The political reality behind the story of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.
|Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo met in 1987, when he was 23 and she was 17. They married in 1991, six months after they raped and killed Karla’s little sister, Tammy, and two weeks after abducting, raping and killing 14- year-old Leslie Mahaffy. The following year in April of 1992, 15-year-old Kristen French was the next young lady unlucky enough to cross paths with the Bernardos, and her fate would be the same as that of Tammy Lyn Homolka, and Ms. Mahaffy.
Three months after Paul and Karla met, a series of brutal rapes began in Scarborough, Toronto, a large suburban area where Paul Bernardo lived. The DNA evidence which would link Bernardo to these crimes sat untested on a shelf in a Toronto lab for over two years; finally on February 1, 1993, The Toronto Metro police got three positive DNA matches to Paul Bernardo for the Scarborough rapes.
Bernardo and Homolka videotaped themselves sexually assaulting Ms. Mahaffy and Ms. French, and Karla’s sister, Tammy, but a months-long evidence search of Paul and Karla's home would fail to produce those tapes. Nothing tied Bernardo to the murders except Homolka's word and there is a persistent “if only” myth about this case: a highly unpopular plea bargain arrangement sentencing Karla Homolka to the sum total of two concurrent twelve year sentences for manslaughter in exchange for testifying against her partner-in-crime, would never have been approved—if only the police had been able to find the couples' private video stash when they searched their home—
If only the Crown had been in possession of these tapes in 1993; if only they had seen Karla Homolka, raping a drugged and bound Leslie Mahaffy, or Kristen French; if only they had the tape of Karla standing naked over Tammy Homolka, liberally dosing her seemingly lifeless sister with Halothane, an ether-like substance Karla routinely used at the vet clinic where she worked...
If only they had known, the Crown maintains, Karla Homolka would still be where her partner-in-crime always has been and always be. In prison.
If only that were true.
After a two year investigation beginning with the death of Leslie Mahaffy, and the addition of a large and costly task force, Inspector Vince Bevan, the man whose job it was to apprehend the perpetrators of the French/Mahaffy murders, had clues he could not decipher and little else. An officer of Bevan’s rank should know that eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable; nevertheless, based on the statements of a few eyewitnesses who reported seeing two men in a cream-colored Camaro near the site of Kristen French’s abduction, the Inspector threw all his efforts and the bulk of the task force resources into a futile search for a just such a car.
How's that happen you ask—a man like this put in charge of all that ?
In spite of the fact he had comparatively little field experience and was generally viewed among the rank and file as inept and incompetent when it came to actual criminal investigation, because his father had been a senior member of the Niagara Regional force—and because he was something of an unoriginal thinker who took orders well—Vince Bevan was promoted to the position of Inspector. Kids, be sure to tell your parents about Inspector Bevan the next time they say you need to study harder.
On the other hand police Inspectors don't have the authority to arrange highly unpopular plea-bargain deals. For that you need someone of the highly unpopular lawyer profession.
In Karla: Pact With the Devil, author Stephen Williams writes: “Just before he joined the Ministry of the Attorney General in 1992, (Michael) Code had established himself as one of the finest criminal lawyers in the country. Although many of the lawyers at Code’s law firm could be described as left-leaning, liberals, or social democrats, in Michael Code’s case he was a card-carrying member of the New Democratic Party. In 1992, he did the unthinkable for an accomplished criminal defense attorney, and went over to the other side. One of Michael Code’s first official acts was the approval of a million dollars to facilitate the formation of Inspector Bevan’s nascent Green Ribbon Task Force. Intermittently, between May, 1992, and February, 1993, when Paul Bernardo was arrested, Inspector Bevan returned to the trough. Code approved numerous subsequent requests for millions upon millions of dollars to support what had become the largest police task force in Canadian law enforcement history.”
If you’re keeping score at home, so far we have a blowhard nincompoop of an Inspector officiating not only the largest criminal investigation and task force ever assembled on Canadian soil, but also the most heavily tax-payer funded. And we have a new, overly-ambitious Assistant Deputy Minister of the Attorney General, and in 1993 when Karla Homolka comes into his life, it’s fair to say Michael Code has something to prove.
As of mid-to-late December 1992, while Paul Bernardo is busy womping his wife Karla in the head with a flashlight, not too many miles away RCMP criminal profiler Ron Mackay is perusing a paper which explains how some nasty men the FBI dubs “sexual sadists” sometimes force their itty-bitty wives and/or girlfriends to assist them in their heinous deeds. Additionally, this paper is an assessment of the psychological factors which predispose these women to seek out these men, and this is the material Ron Mackay just happens to be reading when he is called upon to help explain the curious dynamic that turned big, mean Paul Bernardo and his pretty little wifelet Karla Homolka into a rape-and-murder-team.
Given his reading habits, it all makes perfect sense to Ron Mackay—by the way, Ron Mackay will not actually meet Karla Homolka until a year after Paul Bernardo's trial has ended. Ron Mackay will never meet with Paul Bernardo, but still, he's certain he's got a handle on this thing, so Ron Mackay contacts Inspector Bevan and tells him all about “Compliant Victims of the Sexual Sadist”—catchy title, hunh ?
It’s good enough for the Inspector, who has been steadily going through the coffers of a tax-payer funded task force with nothing to show for it. Enter Karla Homolka. And Ron Mackay, and even our old friend Michael Code, and just in time too, as Bevan comes that close to losing an on-again, off-again pissing contest with the Toronto Metro police, by prematurely arresting Paul Bernardo.
Arresting the citizenry without proper evidentiary back-up is a law enforcement no-no; it’s especially distressing to men like Michael Code when men like Inspector Bevan come just that close to sending a multi-million dollar investigation and potential prosecution straight into the crapper by prematurely “popping” a man like Paul Bernardo.
However, once Bernardo was properly behind bars and womped upside the head with a slew of charges for some rather nasty non-bailable offenses, Michael Code went about forming what was called the “Management Committee”; that 3-member panel, plus Michael Code, made the decision to separate the prosecution of the Scarborough rapes, which was Toronto Metro’s purview and for which there was better evidence, from the prosecution of the Mahaffy/French murders which was Inspector Bevan’s territory, and which had essentially no evidence on which to detain Paul Bernardo on murder or any other charges.
It was Michael Code's position, and by extension the Management Committee's, that the murders must be dealt with first and since you seem like a reasonable sort you're probably wondering, why? Paul Bernardo's not going anywhere, so why not prosecute the crimes for which there is actual, physical evidence, win convictions on those charges and then proceed from there, hmmm ?
Well there is a reason, it's not a good reason but we need to press on so for the moment let's just say that while Bevan was short on actual evidence against Paul Bernardo for murder, he did have Karla Homolka, the Inspector did, and “Compliant Victims of the Sexual Sadist” was the whitewash he used to spiff her up a bit before delivering her to Michael Code and the Management Committee.
And Bevan also had the word of Dr. Stephen Hucker.
Dr. Stephen Hucker, a forensic psychiatrist who works primarily with those incarcerated in the Canadian prison system, is best known and well respected for his work in the field of sex offender treatment and research. On September 16th and October 3rd, 1994, Dr. Hucker interviewed Karla Homolka for a total of ten hours. In 1995, Dr. Hucker took the stand and said that Paul Bernardo suffered from multiple sexual and personality disorders, most notably, sexual sadism. "Sexual sadism", said Dr. Hucker, "is a particularly onerous diagnoses. It is at the extreme end. I would suggest it is extremely difficult to treat. I would think, in the present state of knowledge, his conditions are irremediable." Dr. Hucker also testified as to Karla Homolka's compliant victim status, and it is in large part because Dr. Hucker gave the compliant victim/sexual sadist theory his blessing in 1995 that both Bernardo and Homolka are where they are today.
Which makes it all the more interesting that by 2006, still working in the Canadian prison system and specifically at Kingston Prison where Paul Bernardo is housed—Dr. Stephen Hucker has changed his mind.
In "Issues in the Diagnosis of Sexual Sadism", a paper written by Dr. Hucker and Dr. William Marshall in 2006, Dr. Hucker states:
"As a result of the confusion we noted in our literature review regarding the criteria used to diagnose sexual sadists, we decided that further research was required. Our first step was to determine how effectively the diagnosis was applied in federal prisons in Canada. We examined the records in three prisons of all sexual offenders for whom a psychiatric appraisal was made over the period 1989-1998. From these records we identified evaluations of 59 sexual offenders with 41 being diagnosed as sexual sadists while the remaining 18 were given other diagnoses. It is important to note that the clinicians, whose diagnoses we examined in this study, were all respected and experienced forensic psychiatrists. We then compared those diagnosed as sadists with those who were identified as nonsadists, on the features we derived from our literature review.
We found that it was the nonsadists who displayed the so-called sadistic features."
Uh...okey-dokey...so what are ya saying there, Doc ?
"The results from this study revealed that the diagnosis of sexual sadism was not being applied in the Canadian prison service in a way that matched any of the criteria identified in the literature. When we examined each diagnostician's application of the criteria, it was evident that there was not only disagreement across diagnosticians in the criteria they considered relevant, there was no evident consistency within diagnosticians in the criteria they used."
Okay. So none of you guys agree on anything and some of you are just making stuff up as you go along. And what was that thing you said about...
"...diagnosing a sexual offender as a sadist when he is not might result in continued or extended incarceration thereby jeopardizing the offender's rights."
Yeah, that's it.
Based on Dr. Hucker's word he met the necessary criterion to be diagnosed as a sexual sadist, shortly after his trial Paul Bernardo was declared a "Dangerous Offender", a designation which allows the Crown to indefinitely extend his original 25-year prison term. And in case you were wondering, Paul Bernardo was indeed, one of the subjects included in this study.
Dr. Stephen J. Hucker provided the expert testimony which closed the deal that Michael Code and the Management Committee initiated because Ron Mackay assured them Karla Homolka was the compliant victim of sexual sadist Paul Bernardo which thereby allowed everyone to breathe a sigh of relief that Inspector Bevan's bungling hadn't brought the whole thing crashing to the ground.
But prior to the study from which would come the "Issues in the Diagnosis of Sexual Sadism" paper where Dr. Hucker appears to be recanting everything he said in 1995—before the study he himself conducted, and from which he concluded that the diagnosis of sexual sadism as it was being applied in the Canadian prison system was likely a violation of an offender's rights—before then, that Dr. Stephen J. Hucker-—never met Paul Bernardo before in his life.
Now, you were asking about this prosecution strategy. Yes it does seem a bit dim, but take my word for it, while Bevan might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, Michael Code is no slouch. Nor is he a man given to “if onlys”.
Faced with protests and petitions, in late 1995, the Ontario government ordered an inquiry into Karla Homolka's plea bargain arrangement with the Crown; retired Ontario judge Patrick Galligan, whose official ruling deemed the plea bargain both necessary and proper, embraces the “if only” theory in The Galligan Report, his inquiry into the Homolka deal.
“We all know that had the videotapes been available to the authorities on May 14, 1993, the Crown would never have made this resolution agreement with Karla Homolka”, says Galligan.
There's that “if only” thing again, and if only that were true—but that wasn’t the case, according to the people who hammered out the deal.
Michael Code said so at the time.
In May 1995, Michael Code wrote a memo in which he says the videotapes would have made little difference to the outcome. Homolka co-operated with police, telling them about the existence of the videos and describing their contents; had they been found earlier, wrote Code, “instead of 12 years, the sentence might have been 14 or 15 years.”
Author Stephen Williams, who would himself face charges for violating a publication ban after he allegedly posted segments of Paul and Karla’s “home movies” on his website, says it is in the government’s interest to perpetrate the myth of the videotapes. “It confuses the public and takes the onus off the ministry of the attorney-general for making the deal with Homolka” he says. “But it is absolute and utter bull.”
The Criminal Code of Canada provides for a preliminary inquiry in all cases involving serious crimes. The Criminal Code of Canada also allows the Crown to jump right over the preliminary inquiry and go straight to a trial; this is known as a "preferred indictment".
The charges against Paul Bernardo, all of them, were preferred.
It is a very exceptional procedure and the Criminal Code goes so far as to insist that such requests require "the personal consent in writing of the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General" of each province.
At the time, in Ontario, Marion Boyd of the New Democratic Party was the Attorney General who issued the preferred indictment.
For American readers, it's the equivalent of sending someone to trial without a grand jury indictment, something akin to the way our country shuttled detainees into Gitmo. Paul Bernardo needed to be in the pokey ASAP, that's understandable up to a point. But “preferring charges” is a rarely-used legal maneuver, considered by most in the Canadian legal community as highly prejudicial because it sends a message that the defendant is so dangerous, the wheels of justice must turn with far more speed than usual.
Preferring charges is also viewed by most Canadian legal-eagles as a violation of due process and if that sounds like bleeding-heart pap to you, keep in mind our old friend Inspector Bevan has already jeopardized an attempt to bring Mr. Bernardo to justice. And that here as well as there, by violating due process you also run the risk of having guilty verdicts overturned and setting men like Paul Bernardo loose and free of charges they can never be re-tried on.
Of course, once the prosecution finally got its hands on Ken and Barbie's home movies they could certainly count on those images to speak for themselves, but rushing Paul Bernardo to trial was a risky move, regardless, and at first glance, a bit odd when juxtaposed with Michael Code's continued assertion that Karla’s testimony was “paramount” to the Crown's case. The months of preparation that preceded Karla's nine days on the stand as a witness against her former husband resulted in Paul Bernardo’s trial lasting far longer than it would’ve otherwise; time is money, after all, and thanks to Inspector Bevan’s bungling, too much money had been wasted already—by Michael Code.
So if the Crown didn't need Karla Homolka, but heaven and earth were moved and untold millions spent propping her up as the sole witness for the prosecution, exactly what did Homolka bring to the table they wouldn't have had without her ?
For 45 minutes on December 6, 1989 an enraged gunman roamed the corridors of Montreal's École Polytechnique; for reasons which may never be fully understood, Marc Lepine, aged 25, separated the men from the women and before opening fire on the classroom of female engineering students he screamed, "I hate feminists." Lepine killed 14 women before turning the gun on himself; almost immediately, the Montreal Massacrebecame a galvanizing moment in which mourning turned into outrage about all violence against women.
Think of it as Canada's 9/11, and you begin to get an idea of just how far-reaching, and how far-removed, the effects of such an event might have been and might still be.
Journalist Christie Blatchford, who covered the Bernardo trial, writes, “It is interesting to remember that Homolka’s kissy-face deal came under an Ontario attorney-general, Marion Boyd of the New Democratic government, of whom it is probably fair to say she was on a self-appointed mission to educate the world about battered women, and that it was implemented and fine-tuned by a group of boys, the lawyers of the Crown law office.”
The New Democrats, the ruling party in the early 1990's and the party Michael Code hitched the star of his legal ambitions to, was a feminist-controlled one. Feminism is more literally a political matter in Canada than it is in the United States, which means more tax dollars are funding the causes and programs it supports.
At the time, there was quite a strong contingent of women Michael Code answered to politically and officially, who insisted on the image of Homolka as a victim. One of those women was Michael Code's direct superior, Attorney General Marion Boyd, who, it should be noted, issued the preferred indictment against Paul Bernardo, and who, like Inspector Bevan, would also prematurely announce Bernardo's imminent arrest for murder.
There's only so many times you can stand in front of the press corps assuring them of an imminent arrest before you just look silly if you don't arrest someone. And there's that “if only” thing again.
Neither Paul’s name nor Karla’s turned up on a routine name search in connection with Tammy Homolka’s death, because the police in Ontario never made a routine name search for “Bernardo” or “Homolka”. In a photograph taken by one of the senior officers investigating the death of Karla's sister, the videotape of Tammy Homolka’s rape is sitting on Karla’s nightstand—no one checked to see what was on the tape, and it was not collected for evidentiary purposes
We still can't find Osama Bin Laden's high cave hideout but we dragged Saddam Hussein out of the exact hole in the ground he hunkered down in. We dragged him out matted-haired and wild-eyed for the cameras too, and there was a trial, of sorts, and a sentence that surprised no one. And in the same atmosphere of indifference that nullified Paul Bernardo's claim he was guilty of multiple rape but not multiple murder, no one was much bothered when Saddam Hussein's sentence was carried out a wee bit ahead of schedule. Saddam had nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11, but he was equally guilty of many, many other horrors and atrocities, so why split hairs...
But there is a reason to split hairs. It's the same reason you don't go to a restaurant, leave your wallet open on the table and trot off in search of the restroom. Most people are okay, and some will take your wallet if they happen to see the opportunity. But there's a few who watch, and who wait for such opportunities, and I don't mean to sound like Dick Cheney or George Bush. But Bush and Cheney weren't completely wrong. We should all be on a heightened state of alert for those who do not have our interests at heart.
The problem is, of those who do not have your interests at heart, closer to you than men like Saddam Hussein are men who know it's easier to exploit people's fear than to appeal to their reason—men, like Dick Cheney. And George Bush.
George W. Bush is not Saddam, and Bush didn't invade Iran or Kuwait. But Bush invaded Iraq, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are dead--and thousands of Western troops are dead--because George Bush--and Tony Blair and the Spanish Prime Minister and the Italian Prime Minister and the Australian Prime Minister--went to war in 2003 on a potage of lies and mendacity and, given the weapons we used, with great brutality. Of the mass killings we perpetrated in 2003 with our depleted uranium shells and our "bunker buster" bombs and our phosphorous, the hell-disaster of anarchy we unleashed on the Iraqi population in the aftermath of our "victory"--our "mission accomplished" –who will be found guilty of it?
Likewise, convince the public that in evil intent, a man like Paul Bernardo is second only to a man like Saddam Hussin, and once he's captured everyone is so relieved that less attention is paid to your own questionable behavior, such as routine searches you failed to conduct which would likely have put both Paul and Karla behind bars as early as 1990—or wholly unnecessary, tax-payer funded deals you made with the devil.
These days in his always lit and always guarded 8' x 4' solitary isolation cell, 6-footer Paul Bernardo stars in another videotape sans Ms. Homolka: a security camera belonging to Correctional Services Canada now records his every twitch or sigh, and should you ask out loud how this formula for madness will, in any way, "correct" Paul Bernardo's ability to choose the moral high road, you're shushed before you can say "Abu Ghraib" in our post 9/11 world.
Professor Alan Young of Osgoode Hall wrote in his 1996 legal opinion that “the Crown acted imprudently to strike a deal because the Green Ribbon Task Force arrested Bernardo and charged him for the murders before they had a solid case. The deal struck was an act of desperation fueled by the press release of the police indicating that they had caught the murderer.”
That would be our old friend Inpector Bevan, there, who prematurely issued that press release. And Deal-with-the-Devil architect Michael Code would ride in to his rescue—with child-killer Karla Homolka, in tow.
Most people believe there was only one Deal with the Devil, but in truth, a second pivotal decision by Michael Code and the Management Committee on May 18, 1995, essentially gave Homolka the blanket immunity she sought from the outset, and this decision was made not so coincidentally on the eve of Paul Bernardo’s trial.
Among those who agree the plea-bargain arrangement with Karla Homolka was a travesty of justice, many also say the danger Paul Bernardo represented to the community at large necessitated the deal. And I don't doubt at all that Paul Bernardo needs to be precisely where he is, any more than I doubt Saddam Hussein committed acts for which he deserved to hang.
There are also 103, 383 Iraqi men and women and children, dead, all because of a war that need not have been waged, and as anyone who has seen the morgue photos of Paul and Karla's victims should know, once the blood of children has been spilled we are all in far less of a position to say, if only we had known.
In one country missing videotapes are the pretext for an unconscionable plea-bargain deal and in another weapons of mass destruction, also “missing”, are the pretext for a war, and you may say whatever and who cares, as Saddam Hussein and Paul Bernardo are both very bad men.
But governments are founded on an idea of the truth which must also be protected. The integrity of those borders must also be maintained, and we're the only soldiers that truth has.
So you must ask yourself, in truth, what divides the men of justice—from men the justice system was constructed to detain.