Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Paul Bernardo & Karla Homolka

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The trial of Paul Bernardo was delayed for two years after his arrest. One of the reasons for the delay was that Bernardo had placed his first lawyer, Ken Murray, in a very difficult ethical situation. Bernardo had given Murray the videotapes that he and Karla had made of their adventures, believing that by doing so, they would never get into the hands of prosecutors.

Paul Bernardo headshot in custody
Paul Bernardo
headshot in custody

However, the prosecutors knew of the videotapes from Karla and had wiretapped Murray's conversations with Bernardo. Eventually, the pressure increased and Murray had to do something about the videotapes in his possession. The videotapes were turned over to the prosecutors and Murray withdrew from the case. Veteran defense lawyer John Rosen took his place as Bernardo's lawyer. This series of activities alone caused a delay of one year in the start of the trial.

In May of 1995, Bernardo's trial began in Judge Patrick LeSage's courtroom with the videotapes as critical pieces of evidence. Bernardo faced two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated sexual assault, two counts of forcible confinement, two counts of kidnapping, and one count of performing an indignity on a human body.

For two years, information about the case had been sealed, although sordid details had leaked out in the American press. Copies of newspapers were smuggled into Canada.

Book cover: Lethal Marriage
Book cover: Lethal Marriage

Prosecutor Ray Houlahan opened the trial with a full-day story of Karla's life as a victim of the dominating sadist, a brain-washed, frightened accomplice to the most degrading criminal acts.

Crown prosecutor Ray Houlahan began with a segment showing Karla naked, masturbating, with the camera focused on her vagina.

Nick Pron in Lethal Marriage describes the electrifying effect the video had on the courtroom: "Gasps of surprise and disgust, perhaps even shock, along with plenty of embarrassed giggles, could be heard throughout the courtroom as the camera lingered on Homolka's exposed body for several minutes as she stimulated herself... For the previous two years, ever since her arrest, Homolka's face had been almost as well known as the prime minister's. She had been seen on television in footage taken at her wedding, with her friends, and at her trial. But few people in the courtroom that day were expecting to see a triple X-rated tape, a close study of the country's most infamous woman in a variety of sexually explicit positions."

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