Parallel Universes: Closing arguments at the Wayne Millard murder trial

I’ve just read some of the social media commentary on the closing arguments at the trial of Dellen Millard for the murder of his father Wayne, and I can wholeheartedly say it does not, in my opinion, reflect what happened in court today.

Lead Crown Attorney Jill Cameron did a fabulous job. It was a closing that could have been used for a jury trial. It put everything in context and clearly explained how Dellen Millard had the means, motive and opportunity to kill his father.

Throughout the trial, which I did not cover in person, I have seen a lot of misconceptions about the Crown’s case. Many people blame the Crown because the Toronto police and coroner did a terrible job. This is just silly.

The other thing people get wrong is to think that because someone is a Crown witness, they must be a kind of cheerleader for the Crown. Again, no. The Crown must work with the evidence and witnesses it has. Prosecutors can’t invent evidence, redo the police investigation, and only call perfect witnesses. The case is what it is.

There were two main points that seemed to interest Justice Maureen Forestell. The first was the financial status of Millardair and Wayne Millard. She noted that no financial records had been entered into evidence to which Cameron responded that other witnesses had provided testimonial evidence about Wayne’s and the company’s finances.

I must say that I too had wondered why no financial evidence was called but then I remembered how complicated finances can be and how much time white collar crime cases suck up trying to prove what money went where. At the Rowbotham hearing called to answer questions about Dellen Millard’s finances, the Crown in charge said its forensic accountants estimated Dellen’s assets at $2 million to (I believe) $8 million but noted that the money was difficult to trace.

The other subject area that provoked questions from the judge was what exactly she could conclude from Dellen’s lies, as Cameron called them, in his police interview. The judge asked Cameron if legally a false statement was different from silence with regard to Millard’s statement to police. Cameron responded that it was a material omission or, in other words, a lie by omission.

At this point, I was reminded of a scene from the movie Denial, where Rachel Weisz, playing the American historian Deborah Lipstadt who is being sued for libel by David Irving, rants to a friend about the bewigged British judge at her trial:

And everyone kept saying,
this is all great,
everything's gonna be fine.
And then suddenly this judge,
this unbelievable character
from Masterpiece Theatre...
Oh, I like Masterpiece
Theatre- I know.
Anyway, at the last minute,
he looked up and he said,
"Well, you know, maybe
Irving actually believes it.
"He's an anti-Semite
and he believes it.
"You can't accuse
someone of lying
"if they genuinely believe
what they're saying."
That's crazy.
That's insane.
And that's when I thought,
"I've been suckered."
I stared at this judge
for eight weeks
and I thought
I was looking at wisdom,
but maybe I was just
looking at prejudice.

Read more: https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=denial

Related to the same issue, there was some more legal back and forth between Cameron and the judge later on about whether Millard’s material omissions were independent evidence of his attempt to divert suspicion. Various legal rulings on the difference between inferring guilt based on the absence of an explanation versus inferring guilt from an accused’s decision not to testify were discussed.

The Crown closed as prosecutors inevitably do, by claiming there was no reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt.

Much to my trepidation, Millard’s lawyer Ravin Pillay began his arguments with reference to some, in my opinion, ridiculous law that I’ve written about before — how there’s a distinction between lies and concocted lies. And no I don’t mean falsehoods and lies, but really truly lies and concocted lies, which is as crazy as it sounds.

There have been a multitude of bad decisions as a result of this non-existent difference and I could easily see another one coming down in this case.

On a more reasonable legal note, Pillay quoted another case, whose name I did not catch, saying that if a reasonable alternative theory exists that must raise reasonable doubt. He went on to argue that suicide was a reasonable alternative theory, which, of course, is one of the questions the judge will ultimately decide.

Pillay then went on to knock down as mcsh of the Crown’s case as he could and finish with a bang. The simplest explanation is the right one, he said. “It was a suicide then and it’s a suicide now.”

Long a depressed recluse with an alcohol problem, Wayne had made a risky business decision that wasn’t panning out. Destitution loomed, said Pillay. “A life of privilege squandered on this monumental mistake, the MRO,” he continued in full closing mode.

You must acquit, he told the judge, as defence lawyers invariably do.

Justice Forestell said, depending on her workload, it’s possible but unlikely she will have a decision by July 19. At the very least she will have an update. The decision may not come down until September as a result of all the different participants’ summer vacations.

I can easily see the verdict going either way.

4 thoughts on “Parallel Universes: Closing arguments at the Wayne Millard murder trial

  1. You really think it could go either way, as in 50% chance the verdict will be not-guilty, and vice versa? We (and the judge) know Dellen Millard purchased the gun from Isho. So for this to be a suicide we have to believe that Wayne found his son’s gun and decided to kill himself with that, without leaving a note that might exonerate his son from suspicion about that gun. I think the judge threw out Sutherland’s evidence to make Pilay happy because she (the judge) already knows that she has enough evidence without it to deliver a guilty verdict, and keeping that evidence in would give the defense more opportunity in appeal. I don’t think the Sutherland evidence is anywhere close to crucial, unlike other totally incriminating evidence regarding the gun’s origin, Dellen’s procurement of hard-to-find ammunition for it, etc.

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    1. Your interpretation could be correct. That’s pretty much how I felt until I saw the closing arguments.

      I think Millard is guilty and there’s more than enough evidence to support that verdict. I’m just not sure the judge is going to go that way.

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      1. When I first read your response I was going to reply with disagreement, that the judge would have to find him guilty according to the evidence, but I was too busy to write it, and it’s a good thing because in the meantime I’ve thought more about it and now I agree with you that it could go either way. Though I don’t think the closing arguments have had any influence on my opinion. We all know he’s guilty, and again, that includes the judge, because of his previous murder convictions. Of course the judge is supposed to ignore those convictions while deliberating this trial, but I personally don’t think that’s possible. A judge is either going to be either subconsciously or consciously influenced by everything, including evidence she has ruled inadmissible. And I think most, if not all judges are savvy and sophisticated enough to realize that being subconsciously influenced is unavoidable, so they might as well be consciously influenced. Basically, I think that all judges make up their minds and then try to find law to fit their decisions, rather than the other way around, the way we are lead to believe the justice system works. If a judge can’t find law to fit their decision then they might be forced to make a ruling that conflicts with their opinion, but I suspect this rarely happens. So really I think this all boils down to what kind of message, and to who, the judge wishes to send. Millard is already imprisoned for life, so the judge might feel it’d be more important to send a message to the police who screwed the investigation up so badly, by finding him not-guilty, since a guilty verdict would in effect validate the police investigation as sound. I don’t think Pilay’s closing argument will have much impact though I am only exposed to the portions that have been reported on. Those portions seem pretty weak, like calling Marlena Meneses a liar because she said she saw Dellen with a ‘western style gun’. If she’s going to lie, why not say she over heard Smich and Millard talking about offing Wayne?

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      2. Basically, I agree with your entire comment.

        The public and the media are way too reverential when it comes to judges. Some of them just aren’t very smart or particularly good at their jobs. That said, I know nothing about this judge and her competence.

        But, yes, pretty much everyone believes Millard killed his father and there’s more than enough evidence to support a guilty verdict. And knowing he killed two other people, as the judge does, essentially removes any worry about a possible wrongful conviction.

        So what this really comes down to is the legal decision the judge thinks she should make. And I can’t see inside her head, which is why I said this could go either way.

        I got especially worried when O’Connor and “concocted lies” came up because that’s all such a wrong-headed mess that so many judges have gotten sucked into.

        But then the judge in Denial, who asked the truly dumb question near the end of the trial, ended up ruling in Lipstadt’s and Penguin’s favour so who knows?

        We may have to wait til September to find out.

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