have asked me if they can attend the case and the answer is yes. The trial will take place in the John Sopinka courthouse’s biggest courtroom, which can hold about 100 onlookers. There’s also a special overflow courtroom, which will have a video feed.

Going to court is fascinating, and I would definitely recommend it if you’re at all curious. It’s also like time travelling back to my elementary school days, before a lot of the old rules got thrown out. You must, for example, stand up when the judge enters and departs. And there’s absolutely no gum chewing, coffee drinking, or even reading glasses on your head. While no one sings God Save the Queen like we used to have to do in grade school, there are references aplenty to Our Sovereign Lady.

Court is traditional and sometimes even ceremonial. More surprisingly, the jury selection process for this case — which ran from January 18 through to January 25 — was quite inspirational. Even though we were all present for a horrible reason, there was something uplifting about seeing so many citizens trekking through — some carrying parkas, some still wearing their coats — and saying they were “willing and able” to spend four months of their lives on a jury for a first degree murder trial.

It was almost but not quite enough to make me forget that it had taken 1,001 days to get to the opening statements slated for February 1, 2016, and that justice delayed can sometimes be justice denied for both the victims and the accused.

Throughout the trial I will be providing regular updates, including the occasional tweet, as I work on my upcoming book on the Tim Bosma case. You can follow my Twitter feed or sign up for my newsletter.

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Jury picking gets underway in Tim Bosma murder trial

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Dellen Millard at Toronto West courthouse by Alexandra Newbould

I’m off to Hamilton for the first day of the Tim Bosma murder trial, which starts tomorrow with jury selection. The accused are Dellen Millard and Mark Smich, who are both pleading not guilty.

Millard spent the last two weeks in Toronto court attending the preliminary hearing for the Wayne Millard murder case. Justice Diane Oleskiw will rule on March 4 whether Dellen will stand trial for the first degree murder of his father, Wayne.

If you’re wondering why the press hasn’t mentioned certain issues, I have two words for you — publication ban. The run-up to a trial is always a very sensitive time. However, do remember that publication bans are temporary and will eventually be lifted.

And finally, if you’re like me, you probably shake your head at a lot of courtroom sketches that barely resemble the accused — or anyone else, for that matter. Well, I just discovered a really good sketch artist, Alexandra Newbould. Check out her work, including the Millard sketch above, on Twitter. I shrunk it down to thumbnail size so as not to violate any copyrights. You have to click to see it in its full glory on the artist’s Instagram.


I’m writing a book for Penguin Random House on the murders of Tim Bosma, Laura Babcock and Wayne Millard. If you want to keep up with news of the upcoming Bosma trial and my book, please subscribe to my newsletter:
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Wayne Millard Preliminary Hearing – Jan. 4, 2016

The preliminary hearing for the Wayne Millard murder trial gets underway today at the Toronto West aka Jane and Finch courthouse.

On January 18th, jury selection for the Tim Bosma murder trial begins in Hamilton.

I’ve put together a list of the best background articles on the murders of Tim Bosma, Laura Babcock and Wayne Millard here.