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.

On Trial For Rape: She said, he said, she lied, he lied

This week, I’m mostly just concentrating on the release of my On Trial For Rape series at the Walrus magazine.

Click the link to hear an interview I did about the series with CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.

Seven out of eight parts have been published so far The last instalment was published today, Thursday January 22nd:

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

 

Bail decision for Christina Noudga on Friday August 8

Update: Bail was granted on Friday August 8 and set at $100,000. Noudga is under house arrest and must wear an electronic monitoring bracelet. She can leave her parents’ Etobicoke home to go to school or work. Otherwise, she can only go out in the company of her mother or father, who are acting as her sureties.


Although I missed the first morning, I attended all three days of the Christina Noudga bail hearing held last week at Hamilton’s John Sopinka courthouse.  A standard publication ban prevents me and all the other journalists in attendance from reporting on the evidence disclosed in the courtroom as well as some other details related to the hearing.

Given these strict limitations, things like Noudga’s outfit got a seemingly inordinate amount of coverage. For the record and on the off chance you haven’t read this already, she wore a white fitted, sleeveless blouse with black collar, skinny black jeans, brown ankle boots and shackles. She doesn’t look nearly as good in person as does in the ubiquitous internet photos of her, but four months in jail likely haven’t done much for her appearance.

Christina Noudga with Dellen Millard

Noudga’s former Facebook profile photo was an interesting choice. It showed her boyfriend Millard’s face but not hers.

Noudga’s family and friends showed up to support the accused, who marked her 22nd birthday in jail, and is pleading not guilty to acting as an accessory after the fact in the murder of Tim Bosma. Noudga began dating Millard in 2011 shortly after he broke off his engagement to another Toronto woman.

She appeared confident and in control throughout the hearing and did not shy away from looking around the courtroom. (Noudga was arrested on April 10th of this year almost a year after charges of first degree murder were laid against her boyfriend, Dellen Millard, and his buddy, Mark Smich in the death of Tim Bosma.)

Also in the courtroom were Detective Sergeant Matt Kavanagh of the Hamilton police homicide unit, who headed up the investigation into Tim Bosma’s murder. He was almost always seated with one to three other police officers at the back of the room.

Ravin Pillay, part of the legal team defending Dellen Millard, attended all three days of the hearing, usually in the company of one or two young lawyers or law students.

Tim Bosma’s father Hank was present on the first day but did not return for days two and three. Tim’s widow Sharlene did not attend at the request of the crown. Bosma family friends were present on all three days along with representatives from victim services.

Justice Thomas Lofchik’s ruling on whether or not to grant bail will come down next Friday August 8th at 10 a.m.

Direct indictment in Tim Bosma case: What happens next?

I was in Hamilton court last Friday to see the accused, Dellen Millard and Mark Smich, make their first video appearances since the Attorney General approved a direct indictment for the Tim Bosma murder trial. Millard’s appearance was sort of interesting because he was on camera for quite a bit longer than usual although I didn’t get as good a look at him as I usually do in Toronto court due to the fact the video screen was at about a 75 degree angle to me.

Sometimes at these sessions, where prisoner after prisoner comes up for a quick case update, I’m surprised by how polite everyone is. “Yes Your Honour.” “No Your Worship.” “Thank you very much.” One time I was sitting with a TV producer who’s spent decades covering courts and crime. He turned to me and said wistfully: “If only they could be this polite before they’re in prison.”

But I digress. My point was that in Hamilton on Friday, a few of the prisoners were really, unusually rude so Millard looked polite in comparison. He went out of his way to call the Judge, “Your Worship,” which was a mistake as a judge is “Your Honour” and a justice of the peace is “Your Worship.” Still, the point is he was trying to come across as he knew you should. Smich, in contrast, was monosyllabic and dispensed with the honourifics altogether.

After Justice James Turnbull told Millard that the 515 order, preventing him from communicating with a list of potential witnesses, was still in effect, he added that he could speak to his counsel if he had further questions. “I will do that,” Millard replied with an air of authority. Then, when he was told his appearance was over, he said, “Good day.”

I’ve noticed Millard has a tendency to use anachronistic expressions — good day instead of goodbye, for example — which I suspect is his way of trying to sound erudite. Both he and his lawyer seem to be pushing the educated intellectual story line. From the very beginning, Deepak Paradkar has described his client as “a bit of a philosopher.”

Millard told the Toronto Star he was reading not John Grisham but the 19th century classic, On War by Carl von Clausewitz. In that same interview, he also said that he had dropped out of Toronto French School before getting his high school diploma because “there were only a couple of teachers I found interesting,” which is, in my opinion, another way of saying he was too smart for those losers.

For someone who’s spent a lot of the past year in solitary confinement, Millard sounded much more chipper Friday than the last few times I’ve seen him via video in Toronto courts, where he looked terrible. Both Millard and Smich have pleaded not guilty.

Outside the court room, before the session, the Bosma family gathered, laughing and smiling. It might sound incongruous if you weren’t there, but it wasn’t. They were simply happy that the direct indictment had been granted earlier that week and, as always, they were there to represent the family member taken from them and to make their presence felt.

Tim’s widow, Sharlene, joined them later in the court room, watching both the accused from the corner of her eye. No one in the family talked to the press.

 

A judicial pre-trial date was set for September 9 and a video remand date for September 19. The judge said he hoped by then, counsel would be able to set dates for pre-trial motions and, possibly, the trial itself.

The court sessions scheduled for August 7 for Millard and Smich have been cancelled although Millard’s girlfriend Christina Noudga, who has been charged as an accessory to murder after the fact, is still set to show up via video on that day. She remains in jail and has not yet applied for bail.

The direct indictment does away with the preliminary hearing so in theory it should speed things up, but in practice that’s not necessarily the case. Pre-trial motions could slow everything down to a crawl. We’ll have to wait until September to get a better idea of which way things are going to go.

Meanwhile in Toronto, proceedings continue in the Laura Babcock and Wayne Millard murder cases. Both Millard and Smich are charged with killing Laura Babcock while Millard is also charged with the murder of his father, Wayne. The accused have pleaded not guilty to all charges. They will appear again by video on August 11.

Tim Bosma Direct Indictment: An Update, plus new Jeffrey Boucher ebook

July 16 Update: Late last night the Star reported that there will be a direct indictment for Dellen Millard and Mark Smich and (some of) the details will be addressed in a court appearance in Hamilton this coming Friday.


 

I’ve received a few questions from readers lately about the direct indictment in the Tim Bosma murder case. This story in The Mississauga News — reporting that the attorney general would make a decision by June 30 on whether the accused murderers, Dellen Millard and Mark Smich, would go straight to trial — had a lot of people waiting expectantly for answers. But then June 30 came and went, and there was nothing. And now it’s July 15 and no one is yet any the wiser.

Well, here’s the thing — all the information about the direct indictment has come from leaks. The Attorney General has said nothing, zip, nada on the subject. The AG never said publicly, “We’ll have a decision for you June 30.” They’ve never even said that the Crown has requested to proceed by direct indictment.

The initial report on direct indictment came from a reporter and columnist at the Hamilton Spectator with excellent sources. I have no reason to doubt that it was completely correct. The article with the June 30 date came from a reporter I don’t know, who has since removed his tweet on the subject, and who appears not to have had a very reliable source.

I’m also not optimistic that a direct indictment will speed the process up very much. I’ll be surprised if a trial date is set before 2015, which means that even with a supposedly “fast tracked” trial, it will take about two years before everyone gets their day in court. That’s just ridiculous, in my opinion, but such is the sorry state of the Ontario justice system, which desperately needs an overhaul.

The Mysterious Death of Jeffrey Boucher by Ann Brocklehurst

Click photo to buy it on Amazon or read free sample

On another subject, I have just published a short ebook called, in a very self explanatory way, The Mysterious Death of Jeffrey Boucher. This was a case that had major media coverage at the beginning and then just slipped off the news agenda. The public was left hanging about what actually happened. My ebook, which is about the length of a long magazine article, attempts to provide some answers.

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

 

Dellen Millard in court today on charges he murdered his father

Dellen Millard will make a brief procedural appearance by video in Toronto court today to speak to the charges that he murdered his father, Wayne.  There’s unlikely to be any real news, maybe just a tidbit or two about whether the Crown has yet provided any disclosure.

Last time, I was at court for this and the Laura Babcock murder charges, the defence attorneys were grumbling politely that they were still completely in the dark about what the evidence for the new charges was.

Millard and his co-accused have pleaded not guilty to all the first degree murder charges against them. Both are charged with killing Tim Bosma and Laura Babcock while Millard alone is charged with murdering his father. Millard’s girlfriend Christina Noudga is also charged as an accessory after the fact in the Bosma murder. She too has pleaded not guilty.

Last week, Matthew Ward-Jackson, one of three men accused of weapons trafficking and believed to have provided Millard with the gun used to kill his father, appeared in Toronto court by video on two sets of charges. This appearance allowed me to confirm his ID and tie him to his active social media accounts. Ward-Jackson will be back in court next week in person.

On Thursday of this week, MIllard, Smich and Noudga will all make procedural appearances in Hamilton court. Noudga has still not applied for bail and it will be interesting to see if her lawyers will reveal any new information about her intent. She’s now been in jail for more than two months.

Update: I did not attend this court appearance and it doesn’t look like any other reporters showed up. Dellen Millard will return to deal with the Wayne Millard charge by video on July 7. Both he and Smich will also appear on the Laura Babcock murder charge on the same day.

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