When is Dellen Millard’s and Mark Smich’s trial for the murder of Laura Babcock?

Dellen Millard

Dellen Millard

I am regularly asked for updates on the Laura Babcock murder trial. It is still set for this fall and looks highly unlikely to be postponed as it was already bumped from February of this year

There are pre-trial motions scheduled for August 28th. While the pre-trial motions in this and all other cases are typically subject to a publication ban, the public can attend and they are often very interesting.

And that’s really all I can tell you at this point.

Accused Murderer Mark Smich

Mark Smich 

Dellen Millard turns jailhouse lawyer

Tells Toronto court he will defend himself on Laura Babcock murder charges

Jan. 29 Update: This post has been updated to remove an inaccuracy in the original version about the reasons for the Babcock trial delay. Information on the Wayne Millard preliminary hearing was also updated to take into account the fact that the hearing has taken place.


 

After spending months in court in Hamilton attending pre-trial motions for their upcoming trial for the murder of Tim Bosma, Dellen Millard and Mark Smich put in a brief appearance yesterday at superior court in Toronto, where they are eventually slated to be tried for the murder of Laura Babcock.

Millard, who had no counsel present, told the court he will defend himself.

The Babcock trial, which was originally set pencilled in for September of 2016, has now been postponed to early 2017 due largely to difficulty finding a time slot in the various attorneys’ schedules.

Millard and Smich are both pleading not guilty to the first degree murders of Tim Bosma in 2013 and Laura Babcock in 2012. In addition, Millard is pleading not guilty to the 2012 murder of his father, Wayne Millard. A preliminary hearing for the patricide case was held in early January right after the holidays and just before jury selection began in the Bosma trial on January 18, 2016. The judge will deliver her decision on whether the case will proceed to trial on March 4.

Millard also noted he is having trouble getting access to the disclosure material he needs for the Babcock case.

Justice John McMahon strongly advised Millard more than once to get a lawyer. Although he made clear that the decision was ultimately Millard’s, he said: “I haven’t seen a lot of first degree murder charges” where self-represented defendants succeed.

“I do think it’s in your best interests to get a lawyer.”

This is the only one of the three trials where Millard has decided to go it alone. He will be represented by Toronto lawyer Ravin Pillay at the Bosma trial. Hamilton lawyer Peter Boushy acted as his counsel at the preliminary hearing for his father’s murder.

“I have an issue at the Hamilton jail with getting access to the disclosure on Laura Babcock material,” Millard said, adding that he is unable to view the CDs and DVDs provided by the prosecution.

When asked by the judge if she wanted to raise any issues, Assistant Crown Attorney Jill Cameron said she had no objections and wasn’t familiar with procedures and policies at the Barton Street jail officially known as the Hamilton Wentworth Detention Centre.

As the judge looked at the forms filled out by the accused, Millard, who was wearing a blue and white striped shirt and ill-fitting jeans, said from the prisoner’s box, “Forgive the handwriting your honour.”

The judge replied that it was clearer than his. Then for the record, he stated, “The court orders Dellen Millard full and unfettered access to the CDs and DVDs in the Laura Babcock matter.”

While Millard sat in the prisoner’s box, his co-accused Mark Smich was placed in an empty jury seat. He wore a bright blue v-neck sweater over a collared shirt and denim pants without the traditional jean stitching. When questioned on a minor housekeeping matter, he responded, “I have no problem with that.”

Smich is represented by Toronto lawyer Tom Dungey in both the Bosma and Babcock cases.

Millard arrived late for court after a brief overnight stay at the Toronto South Detention Centre aka the super jail. It has been plagued with problems since its opening in 2014 and prisoner transportation is frequently delayed causing a domino effect of court delays. Justice McMahon also made a statement on the record about how the Toronto South issues were negatively affecting court functions.

Smich is in custody at the Toronto East Detention Centre.

 

Direct indictment issued in Laura Babcock murder case

Dellen Millard and Mark Smich appeared in Toronto court today to case to address administrative matters related to a direct indictment issued in the Laura Babcock murder case in late August.

Both Millard and Smich are pleading not guilty to the murder of Babcock, which occurred on or around July 3 and 4, 2012. Further details cannot yet be revealed due to a temporary publication ban. They were charged in April 2014.

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When a direct indictment is issued by the attorney general, it means there is no preliminary hearing and the case goes straight to trial.

Millard and Smich also faced a direct indictment in the Tim Bosma murder case, which will go to trial in January 2016. At the time it was granted in the summer of 2014, Millard’s lawyer Ravin Pillay, told the Globe and Mail, he felt the move was against his client’s interests and “encumber(ed) the ability to make a full answer in defence” because without a preliminary hearing, he would not have an opportunity to test the prosecution’s case.

Not all criminal defence lawyers agree with that assessment. As much as a preliminary hearing gives the defence a dry run, it can also give the Crown a look at the accused’s trial strategy. Millard’s ex-girlfriend Christina Noudga, who is charged as an accessory after the fact in the Bosma murder, has chosen, for example, to go direct to trial skipping her preliminary hearing.

Millard, Smich and Noudga are all pleading not guilty in the Bosma case. In addition Millard is pleading not guilty to the 2012 murder of his father Wayne Millard. None of the allegations in any of the cases have been proven in court.

Direct indictments are fairly unusual in Ontario and tend to be used in high-profile cases.

There is no trial date yet scheduled for the Laura Babcock case. It will likely be late 2016 or early 2017.

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.