Defence tactics.

For those of you not aware of a case currently in the courts in Kingston, Ontario Canada, 3 people – husband, son and second wife – are on trial for the “honour killings” of the husband’s first wife and the 3 daughters of his second wife.   The four women were in a vehicle that was allegedly pushed into the Rideau canal by the three accused.

The father of the three girls was aghast with their rebelliousness (makeup and boyfriends) and was recorded after the fact saying “They committed treason themselves. They betrayed humankind. They betrayed Islam. They betrayed our religion…they betrayed everything.”.  When recalling the photos the girls took of themselves on their cell phones said “I say to myself, ‘You did well.’ Were they to come to life, I would do it again.”  There was no mention of any comments made by their mother.

What has already become obvious is that the defence is trying to disassociate the mother from the husband and son.  It was asked and granted that she not be in court when prosecutors played a underwater police video of the vehicle and its occupants (her dead children).  She has now also been excused from visiting the canal when the court staff and jury  go to the site to “better appreciate the evidence”.

This woman may very well be a victim of her own circumstances and an unwilling participant (which will no doubt be the argument) but if she knew the danger the women were in and still did nothing, she’s just as guilty.

But perception is very important in court.  The requests from the defence may seem innocent enough but make no mistake that they are carefully calculated.  In Stefanie’s case, right at the very beginning of the preliminary hearing, the defence attorney for Melissa Todorovic requested that she be able to sit at the defence table with them rather than in the prisoner’s box.  It was subtle but undoubtedly made her appear less guilty.  No such request was ever made for David Bagshaw and he looked much more guilty, especially alongside Melissa’s perceived courtroom freedom.

It was extremely frustrating for us to watch seemingly insignificant requests granted and we worried that a jury might fall prey to the constellation of defence tactics just enough to tip the scale in her favour.  Luckily we had a brilliant jury!

These concessions are given, of course, to ensure that the judge appears impartial, and hopefully preventing an appeal down the road but this is something to keep in mind if ever called for jury duty.

If found guilty, the mother in this case should be obligated to see what her actions (or inaction) caused.  She should absolutely be haunted for the rest of her life.   Those of us whose children died in horribly violent ways and suffered immeasurable pain have no choice but to relive their last moments over and over.  I’m not usually a fan of “tit for tat”, but in this case it might be the best punishment the court could impose.

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