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.