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Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

There are many serious flaws in our judicial system that lead immediately to despair. Not least among these faults is the naming of suspects and persons placed under arrest by police and their handmaidens in the daily news media.

We have been rigorously taught platitudes all of our lives and one of the most pernicious is the individual’s inalienable right to the presumption of innocence.

Tell that to Jian Ghomeshi ( Jian Ghomeshi trial’s not guilty decision triggers outrage ) or anyone else accused of a crime, serious or otherwise. Long before “due process”, as a consequence of “secret” investigation by so-called journalists, Ghomeshi lost his job and his livelihood, his reputation as a first-class radio host (which he was,) and his presumption of innocence. In the minds of many, many people, he was and to this day, in spite of his recent acquittal on all five charges that were before the courts, guilty.I paid attention to the case. His “day in court” (a euphemism to describe his two-month-long trial) was as sound and fair a process as I have ever seen. And the result unequivocally correct. Given the quality of the evidence against him and the character of the witnesses, the fact that they deliberately lied under oath and only supplied police and prosecutors with the information they decided prosecutors and police needed to hear, any other conclusion would have been a travesty.

The vast majority of citizens pay absolutely no attention to the machinations of our judicial system. Ignorance has never stopped anyone from forming strong opinions and forcible expressing them. Reminds me of a line out of Camus’ “The Plague” about what the citizens were busy doing while the city officials were busy closing the gates; busy forming uninformed views.

On the other hand, I know a great deal about how it works, or doesn’t, having been a life-long student of police behavior and practices as well as the court system. But what gives me an unique perspective is the fact for a ten-year period I was the object of intense police investigations on two continents and three countries, twice arrested and charged with over one hundred criminal offences, sued by Attorney General Michael Bryant as “an enemy of the State” and vigorously prosecuted to the “full extent of the law.” That is a school of hard knocks that no one attends voluntarily but it does bestow an esoteric knowledge.

Mine is not just another opinion.

The reality: the moment someone is accused of a crime they are considered by neighbors, friends and family (with the possible exception of mothers,) to be guilty and condemned to the criminal class for all time, their lives inexorably altered hitherto fore.

In the collective mind the narrative runs like this: Joe/Jane must be guilty or else how would they have attracted the attention of the police in the first place let alone “got themselves” arrested. They must have done something.

At this point whatever is good in their lives is tarnished, their reputations besmirched, and depending on the charge(s) their careers suddenly on life support or completely destroyed.

“Completely destroyed” is especially true when the charges are sex related particularly when they have to do with sex crimes involving children under the age of sixteen.
The ultimate atmosphere of Gene Pitney’s “Town without Pity” becomes the thin air an accused must breath.

There are many problems in this hornet’s nest of fact and fiction, the idea of presumptive innocence and the assumptive guilt.

For instance, most associations and collectives working on behalf of wrongfully accused and convicted persons believe, although seldom say so, that the police and the courts get it wrong at least fifty percent of the time. I believe it’s more like sixty.

Prior to the advent of J. Edgar Hoover in the 40s things were different. Hoover is the progenitor of modern policing and its modus operandi.

Hoover was the first data miner, a dark genius who well knew the illusory nature of the enterprise. He was z ring master of the machinations of public and media relations toward perpetual metastasized police budgets entirely derived from the public purse. To this day, police are schooled in something openly called “tricks and lies”. Hoover was the master trickster and a unrepentant liar. The conventional wisdom: Criminals lie so police must too.

I digress. Suffice it to say I am not naive. The naming of persons of suspicion, targets for arrest and arrestees is not going to change. But at least it should be recognized for the travesty it is and the first step on the road to perdition. And, perhaps, cause a few to think twice. Crown has big decision before Ghomeshi’s next trial

LAW AND DISORDER BONA FIDES – PT. II

It happens more often than not.

Two days after Michael Brown was shot dead by a white cop in a predominately black neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri, 25-year-old Ezell Ford was shot and killed by police in South Los Angeles. That’s Rodney King territory. But I’ll wager dollars to donuts you know absolutely nothing about Mr. Ford’s untimely passing, probably haven’t even heard about it.

Like Brown, Ford was young, black and unarmed. Like police in Missouri, the LA cops did not immediately released the cops’ names that shot Ford or release the autopsy report. But there is no rioting or looting in South LA.

Why is one shooting covered relentlessly for a week and the other completely ignored?

It’s taken 20 years but in the wake of the acquittal of the thug cops who beat Rodney King senseless and the subsequent destructive rioting, police and black community organizers in South LA have learned something about detente.

Immediately after Ford’s shooting local police maintained a relatively low profile – no tanks or armored personal carriers or cops in full army combat gear; rather a handful of bicycle-riding cops in polo shirts patrolled the streets.

As you might expect the whole community was just as pissed as the one in St. Louis but in L.A. the Police Chief and other top-ranking officials showed up for a community meeting at the local church and did more listening than talking. When a private audience was demanded by one of the most prominent community leaders it was granted.

In many precincts in LA, cops stay in regular touch with major community organizers. Likewise, organizers and local church leaders have various cops’ phone numbers memorized. When protests are planned, seasoned organizers let police know, even when they’re the targets.

It doesn’t mean that policing is necessarily any better or different in LA than it is here in my stomping ground or St. Louis.

In fact, it happens way more in Los Angeles the most other places. LAPD police have shot and killed 12 people like Brown and Ford so far this year. Since 2007, 300 people have been shot dead during conflicts with the LAPD.

This time there was nothing for the media to shoot in LA. And there was probably some discussion about the unwillingness to put the Justice system in disrepute if two very similar incidents were sensationalized within a span of 48 hours.

Back to my bona fides:

I have so successfully infiltrated, investigated and written about police and prosecutors, their manipulations and motivations, their ineptitude and malfeasance the powers-that-be decided to make me the subject of an eight-year long investigation.

I was twice arrested and twice put on trial, first in early 1998 for three years and again in 2003 for another three. (On the first occasion I was charged with two or three counts of breach court order/ publication ban.

After a six-month investigation the police concluded that 18 pages in my book “Invisible Darkness: The Horrifying Case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka” could not have been written unless I had seen the visual portion of the videotape evidence restricted by court order during the Bernardo trial in the summer of 1995.

I was acquitted of those charges in late 2000.

In 2003, I was criminally charged with 104 counts, disobey court order/publication ban, 5 counts of improper storage of firearms and the Attorney General of Ontario sued me in civil court as an “Enemy of the State.”

Years later, when they were blatantly shown (i.e. we had the goods on them) that they had committed gross “abuses of processs,” I agreed to plead guilty to one count, misdemeanor, breach of publication ban.

In return the firearms charges were dismissed along with the other one hundred and three court order breach charges, half of which were felonies each one of which carried a penalty of two-years plus a day i.e. hard time in the Big House. Also, the Attorney General withdrew the civil lawsuit.

And so it ended.

As a consequence, I have had more direct experience with police and ministries of the attorneys general than 99.9 % of the population in North America and that is quite remarkable, given my disposition: aging, middle-class, well-educated, law-abiding, white male.

Many of the larger writing assignments I’ve accepted over the years brought me into the ambit of authority. Then again, what is true for the majority of the population is also true for writers.

The majority of writers and journalists in North America do not have any direct experience or exposure to the courts, the offices of the district attorneys or their handmaidens, the police. Certainly not both sides. Certainly not as a thorough researcher and writer on the one hand and a criminally accused and prosecuted on the other.

I am also unique among the legion of talking heads and pontificators with their blogs, books, pedigrees and degrees, in law and criminology and what-have-you; I am not on one side or the other: Got no dog in the fight, no reputation to maintain.

Crime beat reporters might be thought an exception, except theirs is a symbiotic not a critical or even investigative relationship to police and prosecutors. And none that I know of have ever been arrested, criminally charged and prosecuted for almost a decade.

Most appear to be beards or apologists for police. Even so, even were Noam Chomsky and I wrong about how the media functions – or dysfunctions – in the world of daily reportage, crime beat reporters are a small minority of which I am definitely not one. I have never worked for any news media organizations. And I am at this time not aware of any who have ever been arrested and criminally charged with felony crimes.

As described, my expertise is rooted in a couple of the more difficult topics I chose to write about – the sexual homicide of a Toronto shoeshine boy, Emmanuel Jacques by four pedophiles in the late 70s and published in a magazine entitled “Sympathy for the Devil.

More recently, the crimes, trials and incarcerations of Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, a large, complicated case I wrote about exhaustively and definitively in two books, “Invisible Darkness” and “Karla: A Pact with the Devil,” both initially published in North America by the Random House Group.

As a consequence of getting the back story right and bringing facts into the public domain that the authorities spent enormous time and money, I was taken down like a drug dealer in the kitchen of my old farmhouse at 6 AM Sunday morning by a dozen heavily armed cops, spent a weekend in jail, was subsequently raided and put out of my house for a 24-hour period while the goon squad ransacked the place.

Both my wife’s and my computers, backup and voluminous files were seized, and in spite of the eventual favorable outcome, never returned, I was relentlessly prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Both criminally and civilly, although there was nothing civil about it.

This sort of thing brings back ugly memories and I’ve never been at all convinced that writing is a cathartic excercise. For me, it’s just hard. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop. There’s one more section on this topic to come.

entrance to inner compound

WHERE PAUL BERNARDO USED TO LIVE – PT III

James_KP-24_Mural in double sized cell

My friend, the great photographer Geoffrey James, was able to get an all-access pass to Kingston Penitentiary, including the Segregation Unit and those cells only moments before occupied by such murderous sexual deviates as Saul David Betesh, Paul Bernardo and Russell Williams.

As with all great art there is precedent and tradition. Prisons are not a common subject in the societal lexicon or dialogue – they should be but they’re not; in photography or in life. But the formidable American shooter Danny Lyon has done it before, in the 1960s.

In Lyon’s case, he somehow talked his way into a number of operating prisons in Texas and got loose on the ranges and among the work crews. The results are quite remarkable. Not so easy getting access here. As Geoffrey is quick to point out, “Americans are different, they have no shame.”

Years ago, shortly before it was scheduled to close, Geoffrey tried to talk Eastern State Penitentiary officials in Philadelphia into a similar project but the vagaries of bureaucratic thinking denied him the necessary timely permissions and, as Geoffrey also said to me “once they say no, it’s forever.”

“So the trick this time was to never let anyone say no.”

Ironically, Eastern State, transformed into a successful tourist attraction, now encourages everyone to bring a camera. Bringing his camera, a digital Leica Rangefinder and taking pictures inside Eastern State now would be completely pointless for James. The part Geoffrey needed to capture is gone. Very soon after an institution like a prison or an asylum closes, it irrevocably changes and thereafter, “it too is gone forever.”

In a process that is somewhat magical what was once a Gothic house of horror becomes a tourist trap and just as they arrive in droves at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater so to do tourists attend prisons like Eastern State and the Ohio State Reformatory (the 250,000 square-foot facility where “The Shawshank Redemption was shot in 1994) by the tens of thousands. Snapping pictures is what tourists do; it is not what Geoffrey James does.

Geoffrey has well learned over the years what all good investigative journalists know: “Never rush in and get a no.”

Chains of command must be learned. There are far more people in a bureaucracy that can say “no” than “yes. You have to know, literarily and figuratively, from whom you are seeking permission and what they may require to say “yes”.

In Geoffrey’s case he found his way to the right Regional Commissioner of Corrections, who he understood to have been the warden of the Kingston Prison For Women (K4W) where Karla Homolka was housed for the first 4 years of her sentence. It was similarly closed by the correctional authority for good when the last prisoner was transferred out in May 2008. The walls have been demolished and the property now belongs to Queen’s University.

The Commissioner understood implicitly what Geoffrey meant when he said the work had to be done immediately before the renovators moved in, while the laundry is still undone, because once closed and tampered with, the prison part of the facility evaporates.

She was predisposed to Geoffrey’s project because she knew exactly what he meant when he talked about evanescence and immediacy, to get in and start shooting right away even before all the prisoners had been relocated.

A prison is evacuated according to the incarcerated individual’s assessed risk level – the most dangerous first the least last. There are other considerations but that is the main criteria.

Some of the portraits of the inmates that were still there waiting to be moved (to where God and the prison authority only knows) are among the most haunting in the book.

Change is very difficult for the institutionalized – think about Brooks (James Whitmore) the old con in The Shawshank Redemption and the most gentle, wise and kind character in the movie.

When released after 50 years, Brooks hangs himself.

Shortly after they learn of Brooks’ fate, contraband smuggling con Red (Morgan Freeman) explains what it means to be “institutionalized” to Brooks’ best friends, fellow con Heywood (William Sadler) and convicted murderer Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), the protagonist of this thoroughly compelling picture: “The man’s been in here fifty years. Fifty years! This is all he knows. In here, he’s an important man. He’s an educated man. Outside, he’s nothin’! Just a used up con with arthritis in both hands….These walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them.”

The thirty-foot high, 10 foot thick limestone walls of the historic Kingston Penitentiary are those walls

The Shawshank Redemption was filmed on location in the famed Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio. As did Eastern State Penitentiary, the Ohio State Reformatory has been transmuted into a tourist magnet that has helped boost the economy of Manifield and the surrounding counties. Last year, the O.S.R. had 80,000 visitors. The 250,000-square-foot fortress, first opened in 1896, a number of years after the Kingston Penitentiary, has become a state landmark. Today it is as important to the local economies of the three or four surrounding counties as it was when it was a functioning prison.

Geoffrey James new book “Inside” about the historical Kingston Penitentiary has achieved his goal. All kinds of institutional cruelty as well as accomplishment, the troubling ambiguity that characterizes North American penal history, is palpable in many of the un-peopled photographs that otherwise appear to be, on the surface, explorations of architectural accents and angles.

It is thoroughly evocative collection that fully captures the spirit of place.

In many of the photographs the claustrophobic cells look like their occupants have just gone out to the canteen. Much of the prisoner’s artwork (some of it truly remarkable,) old-timey pin-ups and newspaper clippings still cling to the walls. Bunks appear just slept in with unlaundered blankets askew. The resulting collection of photographs, captions and short revealing endnote written by James is a disturbing, thought-provoking, completely original narrative that elegizes at the same time as it eulogizes… and indicts.

Fyodor Dostoevsky, the Russian novelist said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” That has been my direct experience and its truth is manifest in Geoffrey James “Inside.”

This book of photographs, captions and short essay is exactly what Geoffrey James is all about: Composing narratives with magnificently rendered still photographs that capture both the past and the future.

He did this with his first published collection in 1989. la campagna Romana which appears to be a fine suite of beautifully framed landscape photographs taken with his “primitive, shoe-box panoramic camera.” It is, in fact, about the same thing “Inside” is about: the photographer’s search for something ineffable, in the case of la campagna Romana, the famed Roman countryside and whether it actually still exists.

In the preface to la campagna Romana Geoffrey James says “my journey, rather than leading to any kind of understanding of this landscape, brought only a dawning sense of the labyrinthine complexity of Italian life, of the manner in which the political permeates everything… at Castel di Leva, just south of Rome (Plate 17), I talked with a shepherd’s wife while staring across the GRA at a vast Eurosprawl of radio towers and supermarkets and military barracks – a vision, if ever there was one, of the future of campagna.”

Change a few nouns and verbs the same could be said about “Inside”. It’s about his search for the truth about prison, about it’s soul, no matter how dark, and what it says about our civilization.

Because he sees in this world – as it is immediate and inexorably captured by the lens – another world, perhaps one more real, with some vestige of truth, the one jagged piece of the jigsaw puzzle that allows for a multi-diminsional, integrated apperception. He thinks this might be it and that’s why he bothered.

Greater than the sum of its parts, “Inside” will be published on September 18 by Black Dog Publishing, London, England with support from the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, On.

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entrance to inner compound

WHERE PAUL BERNARDO USED TO LIVE – PART II

James_KP-24_Mural in double sized cell

Taking a sip of white wine, Geoffrey James told me about meeting the prison librarian while in the prison shooting photographs for his new book “Inside”. A very pleasant woman close to retirement, the topic of Paul Bernardo came up.

I asked why? “Because,” Geoffrey said, “the media somehow got a hold of the idea that Bernardo was working in the library and created a mild regional and institutional disturbance. She was astonished because nothing could have been further from the truth.”

She explained that Bernardo spent a good deal of his time writing “grievances,” not a particularly unusual activity for longer-term residents.

Those incarcerated in Canadian prisons have rights (so to speak) and one of those rights is to formally complain about anything that may be amiss or awry (in the prisoner’s judgment) to do with their treatment by the prison. “It’s a Canadian thing.”

For instance, if a prisoner is well-behaved and orderly it is that prisoner’s “right” to have a job. Prison jobs pay a pittance – the Harper government recently changed the daily wage from $7 to $5 – but, of course, it’s not about the money.

On the inside, having something to do, anything, is better than nothing. Inside or out, idle hands do the Devil’s work. Bernardo had not been assigned a job in the long years since he was incarcerated – for life – in 1995. And he wanted one. It was his right.

Prisoners’ grievances can, and occasionally do end up in a federal court if the correctional bureaucracy is particularly recalcitrant and unreceptive. Grievances get lost.

As is often the case in bureaucracies that set up systems for communication and petition, his first two or three attempts were rebuffed. He appealed.

Just before the matter was going to be elevated to an outside court, the prison gave him a job. The gate keepers had no appetite for airing such dirty laundry and bring Bernardo’s name back into the press which it would have done had some intrepid ink-stained wretch found Bernardo’s name on some federal court’s docket.

Regardless, the fact that Bernardo was given a job got out. There are gremlins everywhere; completely skewed, it got out.

On August 13, 2013, CHCH-TV a local Hamilton-based station, finally gave Paul Bernardo what he’s always wanted: a taste of the kind of hysterical attention that has followed his ex-wife Karla. Since Karla left Paul nothing has gone right and now he’s doing life in the big house in a 6′ x 8′ closet-sized cell 24/7 365 per, on the seg row in whatever federal prison he’s put in.

The 2:51 second CHCH-TV item went like this:

Nick the News anchor: “Sadistic killer Paul Bernardo may be staying in a maximum security prison. But according to what Donna French has been told, the man who tortured and killed her daughter Kristen, is living a cushy life behind bars.”

Then, over a series of fast cuts of the killer and his then wife Karla in the back of police cars, being escorted by police hither and yon, stills of the young victims, a clip or two from Paul and Karla’s voluminous home videos, the usual visual accoutrement and bric-a-brac of the psychopathic sex killer programming unfolds for 15 – 20 seconds to reporter Lauran Sobouran’s breathless voice-over:

“Bernardo is one of the most despicable criminals in Canada he drugged and sexually assaulted his sister-in-law Tammy Lyn Homolka and with the help of his wife Karla he tortured and strangled Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. The heinous crime spree would have continued if Karla hadn’t started talking when he nearly beat her to death. Bernardo was declared a dangerous offender the public led to believe he would be locked up for life.”

Cut to (CT) a close up (CU) of Donna French, Kristen French’s mother with a police car (inexplicably) in the shot:

“I was sure that he would be in solitary confinement forever. They wrote us a few months ago… it hadn’t just happened it had been a couple of years I believe… ”

(While Mrs. French speaks the camera closes in first on her right profile and then switches to the left. An old television technique to maximize the viewer’s sympathy and accentuate empathy.)

V.O. (Voice Over)

“Donna French was shocked to learn that Bernardo is now out of solitary confinement working in the prison library… Donna French is upset, people in St. Catharines infuriated”

CT medium shot of a person in a St. Catharines mall identified as “Catherine Pickenuck” “infuriated”:

“He should be locked up for 23 hours a day, what he did to those girls (her voice-breaking…)”

CT a younger, attractive, animated woman with sunglasses probably in the same mall identified as “Jody Curry” “Bernardo should be locked up”:

“What he did to those girls was horrendous… There’s no way he should be sitting in a library or restocking shelves. It’s awful I even get choked up (fanning herself with her right hand like an actress who has just received an cherished award,) I grew up in Scarborough so I remember, it’s awful” (breaks down in tears).

Because she is attractive and animated and cries on cue Jody gets the lion’s share of the airtime in this two minute and fifty-one second piece.)

VO: “20 years after the Bernardo/Homolka crime spree people react like it happened yesterday…”

Cuts to a couple of other woman in the mall parking lot who have very similar opinions to Catherine and Jody.

CT medium shot of reporter Lauran Sobouran standing in the Grace Lutheran Church parking lot. The church sign behind here says “May Jesus Bless Richly Lyne and Craig.”

Lauran Sobouran holding the microphone: “Now, the anger and raw emotion is still so intense for many in this community that they can’t even drive by the Grace Lutheran Church parking lot where Kristen was abducted without all those nightmarish memories coming back to them.”

CT a still visibly upset Jody Curry: “If you remember (pause) it was an absolutely horrific thing, (pause) you know we weren’t even allowed to walk in the street…Why should he get anything?”

In direct contrast to this remarkable bit of fetishistic television, Paul Bernardo’s status as a completely isolated segregated prisoner had not changed and it never will.

Unlike many prisons in the United States, no prison in Canada has ever lost a “skin beefer” (con-speak for convicted child rapists and killers. Cons don’t make the fine distinction between teens and children the FBI Behavioral Unit does.) Since the 1972 riots in Kingston Penitentiary, described so graphically by ex-con Roger (Mad Dog) Caron’s influential 1978 memoir Go Boy! Memories of a Life Behind Bars no one has been killed while incarcerated in a federal penitentiary.

Because their mandate is to isolate these offenders and keep them alive, in the true British tradition to bureaucratic fidelity, our Correctional Service has been exceptionally good at keeping prisoners such as Paul Bernardo, The Shoeshine Boy killer Saul David Betesh and most recently the cross-dressing murderer, ex-Colonel Russell Williams alive.

Bernardo, like the rest of his sort, spends at least 23 hours a day locked in a 6′ x 8′ closet, isolated in a special unit Mrs. French called “solitary confinement” with the few other segregated or isolated prisoners they have in the system.

After all these sorts of criminal are the rarest of the rare and Canada only has a total of around 10,000 people held in federal penitentiaries at any given time so there might be ten to a dozen lifers such as these. They were not all housed at the Kingston facility but probably the majority was.

Just to clarify another media myth while I’m at it, no prisoner in Canada has access to email or the Internet and especially those held in a Segregation Unit. A television, sure. Of course the toilet is en suite as is the mounted steel slab that functions as both couch and bed, a table and a chest of drawers, all firmly fixed to the floor. But that’s it. If the individual can afford a computer then they will have one. There’s no wireless in the Big House, at least not in Canada. But be assured with the bare necessities of life in that cell there is barely room for the prisoner, let alone one 6 feet tall with a computer.

I reiterate, Paul Bernardo and the few others held in segregation are completely isolated at all times from all other inmates; they see no one except the correctional service officers assigned to the segregation unit.

If anyone at CHCH-TV had bothered to check they would have discovered the “job” Paul Bernardo was given was that of prison “book reviewer.”-The task of “evaluating all of the books in the prison library fell to him. Hence the librarian’s detailed knowledge of situation.

But Mr. Bernardo did not get to go the library to do his job. The library is accessible to the general population so it is completely inaccessible to any “seg” prisoners. It took them a while to come up with but in the end the correctional services bureaucrats were quite pleased with themselves. They had devised a job for Paul Bernardo for which he did not have to leave his chair let alone his cell.

The books, a few at a time, were brought to Bernardo by a guard. When he finished reviewing those, a few more were delivered. And so began another lonely enterprise in absolute futility that ostensibly would go on forever, like his incarceration in virtually total isolation, until he died.

Except it didn’t.

When they closed the prison, Bernardo lost his job. And there is no guarantee that his new stewards will be as innovative as the former. Or, perhaps they have already given that job to one of the other seg boys moved to the maximum facility at Millhaven with Bernardo. I don’t know. Nor do I care.

The librarian pointed out the almost inconceivable tedium of Bernardo’s claustrophobic existence to Geoffrey.

She explained that sometimes the guards forgot, or were too “busy”, to facilitate the hour-a-day that Bernardo, and his confreres, were each supposed to get, alone in the exercise yard.

It’s hard to contemplate, she said; living in a closet-sized cell. Seeing only the same few guards day-in and day-out. Reviewing stacks of old used books for a few dollars a day. If you asked her, a person would be better off dead.

Bernardo probably agrees. Betesh did, way back when and yet he’s still around lost somewhere in the catacombs of dim institutional memory and bureaucratic efficiency.
Bernardo and his plight really have absolutely nothing to do with Geoffrey’s project and had the media not made such a ridiculous spectacle of itself Bernardo’s name might never have come up. But the librarian was clearly struck by the strange incongruity of it all and what seemed an infinite capacity on the part of the media to get it wrong, damn the consequences or cost.

In spite of the fact that my biography of Paul Bernardo in Invisible Darkness is the most comprehensive and complete in existence, Geoffrey well knows I have never had any interest in Bernardo. To me he was never more than the Ken on Barbie’s arm. Geoffrey told this anecdote because it illustrated an increasingly dysfunctional legacy media that he knows is something in which I have an abiding interest.

My pitch to the publishers for a contract and advance to write Invisible Darkness ” was very short.

In one paragraph it posed only two questions: “What was the pretty young wife doing all the while her husband was out raping and pillaging? That and how they eluded discovery for such an extended period of time.

When I sent the my “pitch” out on a quiet Sunday afternoon to half-a-dozen publishers – by fax – in early 1993, email was the purview of academia and the military. There was no Facebook, no Twitter, and no texting.

After reading a long front-page story of Bernardo’s arrest in a newspaper in which the fact that he had a young wife who was from St. Catharines was buried deep in the copy, I had absolutely no idea how far-ranging and truly bizarre the answer would be. (To be continued)

Bernardo beer box hat

PRISON GROUPIES

This past Thursday, (July 3, 2014) I awoke to what can only be described as a squall, a minor atmospheric disturbance. In a world consistently assaulted by media frenzies – days-long torrential blah blah, blah blah fests, talking heads and hurricane-force chattering clashes, tsunamis of crazy opinions offered by individuals with questionable intellectual pedigree, this was nothing. A momentarily, strictly regional thunderstorm. 

A few examples:

 Yahoo News
https://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/dailybrew/notorious-killer-paul-bernardo-reportedly-set-marry-ontario-152004508.html

 National Post
http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2014/07/03/christie-blatchford-there-are-reasons-beyond-salaciousness-to-revive-the-story-of-paul-bernardo/

London Free Press
http://www.lfpress.com/2014/07/03/paul-bernardo-plans-to-marry-ontario-woman

 Toronto Star
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/07/04/paul_bernardos_wouldbe_wife_not_alone_in_weird_attraction_dimanno.html

 According to the tabloid press, from which all other outlets culled their information, a 30-year old, well-educated woman from a caring family in London, Ontario had become infatuated with convicted sex killer Paul Bernardo, currently in residence in an 8′ x 10′ cell at the Millhaven Institution near Kingston, On. She has told friends they intend to marry and someone leaked the information.

 This I learned in an email from London, On. talk show radio host Craig Needles inviting me to add my two cents to the cacophony. It would be impolite not to respond so I did. You can review my comments in the last half of an article posted on the radio station’s web page entitled “Government Unable to Prohibit Paul Bernardo From Communicating With London Bride-to-Be” (and possibly hear) at this link: http://www.am980.ca/2014/07/04/21952/

 I also concurrently received an email from Chris, a blind reader of one of my two books on the case, that began with the expressive acronym “WTF?”

 “Quite simply … WTF??
Will the Bernardo/Humolka case just never go away?
Is Bernardo actually capable of manipulating this woman in London, or is she just sick in the head, or perhaps both?
I’m sure you hear this a lot but ..
I came of age during the whole sordiTd affair in the early 90’s. I’ve since listened to your second book, a Pact with the Devil, thanks to CNIB having recorded it for us blind folks.”

To answer Chris’s second question, probably not. Not as long as there is a tabloid press that believes they are our eyes and ears on the vanguard and it is our right “to know”, whether we want to or not.

Certainly not as long as the tabloid-tempered are not jailed like one of their most fierce and fearless was for his part in the infamous British phone hackinig scandal.

Andy Coulson was the editor of Rupert Murdoch’s then 168-year-old sleaze fest “News of the World” and the former media chief for British Prime Minister David Cameron who sagely said upon learning of his friend’s conviction: “What this says is that it’s right that justice should be done and that no one is above the law” blah blah… http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/07/04/britain-hacking-idINKBN0F90S420140704

Not as long as there are misogynistic ministers of Justice who are completely ignorant of the internal machinations of those hopelessly conflicted institutions of punishment and rehabilitation in his purview such as our own Peter MacKay.

In the article in which I am quoted on AM980’s web page they also quote him: “We can’t stop the person from communicating through letters and emails unless there is something that is seen as harassing or criminal in it’s intent.”

The fact is no prisoner in Canada is allowed to communicate through email. Here is the government rule: http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/text/plcy/cdshtm/085-cde-eng.shtml. All MacKay had to do was google it.

In fact, it is so difficult to communicate with anyone on the “inside” that friends and family of the incarcerated have developed a very active and well subscribed list-serve to share their experiences, frustrations and best practices for staying in touch with loved ones in prison: http://www.prisontalk.com/forums/archive/index.php/f-1403.html

If Peter MacKay does not know such stuff, what, I ask, could he possibly do about anything except   (like every politician who has ever lived), gratuitously pander to memories of innocence once again: Right after he demonstrates he knows nothing about the subject at hand “the minister says whenever he hears Bernardo’s name, he thinks about his victims”! Blah blah blah. 

When criticized the media always say it only covers stories that it knows its readers/listeners/views want. It never says how it knows. 

It’s hard to imagine that anyone wants this much coverage of something that is simultaneously irrelevant, rude, absurd, sad and yesterday’s news. 

If no one could do anything about Karla Homolka’s criminally light sentence, her release from jail in 2005 – absolutely free and clear – (including that disgraced former Attorney General for Ontario, Michael Bryant who spent millions of the taxpayers hard earned dollars aggrandizing himself in what the media portrayed as a valiant effort to impose Section 810 restrictions on her release – an order that, being an allegedly “brilliant” lawyer himself, he well knew would never be granted) 

What’s to be done about this young woman who wants to be Bernardo’s 2nd wife? Reading the media that’s apparently what everyone wants to know. 

The media reports are all veiled interrogatories about her sanity and ascribe to her what the prosecutors used as a subterfuge for the real reason they made such an unconscionable deal with Bernardo’s first wife oh so long ago; to wit, Karla was under the hypnotic spell of a Svengali-like sadistic sex killer and “forced” to do what she did much like this “fragile” young woman, “seduced” as she had been, by this pasty unattractive man who is kept locked up in a closet virtually 24/7 and with whom it is very difficult to communicate. 

No matter. One “journalist” describes Bernardo as “a singular type of character. Notorious for his cunning and charisma… ” Once again, by whom? 

This characterization of Bernardo is one put forward by the authorities after Bernardo’s arrest and during his trial in an attempt to excuse their inability to catch him and at the very least prevent the deaths of three young women and the rapes of a dozen more. It is not how anyone in possession of his biographical details or any of the actual facts of the case see the man. That portrait is one of a callow, feckless, clumsy, surprisingly stupid, cruel sexual deviate who also happens to be, literally and figuratively, a bastard. 

Regardless of the prisoner’s character flaws, they do not speak to the young woman’s character or motives. There are all kinds of prison groupies and by no means are most sad or mad.

 As that old warhorse of the True Crime genre Clifford L. Linedecker wrote in the introduction to his 1993 mass market paperback Prison Groupies:

“Even though many of the jailhouse Lotharios are drawn from a devil’s roster of some of the most ruthless and sadistic sex thrill killers in America, the women they attract are as likely to be alluring, desirable beauties with intelligence and exciting careers… “

 Linedecker goes on to back up this statement with detailed stories that include the exploits of Danielle Steele, the fabulously wealthy, multi-million-copy selling author of potboiler romances and her coupling with cons, the female lead in Stanley Kubrick’s Hollywood blockbuster “Lolita,” Sue Lyon, and the incarcerated object of her affections, and Mary Evans who was “the beautiful, bright, and educated daughter of a socially prominent and loving well-to-do family.”

 Remember Mary Evans?

 In the early ’80s Mary was a promising young criminal lawyer practicing in Knoxville, Tennessee. She was set to defend a harden criminal named William Timothy Kirk against multiple murder charges. Rather than do that she helped him escape – at gunpoint – and then went with him – four days before his trial. This stunt triggered one of the most highly publicized and substantial manhunts in the history of the South.

 Linedecker’s book documents 20 real-life cases to reinforce and illustrate his point. There are a surprising number of Paul Bernardo types, i.e. “the most ruthless and sadistic sex thrill killers” alive. After all, if they are alive (some aren’t they lived in Texas and got the needle) they can get married, go to the tuck shop once a week, sit in the cells, occasionally make a phone call, read whatever they can get their hands on – not much. That’s about it.

 But one hardly need go back to the early ’90s for such documentation and insight. Oprah did an hour-long television exploration on the subject circa 2010. http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Prison-Weddings

 It occured to me that I should offer Bernardo’s new paramour a copy of Invisible Darkness: The Horrifying Case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. It is the definitive work on the case. And exhaustive. Don’t take my word for it. Check the court records. Over the almost ten years I was unsuccessfully prosecuted for breaching court oders and publication bans, it was “proven beyond a shadow of a doubt” to be the most comprehensive and well-documented account of Paul and Karla’s lives, pre- and post-marriage and their crimes. (All kinds of readers who have posted reviews on various web pages have warned that it’s not for “the faint of heart” or the “squimish”.) Surely, it would turn this young woman off Paul Bernardo?

 Or would it?

 She might misread it, as so many have.

 Even though the prosecutor forcefully pointed out during the Bernardo trial in ’95 that regardless of who actually “took their breath” (referring to Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French) both Paul and Karla were equally guilty of first degree murder. Full stop.

 Although the official story is the one that has held the most sway, i.e. Karla was suffering from Battered Spouse Syndrome and was the “compliant victim of a sexual sadist” suffering from PTSD and one still hears “if only they had discovered the videotape evidence sooner…” Invisible Darkness portrays Karla as the managing and motivating partner and documents the fact that no one died before they moved in together. And videotape had nothing to do with her deals.

 (Also, I have actually had the temerity to point out that no one got raped until after they met in 1987, a fact that some people, particularly police people, vehemently disagree.)

 Further, there is very compelling evidence that Karla was the one that actually took their victims’ breaths, indisputably in the case of her younger sister, a murder for which no one has ever been tried. (I explained why not in both books but most people, even the few who have actually read the books, can’t seem to grasp.)

 What if this… what should I call it – “confusion”- or “interpretation” – is sufficient to drive her into matrimony, thinking. “if Karla made him do it then I can make him into a good God-fearing Christian.” Rather than firmly and unequivocally dissuade her from going through with it? what if it has the exact opposite effect? Everyone knows the road to Perdition is paved with the best of intentions. I would feel badly. I think I’ll just keep my mouth shut.

STRANGERS AND STRANGE ANNIVERSAIRIES – PART II

2009_0303stehenscamera0038I’ll come back to the woman from France and how that played out.

This past Friday, February 15, 2013 I got an email from the crime reporter for Global Television, Catherine McDonald. Catherine told me something that I could hardly believe: It was the 20th anniversary of Paul Bernardo’s arrest. The problem is, for me, it happened yesterday. I was sitting in my studio reading a long newspaper report about Bernardo’s arrest. Deep in the copy it said that Bernardo was married to a young woman from St. Catharines. I jotted down a note to a couple of publishers I knew. It asked who this young wife was and what she was doing all the while Bernardo was out allegedly raping and pillaging? I fashioned it as a book proposal and faxed it off. (Was there email in 1993? If there was it was not ubiquitous – the obsolete fax was the fastest medium). It was Sunday. By Monday evening I had a book deal.

This compression of time (and space, because there is very much a spatial aspect to memory) can be discombobulating. Further, I sense there is some kind of renaissance of interest in the Paul and Karla cases, as though they are perpetually going through generational rediscovery. (Or else what was the young French woman at my door?) This is curious to me because there are no heroes in that seaweed and there are no lessons to be learned from the tragic expression of Paul and Karla’s darkest natures. For some one who was fully prepared to move on and never think about any of the details again by early winter 1998, I found myself parroting Michael Corleone in “Godfather III”: “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in!”

On the upside, I have noticed a decided up tick in the sales of my books in both in Canada and the United States which is something quite remarkable given that “Invisible Darkness: The Horrifying Case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka” was published 15 years ago and “Karla: A Pact with the Devil” in 2003 – 2004. At any rate, Catherine wanted me to do a “hit” – give her a comment or two on camera. She said she was at the courthouse covering some current malfeasance – I think it was the anesthesiologist who is alleged to have sexually assaulted dozens of female patients after he put them under for various surgeries over the past dozen years.

Canadians seem to have a purchase on the most peculiar and bizarre crimes – I have never heard of anything like the crimes this doctor is accused of perpetrating in any other country in the world; similarly there is no series of crimes so deviant and peculiar as those Colonel Russell Williams confessed to, not to mention Paul and Karla’s trespasses, unique, as far as I know, in the annals of criminal behavior.

Catherine explained that Paul Bernardo’s erstwhile defense lawyer John Rosen was conveniently in the courthouse defending some other miscreant and had agreed to say something and she thought I would make the ideal counterpart.

Catherine is a vivacious and persuasive woman who just happens to be married to a good friend of mine, Adrian Montgomery, and she is also eight-and-a-half months pregnant. Although I really have never had any particular interest in Paul Bernardo who I’ve always seen as a callow pawn in Karla’s game, a kind of fern bar habitué gone very wrong, it’s hard to say no to Catherine. However, when she found out I was at the farm and did not intend to come into Toronto that day, as I had indicated to Adrian I was going to be earlier in the week – I believe I said to him “I am going to be at Ciao (the Yorkville bar and eatery where the partisans gather every Friday evening in Toronto,) come Hell or high water, on February 15.” For emphasis I said “I’m a third generation Torontonian. My grandfather had a butcher shop at the corner of Eglinton and Spadina; legend has it I was born on the loading dock of Marty Millionaire’s at the corner of Queen and Parliament. (See Sandra Martin’s profile in “Toronto Life,” October 2004) The fact that I don’t have a pied-a-terre in the city and the mobility to come and go as I please is a tragedy of epic proportion: Diligently working to rectify that situation – it’s what keeps me going.”

I meant what I said except my beloved paramour Marsha Boulton and I had been traveling for a couple of days, visiting old friends who own wineries in the Niagara Peninsula and Marsha was tired and did not feel like a trip to the city and she trumps Hell and high water.

Catherine said she could not possibly come up to the farm – there was simply no time – she had to have the piece done and finished for Global’s six o’clock news broadcast and hung up.

When I told Marsha about Catherine and the anniversary of Paul Bernardo’s arrest she was willing to make an exception so I called Catherine back and made arrangements to meet her at the Global studios as soon as I could get there – which would probably be around 4:00 PM. That would work.

With no time to indulge any nostalgia – I’m not much for nostalgia anyway but 10 years involvement in the morass that became the Bernardo and Homolka disaster for me, it is sometimes hard to stave off, we hurriedly packed, kept our reservation at the Metropolitan Hotel and furiously made a rather uneventful 2 1/2 hour drive. We arrived at the studios on Barber Green at about 4:10PM.

I saw the piece at 11:30 PM in our hotel room that night. I was on air for about 25 seconds. Rosen got 40. It wasn’t profound but it was nostalgic.

PRISON OF ASSOCIATION – CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS

Anne Perry, the accomplished British mystery writer has written 60 books and sold over 26 million copies. She is also a convicted murderer who was sentenced to life in prison for the brutal murder of her best girl friend Pauline Parker’s mother in 1954. (Her fellow crime writer Ian Rankin interviewed her circa 2007. The interview was uploaded to YouTube .)

Unlike Karla, who has never managed to stay completely off the radar, Juliet Hulme, the name Anne Perry was born with, got out of jail in 1959, changed her name, moved to the Oakland area in California, became a devout Mormon and eventually the famous and wealthy writer she is today. In the process she variously lived in England, the United States and even Toronto, Canada, as the Globe and Mail proudly points out. She now lives in a stylish renovated piggery in the remote fishing village of Portmahomak, 50 miles north of Inverness, on the Scottish Highlands.

It was Peter Jackson’s 1994 film Heavenly Creatures that was Anne Perry’s undoing. The provincial media in New Zealand never completely forgot the sensational case and in the excitement over the movie redoubled their efforts to find out what became of her.

Even though as teenagers Juliet and Pauline had been so close the threat of separation drove them to commit matricide, they never spoke again after their early release from prison in 1959. Ironically, in 1994 Pauline Parker was also found to be living under an assumed name on a horse farm about five miles down the road from Perry’s piggery.

As reported in the Toronto-based Globe and Mail on Saturday, October 6, 2012, Joanne Drayton, an academic and literary biographer currently living in Christchurch, New Zealand has recently written a book entitled “The Search for Anne Perry” and is on a geographically small “tour” of Canada with Ms. Perry herself.

She said “I felt compelled in a way to challenge the way that she [Anne Perry/Juliet Hulme] was perceived. It just seemed to me you can’t leave someone in a prison of association forever. You have to acknowledge that someone has moved on and changed and evolved and developed a useful contributing life apart from the thing they got horribly wrong.”

Parker and Hulme hatched a plot to murder Parker’s mother because she would not allow Pauline to accompany Juliet to South Africa in the wake of Juliet’s parent’s divorce. This enraged the two teenage girls and they devised a plan to override Mrs. Parker’s decision.

Juliet brought a half-brick in an old stocking on a walk with Pauline and her mother in a remote park just outside Christchurch and the two girls battered Mrs. Parker to death with it.

The matricide shocked and reviled New Zealand, as did Karla’s horrific crimes committed 37 years later with her then husband, Paul Bernardo. Similar to the sensational media coverage in southwestern Ontario the Kiwi media speculated that the perpetrators were insane, the Devil’s servants, sexual deviates who deserved to hang. Although sentenced to life the New Zealand government arranged for Juliet and Pauline to be quietly released after only five years.

As I pointed out in “Karla: A Pact with the Devil” Juliet and Pauline were able to disappear as were the very few other women convicted of horrific crimes throughout history who eventually get out of prison one way or the other. Winnie Ruth Judd is a good example.

When Anne Perry’s true identity was revealed in the wake of Jackson’s movie, she had just published her 19th book. Her oeuvre includes the critically acclaimed Thomas Pitt and William Monk series set during the First World War, and her annual Christmas novellas.

Joanne Drayton told the Globe reporter “Because it (the movie and the revelation of her true identity) happened to her we’ve become so, I think, fixated with…that part of her story. But it is only a very small part of her story.”

Very reluctantly Perry invited Drayton to the Scottish Highlands and they spent nine days talking about her life.

“The book is crafted around what Drayton calls a conversation between the adult Anne and the child Juliet, a journey as opposed to an interrogation. While Perry, now 73, participated, this is not an authorized biography. Apparently Perry has not read it.

Recently in what Joanne Drayton described as “a surprise move” Perry decided to appear with Drayton at two upcoming Canadian festivals, Wordfest in Calgary and Banff, October 9 -14and at the Vancouver Writers Fest, October 16 -21.).

“When people can’t allow you to be something better than the murderer ever, then it’s a permanent sentence.”

I don’t know about that. Since I did the research and wrote Karla I haven’t given Anne Perry a second thought – until now. Frankly, I don’t know what the fuss is about. She is whoever she is and it is what ever it is. It seems to me that all anyone is up to in these mysteries that become connundrums wrapped in mental confusion is selling books.