National Post


Judge frees men in 16-year murder case
Trials cost millions
 
Matthew Sekeres
CanWest News Service

Saturday, January 13, 2007

OTTAWA - Over the years, it simply became known as "the Cumberland case."

The cold-blooded murders of Michel Giroux and his pregnant common-law wife, Manon Bourdeau, in their Cumberland, Ont., home on Jan. 16, 1990, ignited two of the longest criminal trials in Canadian history. Four men -- Richard Trudel, James Sauve, Robert Stewart and Richard Mallory -- were convicted of the slayings in two separate trials.

Yesterday, the charges against Trudel and Sauve were stayed.

A judge had found unreasonable delays and abuse of process had breached their Charter rights. They are now free men.

The judge said the case had been "ravaged over time" and the 16 years of delays -- due to adjournments, lack of proper disclosure, lost evidence and witnesses lying under oath -- called into question the integrity of the justice system.

"Balancing all the factors--the unreasonable delays in the case at bar totalling approximately three-and-a-half years in the context of a prosecution that has lasted over 16 years cannot be excused," Superior Court Justice Colin McKinnon said, reading from his 31-page written ruling. "[A] stay must be ordered," he wrote.

Stewart and Mallory remain behind bars awaiting their own appeals before Ontario's high court.

Mr. Sauve said yesterday that the reality of not riding back to the Collins Bay Penitentiary in Kingston in a police van had not quite sunk in. "It is all new to me, all new to us," he said. "I think the biggest battle has been won, but the battle is not over. A stay of proceedings does not prove our innocence. We want to prove our innocence."

He said he could not get into the details of how he plans to do that or whether he will seek compensation. He also said it was premature to speak about his future, as did Mr. Trudel, who said outside the courthouse he was looking forward to a "stiff drink" with his lawyers -- Matthew Webber and Lorne Goldstein.

Mr. Giroux, 24, and his wife were killed at their bungalow in the eastern Ontario town. Ms. Bourdeau, 27, was seven months pregnant with the couple's first child, a boy.

According to the Crown, three men entered the home with weapons and Mr. Giroux was shot twice at close range with a sawed-off shotgun.

His dead body was discovered almost two days later by a neighbour, but police didn't find Ms. Bourdeau's body for more than four hours after entering the home. Police also found cocaine.

The couple had met at the Carlsbad Springs Hotel, where Mr. Giroux sold drugs and Ms. Bourdeau was a waitress. They had lived together for roughly a year at the time of the slayings.

Throughout the years the four accused have maintained their innocence. Mr. Stewart and Mr. Mallory even rejected plea deals that could have made them free men by now. Both received life imprisonment.

Mr. Trudel and Mr. Sauve were convicted after a 15-month trial. The trial lasted more than 120 working days and included more than 100 volumes of evidence, more than 70 witnesses, 194 exhibits, and 50,000 pages of Crown documents.

A week went by before a verdict was reached in 1996.

Crown attorney Andrejs Berzins called it the most expensive prosecution in his 23 years at the courthouse.

The men were granted new trials in February, 2004, after an appeals court found that the trial judge did not give the jury a firm enough warning on relying on testimony from convicted criminals, and that he erred in allowing evidence that supported a main Crown witness.

The defence also brought new evidence from Mr. Trudel's brother, Jack, who recanted his testimony that his sibling confessed. Jack Trudel claimed he was angry with his brother at the time of his testimony. Mr. Trudel was granted bail and lived in an Ottawa half-way house.

The case centred on Mr. Stewart, a high-level cocaine trafficker, and his debt collector Mr. Mallory. The Crown argued that Mr. Giroux, a small-time dealer, owed Mr. Stewart money and that Mr. Trudel, another dealer, and Mr. Sauve, whom the Crown fingered as the shooter, also

had an interest in stopping the couple from going to the police.

On occasion, nastiness spilled over to the courtroom.

Defence lawyer Michael Edelson, who later left the case, accused assistant Crown attorney Terrence Copper of treachery and abuse of power during a torturous preliminary hearing, which heard 100 days of evidence and argument over a three-year period. The two lawyers later filed complaints against each other with the Law Society of Upper Canada.

On two other occasions, defence lawyers for Mr. Stewart and Mr. Mallory moved for the removal of Justice David McWilliam, claiming he was biased after hosting a "thank-you" reception for lawyers, court staff and jurors at his residence following the trial of Mr. Sauve and Mr. Trudel.

The Crown's star witness, Denis Gaudreault, testified that he drove the men to the couple's home in Mr. Stewart's white Cadillac and waited in the car with Mr. Stewart as they smoked a marijuana cigarette. Weeks after the killings, Mr. Gaudreault fled to Victoria with his common-law wife, newborn baby, and an outstanding debt of $25,000 to Mr. Stewart.

Mr. Gaudreault testified that he stored weapons and dynamite for Mr. Stewart and collected drug debts and collateral such as motorcycles and a cottage. He said three shotgun shells were missing after that night.

Mr. Gaudreault received more than $400,000 in support while covered under the witness protection program, and also got a new name and a relocation. His outstanding charges and warrants were cancelled.

In early 2000, a seven-woman, five-man jury deliberated for 12 days before convicting Mr. Stewart and Mr. Mallory of murder after an 18-month trial.

Mr. Mallory, then 53, was a former doorman at a strip club who worked as a $100-a-day enforcer for Mr. Stewart after a career as a Canadian arm wrestling champion. Mr. Stewart, then 47, had a body shop business.

The trial included 299 exhibits and 187 days of evidence from 66 witnesses. The summary of evidence was 450 pages long and Mr. Gaudreault spent 31 days on the witness stand just on cross-examination.

The investigating officer, OPP Detective Heather Lamarche, and her partner logged 1,600 hours of overtime and interviewed 350 people. More than 300 police officers were involved in the case.

The costs certainly ran into the millions, including more than $200,000 in jury honoraria, roughly $1-million in legal aid for the defence, and more than $600,000 in witness-protection costs.

Crown attorney Vikki Bair had two children during her tenure on the case. The convictions came more than nine years after the men's arrests, and culminated in a trial so emotionally involved, that Ms. Bair, Det. Lamarche and defence lawyer Susan Mulligan all wept upon hearing the verdict.


Recent Cases
Truth in Justice