Murder trials as “Showtime”

A couple of notorious recent murder trials have me thinking that prosecutors and their investigators have gotten a taste of the spotlight created by intense media coverage and have gotten to like it just a little too much.

(First) case in point: The Russell Williams case. This guy pleaded guilty to the charges, which essentially meant that all that was necessary was to read in an agreed statement of facts to support the conviction, impose the statutorily-mandated sentence and send Mr. Williams off to rot.

But that wasn’t what happened. The prosecution strung out its presentation for days and days – trotting out a veritable dog and pony show of perversion – displaying in the most disgusting, lurid details about Williams’ acting out on his sickness. Try as I might, I couldn’t think of anything that might qualify as a “public purpose” for the spectacle. If anything, it must have been pure torture for the families of the victims.

With the Tori Stafford murder trial, we have a somewhat different situation. There’s actually an issue to be decided by the triers of fact, but the dynamics seem to be very similar.

The Crown’s star witness is a psychopath. They had to tread gingerly presenting her evidence to the jury, requiring, understandably perhaps, an overly solicitous approach to Ms. Psycho’s ‘troubled’ background.

But now that we’re beyond the crucial testimony of the actual witness to the events, lesser lights are getting their turn on stage. Case in point: The investigator who found Tori Stafford’s remains.

It would have been (legally) sufficient for him to describe the location, what he found, and when. Instead, we’re treated to what he thought, how he felt and a plethora of other ‘personal’ information that has no relevance whatsoever for the case. This was backstopped further by a visit to the actual site where the body was found. Can you imagine anything less germane to the question of who did what?

The only explanation I can find is that prosecutors (and police) enjoy their time in the limelight, showing off all the good work they do to protect the public. I’m not sure it’s a healthy development.

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