Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Paul Bernardo & Karla Homolka

No New Trial

On March 27, 2000, the Toronto Star reported that an Ontario appeals court had rejected Paul Bernardo's bid for a new trial. The panel of three justices took just fifteen minutes to make their ruling after hearing four hours of arguments by Bernardo's lawyers. Funded by legal aid, Bernardo was appealing his 1995 convictions for raping and murdering Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. The decision was so quick that the Crown wasn't even asked to rebut the points of Bernardo's appeal before the justices rejected it.

Lawyers for the French and Mahaffy families said the decision effectively blocks Bernardo from any future appeals, as he doesn't appear to have any issues that would justify further action.

The basis of Bernardo's appeal was that, in his counsel's opinion, Judge Patrick LeSage shouldn't have allowed evidence of Bernardo's use of a ligature during sex with an unnamed woman in 1986.They also argued that expert testimony on battered-wife syndrome relating to Karla Homolka should not have been allowed.

Homolka's successful plea-bargaining also became an issue as Bernardo's legal team argued that it shouldn't have been admitted as evidence in the previous trial because it prejudiced the jury. The final point of appeal was that Judge LeSage's final instructions confused the jury's understanding of reasonable doubt and the burden of proof.

Justice Michael Moldaver said it was clear Bernardo and Homolka were both participants in the murders in some way. He said if the incriminating videotapes depicting the couple's rape and torture sessions were found before Homolka's plea bargain, she too would have been found guilty of first-degree murder.

After the hearing Bernardo's lawyers said their client may consider appealing his conviction to the Supreme Court of Canada.

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