Wife/Mother Uses 357 Magnum to Settle Scores

_DSC4179 - Version 2Linda Cooney is a woman with a 357 caliber Magnum revolver and a penchant for shooting it. To date she has shot and killed her husband, James Cooney, an event that occurred 23 years ago, and most recently in 2011, her son, Kevin Cooney, who is alive but a quadriplegic.

In the early 1990′s Linda and James Cooney were involved in what is described as a “high-conflict” divorce, rife with disputes over parenting time, contempt citations, and financial issues. Mr. Cooney was a Florida probate and tax lawyer who met Linda when she worked as a legal secretary. They married in 1979 and separated in 1987.

The court ordered Mr. Cooney to pay his wife three years of alimony and when the order expired, Ms. Cooney brought an application for continued spousal support and an order to move with their two young sons to California. Mr. Cooney opposed both motions and brought a cross application to remove custody of the children from his ex-wife on account of her “psychological instability”. He relied on examples of his ex-wife’s harassing, out-of-control behavior during the divorce proceedings and allegations in a lawsuit brought against her by a former boyfriend, who was also a lawyer. That suit settled when she accused the boyfriend of giving her herpes.

On the day of his death, James Cooney arrived at his wife’s home to pick up his sons Kevin, age 10 and Christopher, age 8, for a visit. Earlier that day Mr. Cooney had obtained a court order compelling Ms. Cooney to attend for a psychiatric assessment. Ms. Cooney’s lawyer told the jury that she shot her husband in self-defence when he attacked her with an eight inch kitchen knife.

When the police asked 11-year-old Kevin Cooney whether he saw something in his father’s hands, he said he did not. But later at the jury trial, he said he saw a “shiny object”. Court pundits say that the police investigation and evidence collection was shoddy, and Linda Cooney was acquitted, without even taking the witness stand in her own defence.

James Cooney’s family could not locate his will, however, his million dollar estate did not go to Ms. Cooney, but to his sons, although she was now their sole guardian.

Fast forward to 2011 when Linda Cooney again picked up her 357 and shot her son Kevin. Her lawyers say that she shot in self-defence when her 6’7″ son, who worked as a bouncer and doorman on the Las Vegas strip, punched her repeatedly after arguing about Kevin’s choice in girlfriends. An ongoing feud about girlfriend Karina Taylor developed after Linda Cooney called Ms. Taylor a “whore, a stripper and a skank” and advised her employer she was laundering money and selling drugs, all apparently untrue.

This time around Kevin will again play an essential role in his mother’s prosecution. He is reportedly not talking to police or cooperating with the state, although in an earlier statement he confirmed the shooting was an accident.

Meanwhile Linda Cooney has been in custody since February 2014 after her conviction for assaulting Ms. Taylor when she visited Kevin Cooney in the hospital during his recovery.

James Cooney’s family was shattered by the outcome of their son’s case and will likely be incredulous if Linda Cooney escapes justice twice, however, if Kevin testifies in her favour, that is the likely result.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Victim’s Voices to be Heard in Canadian Courts

_DSC4179 - Version 2Cretins, crooks, and convicts beware… the days of focusing on your hurts, habits and hang-ups will soon be superseded by a new Bill of Rights for victims, courtesy of Bill C-32, the Conservative government’s fulfillment of its election promise to recognize the forgotten victims of your crimes.

With the passing of this new law, victims will be empowered to ask questions and get answers about their offender’s history, bail conditions, plea bargains, parole terms, and other assorted procedures that to date have forced victims to strain to look inside the halls of justice, from a vantage point obscured by savvy defence lawyers and complacent prosecutors.

Case in point: an Ontario mother’s son was stabbed eighteen times with a penknife, suffering a horrible demise. His mother counted on Canada’s justice system to punish the offender in a manner commensurate with the brutality of the crime. When she learned, after the fact, about the plea deal that saw a reduced charge with a lenient prison term she and her family felt as if their son’s death was nothing more than an inconvenience, a second victimization.

The high-profile sentencing of pedophile Graham James to a mere two-year jail term rightly astonished his victims, adult survivors of James’ sick sexual proclivities. Thankfully, the Manitoba Court of Appeal righted the wrong by increasing his sentence to five years, still not enough for a man who repeatedly victimized young hockey players.

The proposed legislation also provides that where a victim loses his or her life, surviving family members and conjugal partners will have the ability to exercise the rights that would have been available to the victim, had he or she survived. Of course, family members charged and convicted of interfamilial homicide would not enjoy these rights.

With the new law, victim impact statements must be considered by sentencing judges and the ramifications of the victim’s physical, emotional, psychological, and financial scars will play a more central role. As well, under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights specialized bodies will be established to review complaints from victims or their families whose rights under the legislation have been breached. Financial restitution will also be available.

Quite properly, the rights granted will not be permitted to impede or interfere with police investigations or prosecutorial discretion, nor can they be used to create excessive delay. Indeed, the new Bill of Rights will not give victims of crime any status as parties or interveners in criminal law proceedings. These rights are designed to address victim’s concerns without overburdening the justice system.

Of course, not everyone is happy with the proposed law. Not surprisingly, several criminal defence lawyers oppose the bill, including Toronto’s always colourful Clayton Ruby who said the law was a “mess of porridge”, nothing more than a political ploy to sucker victims of crime.

Other naysayers include the John Howard Society, whose mandate is to advocate for offenders, particularly upon their release from prison. Meanwhile the Assembly of First Nations have complained they were not consulted, a startling proposition if it is accurate, considering the rampant victimization of aboriginal girls and women post- Willie Pickton.

While the bill may not go far enough for some, it is Canada’s first recognition that victims of crime deserve courtesy, respect, and compassion.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Terror in the Home: The Scourge of Domestic Violence

_DSC4179 - Version 2 A pair of tragic events has sadly reminded me of the scourge of domestic violence in our society. As a young woman I found myself in a relationship where the sudden, unexplained rage of my partner exploded in punches to my head, several times occurring while I was sleeping. These frightening events were always followed by tearful apologies and my departure from the relationship. However, time after time, the purplish bruises healed and I returned and forgave him, only to have the cycle repeat itself.

Sonia Cella is another survivor of domestic abuse, her secret revealed this week when her estranged husband, Andre Richard, age 44, attacked her and her 14-year-old daughter with a hammer after lighting the family home in Langley, British Columbia on fire. Thankfully, she escaped the blaze with her two children, her home destroyed.

Records show that Mr. Richard was charged with assault in 2009 and in February 2014, charges still before the court, and was subject to a restraining order, barring him from contact with his wife. I understand why the recent charges are pending, but can’t imagine why an assault in 2009 has not been adjudicated, some four years or more after the event.

The media reports that Ms. Cella’s ordeal this week was precipitated by her filing divorce documents in court, a step which all too commonly triggers threats of retaliation, and in some cases, leads to violence, even murder.

Across the country in Ottawa, a mother of five was beaten in her home on the same day as the B.C. incident, by her husband wielding a baseball bat. She fled the home and was found bleeding in her driveway, with her husband standing beside her, his weapon discarded. Shocked neighbours called 911.

Police officers located the bat and arrested Chris Hoare, age 44, for the attempted murder of his wife. As news of the attack spread, Hoare’s business colleagues couldn’t believe that the former president of the Ottawa Real Estate Board could have lashed out with such violence.

Early reports indicate the couple were having financial trouble, not unlike many middle-class families who creatively stretch their pay check under difficult circumstances.

But divorce and financial issues plague families all the time, so why did these two men respond with a hammer, a baseball bat, and arson?

Harvard law graduate Teresa Ou conducted research for a thesis titled “Are Abusive Men Different? Can We Predict Their Behavior?” She discovered that convicted abusers often seemed proud when they talked about kicking, slapping or biting their wives or girlfriends. Others completely denied being batterers, despite being arrested for assault.

She concluded that abusers were more anxious, irritable, moody, defensive and self-centred than the control group of non-abusers. They were also more stubborn, demanding, argumentative, suspicious and aggressive, characteristics that lead to a propensity for sudden outbursts of anger.

Yes, up to 50% of Canadian women over the age of 16 have suffered from some sort of domestic abuse. They are only too familiar with police intervention, covered bruises, overnights in tacky motels or crouched low in corners of their home to escape their attackers.

Even more frightening is that an estimated 362,000 Canadian children witnessed or experienced domestic violence in 2006, according to a UNICEF/United Nations report.

Is it any wonder that young children exposed to violence often become trapped in cycles of abuse themselves? As parents, relatives, and friends it is up to each one of us to do our part to educate and intervene.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Mass Murderer Receives Compensation for Jail Beating

GEO_edited-1It was a horrible day in Palatine, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, in the winter of 1993 and it wasn’t just because of the weather. There was a robbery at the Brown’s Chicken franchise where the culprits escaped with a mere $2,000, leaving behind seven corpses and a piece of chicken with human saliva on it.

The case went cold for nine years until a woman told police that her boyfriend, Juan Luna, was involved. Sure enough, with DNA advances, the authorities were able to detect Mr. Luna’s DNA on a piece of frozen chicken and after a trial in 2007, he was convicted of seven murders, narrowly escaping the death penalty by a jury vote of 11-1.

Luna fingered his co-accused, James Degorski, who was also arrested for the murders and upon arriving at the Cook County Jail was severely beaten by jail guard and Cook County deputy, Thomas Wilson.

Mr. Degorski suffered serious facial fractures requiring the insertion of two metal plates in his face. He was also convicted and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole in 2009.

Guard Wilson took a leave and two years later was fired by Cook County, but not before his acquittal for assault causing bodily harm on the basis of self-defence.

Nonetheless, Mr. Degorski sued Cook County and Mr. Wilson in a civil suit seeking damages and compensation for his injuries, a case that saw a jury award this week of almost half a million dollars in his favour.

The jury obviously didn’t believe that Thomas Wilson struck Mr. Degorski in self-defence and despite protestations by Wilson’s lawyer, were not told he had murdered seven people, two store owners, and five employees ages 16 to 46 years old. They were told, however, that he was a convicted murderer.

To say that the families of the victims are unhappy with Degorski’s windfall is an understatement. However, they can take some comfort in the knowledge that Mr. Wilson’s lawyer has agreed to represent each one of the victims’ families for free by filing wrongful death actions against Degorski seeking compensation.

As well, the law in Illinois provides that if an inmate has money, the State can take all funds, with the exception of $15,000, to pay for the prisoner’s expenses for room and board.

What seems like a dangerous precedent is simply the mechanics of the civil law which provides compensation for injured persons, even if they are mass murderers.

As for Brown’s, the store closed after the murders, and almost 100 more franchises in the Chicago area went under after the unspeakable events of January 1993.

Family Law Nightmare: The Novacks

BarristerIt always amazes me to hear another “stripper marries millionaire” story, but it seems to be one of the favored professions for more than a few millionaires. The story of the Novacks from Florida is just such a case.

Ben Novack Jr. was the son of the owner of the spectacular Fountainbleu Hotel in Miami. After the hotel business went bankrupt, Ben Novack Jr. made most of his money as a convention planner for Amway International.

Mr. Novack met Narcy Novack, a stripper from Ecuador, and they married in 1991. Ms. Novack’s lifestyle went from near-poverty to posh. Mr. Novack treated Narcy’s daughter from a previous relationship as his own. The couple worked together in the convention business and financially flourished.

But the loving relationship they showed the world was not real and that would soon be apparent. In June 2002 Mr. Novack called 911 to report that he had been the victim of a home invasion engineered by his wife, Narcy. She, together with four men, held him hostage with a gun pointed at him, handcuffed him to a chair and looted the safety deposit box, stealing almost $500,000.00 and all the corporate records and personal documents. Narcy left the home with the loot and all of her personal belongings.

The police advised Mr. Novack that a squad car was on its way to their lavish home in Ft. Lauderdale, but an anxious Novack forbid them to come, saying that his life was in danger if the police appeared on the scene.

When the police asked Narcy for her side of the story, she attended at the police department with bags and boxes of bondage paraphernalia, pornography, and stories about violent assaults on her by her husband. She advised the detectives that the alleged home invasion was a part of their usual intimate activities.

Narcy also told the police and her husband that if charges were laid against her, she would release all the damaging evidence contained in the bags and boxes. Mr. Novack implored the police to let the matter go and Narcy and Ben reconciled, for a time.

Marital peace, if it ever existed, lasted only a short time. In 2009, Narcy was alerted to an affair her husband was having and became worried that Ben may dump her, leaving her with only the six figure payout from their prenuptial agreement. She stood to gain much more if he predeceased her.

By this time, the Novack’s net worth was about $10 million, including Ben’s million dollar Batman collection containing the original Batmobile prototype.

The couple’s business was booming and Narcy, Ben and Narcy’s adult daughter, May Abad, jetted off to an Amway convention in New York, checking into a suburban Hilton Hotel. On the first day of the convention, July 12, 2009. Mr. Novack was nowhere to be seen, which was very unusual for the hands-on business owner.

An hour later Novack was found brutally beaten in his hotel room, his face wrapped in duct tape, which also bound his hands and feet. His eyes had been gouged out with a knife.

Narcy feigned shock and horror when she discovered her husband’s body. She told the police that an hour earlier he had been alive and well in their hotel room and the likely suspects were business enemies of Mr. Novack or other Batman collectors.

More lies, of course. Surveillance photos from the hotel cameras captured Narcy’s brother, another relative and two others skulking away from the scene. She also failed a lie detector test. The whole sordid bunch were indicted for murder and on August 10, 2010 Narcy entered a plea of not guilty and was denied bail.

In yet another twist, the police later alleged that Narcy Novack had also murdered her 81 year-old mother-in-law, Bernice Novack in April 2009. Her death was ruled accidental at the time. In order for Narcy to inherit, she first had to get rid of Ben’s mother, which the prosecutors say she did.

Ms. Novack’s previously loyal daughter, May, then took the position that her mother was evil, and as the sole beneficiary of her husband’s estate, she ought to be deprived of the inheritance. Of course, it was May who would inherit if Narcy was convicted of her husband and mother-in-law’s murder.

But there was still more. The prosecutors also disclosed that Narcy was involved in a plot to plant drugs on her daughter May and to have her beaten up, perhaps murdered as well?

After a lengthy trial Narcy Novack was convicted of murdering her husband and his mother and was sentenced to life in prison with no parole. Her brother and several others were also convicted of murder.

Thomas Perry, American mystery author and Edgar award winner summed it up nicely:

“Sociopaths are people who do evil things because they don’t see any reason not to.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Death Penalty Engenders Fierce Debate

DSC00507 (2)Canada’s death penalty was discarded in 1976, some 34 years ago, but it was a slow journey to abolition. Up until 1961 all murders in Canada were punishable by hanging.

It was only in 1954 that rape was eliminated as a death penalty offence. Every year between 1954 and 1963 a private member’s bill was introduced into Parliament calling for the abolition of the death penalty. Each year it failed.

The first major debate in the House of Commons was in 1966 when our lawmakers agreed to reserve the death penalty for murders involving police officers and prison guards.

It took another ten years but on July 14, 1976 a free vote was held and capital punishment was repealed and a mandatory life sentence with no possibility of parole for 25 years was substituted. However, military tribunals remained able to invoke capital punishment for treason and mutiny. In December 1998 this last bastion of capital punishment was finally rescinded.

There were 710 executions in Canada between 1867 and 1962, the last execution was on December 11, 1962 in Toronto, Ontario.

Canada is one of many countries that no longer utilize the death penalty, but despite world-wide pressure and the intervention of Amnesty International, the twenty-first century is still marked by this barbaric practice.

It is reported that 58 countries still include capital punishment in their criminal laws and over 60% of the world’s population lives in death penalty countries. The most notorious death penalty countries include China, who refuses to disclose statistics, but was estimated to have executed 5000 offenders in 2009.

Iran comes next with at least 388 death penalty cases in 2009; Iraq with at least 120 state-ordered killings; Saudi Arabia at 69 and finally, the United States at 52 executions in 2009.

Some countries also employ the death penalty for drug-related offences including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan and China.

In China, Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and the United States, offenders who were juveniles at the time they committed their capital crime have been executed. Japan’s death row now houses three prisoners who committed their crimes while under the age of 20, which is the age of majority in Japan.

One of the most notorious juvenile death penalty cases occurred in Iran in 2005 where two boys age 14 and 16 at the time of their arrests, were executed for the rape of a 13 year-old boy, despite allegations that all three boys were engaged in consensual homosexual acts.

Human rights groups throughout the world were outraged and some claimed that the boys were killed because they were gay and the rape allegation was a cover-up.

China still remains the worst offender of human rights. In 2010 a proposed change in the death penalty laws was the subject of heated debate. A committee of the National People’s Congress discussed the removal of 13 crimes from the list of 68 crimes punishable by death, including crimes of grave robbery, panda smuggling, tax fraud, and theft of fossils.

Critics, however, were not impressed because these offences rarely resulted in execution and other minor crimes remain on the capital penalty books including accepting bribes, making fake medicine and damaging public property.

In 2011 the new law passed and 13 crimes were exempted from the death penalty. They were all non-violent offenses including smuggling cultural relics, precious metals, rare animals and their products; carrying out fraudulent activities with financial bills; carrying out fraudulent activities with letters of credit; false issuance of value-added tax invoices; forging or selling value-added tax invoices; the teaching of criminal perpetration methods and robbery of ancient cultural ruins.

As with all highly charged moral and legal issues, the topic engenders fierce debate between those who are pro and con.

A review of commentary illustrates the tension between opposing camps:

“Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders.” Albert Camus, French philosopher

“To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice.” Desmond Tutu, Activist and Cleric

“Capital punishment, Those without the capital get the punishment.” John Spinkelink, Executed in Florida, 1979

“I personally have always voted for the death penalty because I believe that people who go out prepared to take the lives of other people forfeit their own right to live…” Margaret Thatcher, Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

“I believe there are some crimes-mass murder, the rape and murder of a child, so heinous that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment.” Barack Obama, President of the United States

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Family Law Nightmare: Nozolino v. Nozolino

BarristerIf you thought you had an ugly divorce, you may reconsider after hearing about Nozolino v. Nozolino. The Nozolino’s from Colorado were divorced in 1999. Unhappy with the outcome of his family law trial, Bruce Nozolino, a software engineer in his 50′s, appealed the decision before Chief Justice Gil Martinez, regarding division of property, attorney’s fees and several other issues. To no avail, as his appeal was dismissed.

But Court was not over, it was merely adjourned to await the next battle. And there were many.

The Nozolino’s fought over every issue, whether large or small. They fought over the cars, his wife’s pension, her jewellery, the burgundy leather ottoman and particularly over the kids, how much time they would spend with their dad and how much money Bruce Nozolino would pay for their support.

Mr. Nozolino eventually fired his lawyer and redirected his fury from his allegedly adulterous ex-wife to her lawyer, John Ciccolello, a leading Colorado attorney, who he insisted was unethical and unprofessional, delaying hearings to prejudice Mr. Nozolino and making false statements against him.

At one point, Mr. Ciccolello sought to bring trespassing charges against Mr. Nozolino in respect of Nozolino’s attendance at his office, but the charges did not proceed. Meanwhile, Mr. Nozolino took every opportunity to bring Ciccolello to the attention of the Court, seeking sanctions for serious ethics breaches. None were ever proved.

In the midst of the divorce battle in October 2001 a shot was fired at the home of Chief Justice Gil Martinez. No arrests were made but soon after the Chief Justice removed himself from the Nozolino case. Most people thought it was just a coincidence until it was revealed that bullets had also been fired into the home of John Ciccolello a few months earlier.

On January 23, 2002 attorney Ciccolello was in his second floor office when a sniper’s bullet pierced the window and lodged in his eye socket . He believed he was going to die, but thankfully survived his injuries and even with his loss of vision and related hearing problems, continued his thirty year family law practice.

All eyes turned to Bruce Nozolino as the attacker, but with no inculpating evidence, charges could not be filed. Mr. Ciccolello spent years watching over his shoulder wondering and worrying what might be next.

He left the Nozolino case shortly after the shooting and in August 2002, the Court ordered that Mr. Nozolino pay his former wife’s attorney fees in the amount of $30,000.00. By this time, Mr. Nozolino was barred from having any contact with Ciccolello, his ex-wife and his children.

Colorado Springs lead investigator Terry Bjorndahl continued to pursue the investigation against Nozolino and also found himself the subject of a lawsuit brought by Nozolino against him. Nozolino alleged that when Detective Bjorndhal seized Nozolino’s gun collection, Bjorndahl had made the seizure in order to sell the guns to ensure that Bjorndahl’s divorce lawyer, none other than John Ciccolello, was paid his attorney’s fees arising from the Nozolino case. The suit was dismissed.

On November 30, 2008, 46 year-old Richard Schreiner was outside his Colorado Springs home shoveling snow when he was gunned down on his front sidewalk. Good police work uncovered information that indicated that during the Nozolino trial, his name had come up as a “friend” of Mrs. Nozolino’s.

After nine years of investigation and a three-month grand jury hearing, Bruce Nozolino was arrested in July 2010 and charged with thirty-one counts, including the murder of Richard Schreiner and the attempted murders of John Ciccolello and Chief Justice Gil Martinez. A public defender was assigned as counsel for Nozolino, who was being held without bond. Not one to lay idle, Nozolino was also busy tampering with witnesses and had five additional charges levied against him.

In September 2012 Nozolino was convicted of tampering with witnesses and perjury in relation to the grand jury inquiry into the murder of Richard Schreiner and the attempted murders of the judge and his wife’s lawyer. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

His trial on the remaining charges is scheduled for January 2014. Colorado is a death penalty state. You don’t say?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

4 of the Sleaziest Child Abduction Tactics

GEO_edited-1Make no mistake about it. Parents who kidnap their children are self-centred, controlling, and high-handed. The very act of surreptitiously spiriting a child away from his or her home and primary parent requires a callous indifference to principles of common decency, a lack of respect for authority, and an ignorance of or a blatant disregard for the harm a child suffers.

An international treaty called the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction exists to assist parents to locate children who have been kidnapped by their other parent. However, for the Convention to work, the country from where the child has been abducted and the country where the child has been taken, must both be signatories to the Convention.

Eighty-eight countries have signed the Convention, although some governments give only lip service to the enforcement powers of this law. Where the Convention does not apply, the journey to affect a child’s return is much more onerous.

As a lawyer who frequently represents the “left-behind” parent, the tricks and tactics employed by parent abductors are best described as “sleazy”. Consider these four scenarios drawn from recent court cases in Vancouver, British Columbia:

1. You Can Trust Me, Honest

In this case the child’s mother feared that her estranged husband would abduct their young son, but had no concrete proof, just her well-honed mother’s intuition. The child’s father picked up his son to take him to the zoo for an outing. When he arrived to pick up his son, he assuaged his wife’s concerns by making a show of cutting up his son’s passport in front of her to convince her he would never remove his son from their country of residence and now, he had no passport for the child to travel internationally.

Of course, it was all a ruse. Instead of going to the zoo, the father took his son to the airport and flew to Canada. The passport he had destroyed was the child’s expired passport. He used the child’s new passport to board the plane.

2. I Have a Travel Authorization

In these post-9/11 days, it is impossible to travel internationally without a passport and for a person travelling alone with a child it is de rigueur to also have a travel authorization signed by the child’s other parent.

The authorization typically indicates who the child is, who the parents are, where the child will be travelling, and when the child is expected to be returned to his home country or state.

In the underground world of child abduction forged travel authorizations are the rule, not the exception.

In a recent case, a mother who fled with her daughter from Japan to Canada used a legitimate travel authorization she had retained from an earlier trip, played around with white-out, added a paragraph that said she had permission from her estranged spouse to enroll the child in school in Canada and did just that.

The young girl’s father hired a lawyer in Vancouver to go to Court to obtain an order that the child be returned to Japan. The child’s mother waved her travel authorization in front of the judge and argued she had her husband’s consent.

The only problem was that the authorization had obviously been tampered with and the mother signed her husband’s name on the authorization in Japanese characters, rather than in English, which was how he usually signed his name.

3. Catch Me if You Can

In a case from Tennessee, a 12-year-old girl who was in her father’s custody was kidnapped by her mother. The child’s father was a state police officer and had country-wide connections as a member of the “thin-blue-line”.

Luckier than most left-behind parents, the father obtained intelligence that his daughter and ex-wife were travelling across North America, staying in “safe houses” known only to women who go underground with their children.

After many months of searching for his daughter, this father received information that mother and daughter were in Vancouver and would be attending at Immigration Canada offices in Vancouver to advance their claims for refugee status. The information even included the date and time of the refugee hearing.

The father had a custody order from Tennessee that was used to obtain a custody order in favour of the father in Vancouver and an order the child’s mother be arrested and the child taken to the Ministry of Family and Children, until she was returned to her home.

At the appointed time, I showed up at the refugee office with three strapping Vancouver Police officers in tow. Mom was arrested but bailed out and her daughter was picked up by her paternal grandfather.

The flight to Tennessee was delayed, however, when someone called in a bomb threat related to the girl’s flight. That was mother’s last trick.

Did this case have a happy ending? Unfortunately not, because the young girl, now 14-years-old, stayed in Tennessee for about two months and then disappeared.

4. Talk to Me

In another case, a young boy was abducted from Mexico and ended up in Vancouver. The left-behind parent once again hired a Vancouver lawyer to seek the return of her son. Pending a court hearing to deal with the matter, the child’s mother obtained a court order allowing her to telephone her son each evening to speak with him.

The boy’s father was incensed and made the nightly telephone calls very difficult for his wife. When he saw that he was losing ground and his case looked dismal, he pulled a fast one. He fled Vancouver to parts unknown but to fool his son’s mother, he recorded his son’s voice on an answering machine so that when his mother called she would be lulled into thinking he was still in Vancouver.

These scenarios are but a smattering of the lengths some parents will go to avoid justice. It’s not that these parents don’t understand the collateral damage to their children, they simply don’t care. Life is all about their needs.

Parental child abduction is the worst kind of child abuse and parents who run with their children should be subject to criminal charges and imprisonment.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Highest Court to Hear Mr. Big Case

BarristerThe Supreme Court of Canada is poised to hear arguments in R. v. Hart this week, a case involving Newfoundland father, Nelson Hart, who was convicted of first degree murder in the deaths of his twin three-year-old daughters, Krista and Karen, after they drowned in Gander Lake in 2002.

Mr. Hart successfully appealed his 2007 murder convictions and was granted a new trial by the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal on the basis that the sting operation which resulted in Mr. Hart’s confession to murder was unreasonably coercive given his particular circumstances.

The Appeal Court also found that the trial judge improperly refused to allow Mr. Hart to testify in a manner that would exclude the court gallery from viewing him while he gave his evidence. Hart’s lawyer at trial argued that his medical condition made it difficult for him to speak in front of groups of people.

The evidence at trial showed that Nelson Hart was a bullied, social misfit with a grade five education who suffered from frequent seizures due to epilepsy. His medical condition was so severe that social services provided him with a caregiver, who he later married and sired twin girls with.

On the fateful day his daughters drowned he was alone with them at Gander Lake. He told the police their drowning was accidental, but his behavior was suspicious. Instead of calling 911 on his cell phone, he left the lake to pick up his wife, Jennifer, to enlist her assistance. Of course, by the time he returned to the lake the children were dead. Hart, 33 years-old, was a non-swimmer, as was his wife.

He later changed his story, telling authorities he had a seizure, and didn’t know what had happened, but with no forensic evidence or eye witnesses the police could not arrest or charge him.

Out of desperation and their zeal to find justice for the young girls, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police launched a Mr. Big operation, inducing Hart to believe he could be a well-paid member of a sophisticated criminal organization. They wined and dined Mr. Hart for five months at various locations across Canada, and finally elicited a murder confession from him.

He was found guilty at trial and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

However, the Court of Appeal found that because of Mr. Hart’s unique circumstances, including his extreme poverty and absence of a social network, he embraced the undercover operators and their wives who provided him with the first real “family” he had ever experienced.

When Hart realized he needed to impress his new friends and would lose them and the extravagant benefits they provided him, he willing admitted to intentionally murdering his children, saying that he feared his kids would be taken away by social services as he had no way of supporting himself or his family.

Newfoundland Crown decided to appeal the decision rather than proceed to a new trial, hence the hearing in Ottawa this week.

Mr. Justice Green of the Court of Appeal wrote:

“Did Mr. Hart confess falsely — or truthfully? We will never know with any degree
of certainty or even assurance on the basis of the trial that occurred. In fact, without a truthful confession from Mr. Hart, we will not know whether a crime was committed at all.”

This is not the first time our highest court will consider the tactics involved in Mr. Big stings, but in the other cases there was corroborative evidence supportive of a Mr. Big confession, while in the Hart case, there is no evidence except Nelson Hart’s confession.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Is “Yelling” Domestic Violence? British Court Says “Yes”.

49afd8240a58bf0fb97d4a86105572c1Have you ever yelled at your spouse, perhaps out of frustration or even anger? If you say “no”, I don’t believe you.

For those of us who on those rare, embarrassing occasions have sounded off rather loudly, best keep away from England, since Britain’s highest court has found that raising your voice to your spouse qualifies as domestic violence.

This is truly a case of “words mean what I say they mean” and the “I” is Baroness Hale of Richmond, who was the first woman appointed to the prestigious House of Lords in 2004 and in 2009 took her place on England’s new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. She is the most senior female judge in Britain.

The case involved 35 year-old Mirhet Yemshaw who lived in government subsidized housing with her husband and children. She brought an action against the housing authority for refusing to provide her with her own apartment after she left the home she shared with her husband because of alleged domestic violence.

Ms. Yemshaw had not been threatened by her spouse, neither had she ever been physically assaulted; no pushing, shoving, or slapping. Nothing.

She said that her spouse had yelled at her in front of the children and did not provide her with a sufficient allowance to run the household. She also said that she was afraid she would lose custody of her children.

Rather than viewing this as a preemptive strike in an obvious matrimonial dispute, Lady Hale declared that the definition of domestic violence must change to include a range of abusive behaviors.

She said it was not up to the government or other officials to decide what constituted domestic violence, rather it was within the purview of the courts alone to determine changes in the meaning of Parliament’s words.

Lady Hale remarked that while the dictionary defined “violence” as a physical attack it could also include “extreme fervor, passion or fury.”

The ramifications of this ruling will be draconian and disastrous in terms of the interpretation of a variety of criminal and family law statutes. I wonder if Lady Hale thought about that before she decided she knew better than everyone else.

However, she was not alone. Four male Law Lords agreed with her decision, albeit Lord Brown expressed what he called “real doubt” about the correctness of the decision, noting that the ruling overturned two precedent cases decided by six Justices of the Court of Appeal. Nonetheless, he was content to let the majority rule.

Yemshaw’s husband says all of this started because his wife was unhappy.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang