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Friday, November 19, 1999

Homolka drops court fight to live in halfway house
Public was outraged: Killer claimed warden violated her Charter rights
Janice Tibbetts
Southam News

Karla Homolka

OTTAWA - Karla Homolka, who was convicted for her part in the sex slayings of teenagers Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, has dropped her bid to be moved to a Montreal halfway house following public outcry.

Homolka filed notice yesterday in the Federal Court of Canada that she is abandoning a lawsuit against the federal government that claimed it violated her constitutional rights by refusing to let her serve part of her sentence at the halfway house. Her lawsuit had received wide media attention and public condemnation.

Homolka, 29, was jailed for 12 years in 1993 and has been serving time at the Joliette Institution, a women's prison northeast of Montreal. She also admitted having a role in the drugging, rape and death of her sister, Tammy.

In September, she asked the Federal Court to overturn Corrections Canada's refusal to grant her six months of escorted day passes to Maison Therese Casgrain. She plans to live in Montreal after completing a mandatory two-thirds of her sentence in July, 2001.

Pascal Lescarbeau, Homolka's Montreal-based lawyer, declined to comment on why she has dropped her case, but said she is doing so after learning that four media outlets, including Southam News, are going to court on Monday to fight a publication ban on details of her application for visits to Maison Therese Casgrain.

"From our point of view the case is over," said Mr. Lescarbeau.

Her one-page notice was filed just before an Ontario Court of Appeal judge unsealed an appeal by Homolka's former husband, Paul Bernardo, who is serving an indefinite sentence for the killings of Ms. French and Ms. Mahaffy after being declared a dangerous offender.

Bernardo argued his case should be retried because the judge who presided over his 1995 trial should not have allowed evidence on battered wife syndrome or post-traumatic stress disorder that could have led jurors to absolve Homolka of any responsibility.

Homolka reached a deal for a manslaughter conviction with the Crown in exchange for becoming the star witness against Bernardo.

In her lawsuit against the federal government, Homolka claimed that Joliette Institution warden Marie-Andree Cyrenne breached her Charter rights by rejecting her bid for temporary release "in a perverse or capricious manner."

The case, filed under Homolka's other name, Karla-Leanne Teale, charged among other things that Ms. Cyrenne relied too much on the negative opinion of psychologists. (In 1993, Bernardo changed his name to Paul Teale, a surname that came from a 1989 film about a fictional serial killer.)

Homolka made a tactical blunder by challenging the warden's decision instead of quietly serving out her sentence, said Ted Danson, a Toronto lawyer representing the French and Mahaffy families.

He said that Homolka attempted to get leave passes instead of going through a formal parole hearing when she had the chance two years ago. "She would have been well advised to keep her head low, to be a model prisoner," said Mr. Danson.

He planned to meet last night with the Mahaffy and French families, who have opposed Homolka receiving any special treatment while in prison. "It will be good to tell them they have one less thing to worry about," he said.

Copyright Southam Inc.