November 19, 1999
Homolka key to Bernardo appeal
Lawyers question her portrayal as a battered wifeBy Michelle Shephard
Toronto Star Crime Reporter
Portrayals of his wife as a woman suffering from battered wife syndrome, should not have influenced the jurors serving at Paul Bernardo's 1995 trial, his lawyers state in an appeal unsealed in court yesterday.
During his trial Bernardo admitted abducting, confining and raping Ontario teenagers Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, but maintained they died while alone with his ex-wife, Karla Homolka.
One of the grounds of his appeal - launched only days after he was convicted - is that Mr. Justice Patrick LeSage, who presided over his first-degree murder trial, should have expressly stated to jurors that despite Homolka's deal with the crown they shouldn't assume her innocence in the murders.
Homolka was sentenced to 12 years for manslaughter in exchange for her testimony at Bernardo's trial.
The grounds for appeal also include:
``First-degree murder requires (Bernardo) actually did the killing or participated in the killing,'' lawyer Paul Burstein said yesterday.
- Technical problems with the way jurors were selected.
- Allowing similar-case evidence about Bernardo's string of violent rapes in Scarborough, especially that he used a ligature, including during sex with Homolka.
- Failing to make it clear to the jury that they had to find Bernardo guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and therefore believe that Homolka had nothing to do with the killings.
``If the jury is skewed against wanting to believe Homolka's the killer, by feeling bad for her and what she went through . . . there's strong legal argument to be made.''
Bernardo's defence team filed the 82-page appeal Nov. 1 and it was immediately placed under a publication ban. The document was unsealed by Madam Justice Rosalie Abella yesterday following a legal challenge by The Toronto Sun.
The 36-year-old convicted murderer is appealing all nine counts on which he was convicted - two each of first-degree murder, kidnapping, forcible confinement and aggravated sexual assault, and one count of doing an indignity to a human body - but is seeking a new trial only on the murder charges.
He is imprisoned in Kingston Penitentiary after being sentenced to life without possibility of parole for 25 years. He was later declared a dangerous offender for the murders and a series of vicious sex attacks in Scarborough. Dangerous offenders can be imprisoned indefinitely.
The appeal is expected to be heard on March 27.
With files from Canadian Press
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