“Mr. Big” Police Sting Convicts Ontario Wife Murderer

GeorgiaLeeLang025I recognize that the RCMP’s classic “Mr. Big” sting to cajole murder suspects to confess to horrendous crimes has been criticized by many civil libertarians as an abuse of process.

Yes, there are cases where the scenario and inducements to confess are suspect, particularly where the police masquerade as members of a murderous criminal gang. However, there are many cases where the tactics, frequently approved by our criminal courts, have been sanctioned as a legitimate tool for law enforcement, particularly after the Supreme Court of Canada issued their analysis in R. v. Hart. (2014 SCC 52)

In the Hart case our highest court found that confessions given during such operations are often unreliable and introduced a stringent new test for their admissibility as evidence in criminal cases. As such, the decision seeks to curtail the abuse of police power in coercing unreliable confessions.

In a recent Ontario case, R. v. Kelly, 2017 ONCA 621, Michael Earl Kelly was convicted of the murder of his wife, whose body was found four years after Mr. Kelly reported her missing. The trial court utilized the standards articulated by R. v. Hart, although the trial occurred before the Hart case was handed down by our highest court. Mr. Kelly was convicted of the first degree murder of Judith Thibault.

Ms. Thibault was found in Thunder Bay a few feet from Wolf Bay Road. She had one 22 caliber bullet wound in her head and was wrapped in a carpet. Although the police had no forensic evidence incriminating Mr. Kelly they were certain he was their main suspect and devised a plan to induce him to confess his crime.

RCMP sergeant “Bob”, parading as a private investigator for an insurance company, contacted Mr. Kelly, who had moved to Alberta with his new wife, and advised him that Ms. Thibault had left a life insurance policy for $3,000, naming him as the beneficiary. Bob paid the bogus insurance money to Mr. Kelly and told him that he needed to sign a release form acknowledging his receipt of the money and releasing any further claims to any other life insurance policies.

Bob told him he would investigate to determine if there was any other life insurance policies naming him as beneficiary before he released his rights. Shortly thereafter Bob contacted Mr. Kelly again and told him he had discovered two additional policies totalling $571,000. Bob showed him two fictious documents saying there was a hold on pay-out of the latter two policies because Mr. Kelly was a suspect in Ms. Thibault’s murder.

Bob told Mr. Kelly that he would not receive the proceeds of the two policies until he was cleared as a suspect and presented an insurance scam to Mr. Kelly, that would benefit both of them. His idea was that Bob had a friend, “Donnie”, who was terminally ill who would confess he was the murderer, thus removing any suspicion from Mr. Kelly, who could then receive the insurance payout. Donnie and Bob would receive $150,000 from the insurance proceeds for their assistance in the scam.

The only trick was that Mr. Kelly had to provide enough information about the murder to convey to Donnie so that the police would be convinced they had their murderer when Donnie confessed.

While Mr. Kelly initially denied any involvement in the murder, eventually he provided information that only the true murderer would know and was promptly arrested for first degree murder.

He appealed his murder conviction to the Ontario Court of Appeal who dismissed his appeal finding that the insurance scam was a variation of the typical Mr. Big sting and not an abuse of process.

The appeal court said:

…this case involved a police sting scenario that was a very modified version of a Mr. Big, without any violent criminal activity or gang aspect to it. Nor did the undercover officers befriend the appellant to make him vulnerable to pressure as a friend. It was an insurance fraud scheme.”

While the Mr. Big sting is illegal in the United States it has been a significant tool for Canadian law enforcement and has resulted in convictions that might never otherwise have been obtained.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

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Looking for a Lawyer? Buyer Beware

GeorgiaLeeLang057The practice of law is both a profession and a business. Many lawyers can rely on their winning track record and high ethics to gain a reputation that engenders word-of mouth referrals.

Other lawyers buttress their status in the profession with advertising. Gone are the days, however, of yellow pages ads.

Today’s lawyers utilize television, radio, and the internet to entice potential clients. Many of these ads fall into the “conservative, balding lawyer standing in front of a bookcase” category. While others are innovative, even racy! Case in point:

An all-women law firm in Chicago created a billboard ad that read “Life’s Short. Get a Divorce.” The ad featured a photo of an attractive woman in her lingerie beside a handsome man with a six-pack. It turned out that the woman who posed for the ad was the lead attorney at the firm and the dude with her was her personal trainer. She reported that the firm was inundated with phone calls. Unfortunately, the billboard was removed seven days after it went up for an alleged by-law infringement.

Other forays into to the world of marketing are less provocative but no less effective. One family law firm, again an all-women firm, launched their print marketing with the headline “Ever Argue With A Woman?” I think they made their point very clear!

Lubbock Texas is the home of a personal injury lawyer whose billboard screams, “Injured? Get the Gorilla!” and yes, a huge gorilla dominates the advertisement.

Other law firms have raised the hackles of their governing bodies with their ads.

In Nevada a lawyer bills himself as “The Heavy Hitter” in his rambunctious television spots and a Polish speaking lawyer ran an ad on a Polish-language radio station referring to himself as “The Lion of the Court”. The trouble was that he had never tried a case in court!

A Christian Response to Racism

BarristerOne common thread throughout mankind is the endemic ugliness of racism.

Human history is rife with examples: early Romans subjugated the Jews; slavery was rampant; India’s caste system ostracizes the untouchables; Japanese immigrants to Canada and the United States were rounded up and forced into internment camps; indigenous peoples in Canada, Australia, the United States live amid poverty and discrimination; Germany oversaw the murder of Jews, political prisoners, homosexuals, and the mentally disabled; colonialism and apartheid ruled South Africa;  Jim Crow laws ruled the south, and today in North America, African-Americans have risen up to demand an end to systemic racism, their action propelled by a wave of police shootings of black men.

Meanwhile, white America reels as black vigilantes assassinate white and black police officers in retaliation, as Black Lives Matter assumes centre stage in the public arena.

The question I pose is whether Christians should believe and act upon the notion that racial injustice is a gospel issue that deserves our energy and attention. I believe it is.

How could it not be when the spirit-breathed Word of God tells us that Christians should be peacemakers: “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building.” Romans 14:19

We are told to forgive those who do harm to us and treat our enemies with love. “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Colossians 3:12

Admittedly, these are difficult aspirations for flawed mortals to embrace, but the message of the Gospel demands the abolition of discrimination of any kind, be it sexism, homophobia, ageism, disablism, fat-shaming, or religious discrimination.

When Moses descended from Mount Sinai with the commandments of God, men and women had no difficulty understanding the Sixth Commandment: “Thou Shall Not Kill.” Later, in the Gospel of John we read: “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” 1 John 3:15

Jesus Christ, delivering his Sermon on the Mount, admonished his followers: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:43-45

It seems there are so many ways that people hurt people, often inadvertently, but the pain remains the same. Is the Church of Jesus Christ prepared to tackle this difficult issue?

Following on the heels of a Sunnyvale, California church, a congregation in Concord, North Carolina is taking action to defeat the affliction of racism. Based on the 12-Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, this predominantly white church invites their members and the public to join weekly meetings of Racists Anonymous, encouraging and fostering this decidedly uncomfortable conversation. Pastor Nathan King reports that the meetings attract old and young, those admittedly racist, and others who are unsure or believe they may have a problem.

The only sure remedy for racism is the love of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Christ has the power to transform our understanding of race and discrimination. We must confront it, name it, shame it, and banish it forever.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Lawyers’ Merry Christmas Cards

Lawyers’ Merry Christmas Cards

Just for fun, I’ll set out the sentiments from a few lawyers’ Christmas cards:

1. Picture an intense lawyer grilling Santa Claus on the witness stand:

“I’ll ask you again sir, did you or did you not look at my client, and in a crowded shopping mall, in front of her children, call her not once, but three times… a ho?”

2. A lawyer making closing submissions in court:

“The evidence will clearly show that my client, Mr. Claus, was not the driver of the sleigh the night that Grandma, as the charges read, “got run over by a reindeer”.

3. This time it’s a sleigh full of reindeer being pulled by Santa Claus:

“Our lawyers sure know how to negotiate an employment contract.”

4. Husband reading a Christmas card to his wife:

“Honey, our lawyer wishes us, but in no way guarantees a Merry Christmas”

5. Child sitting on Santa’s lap in a department store:

“Actually my legal counsel has advised me to plead the 5th with respect to “naughty or nice”.”

6. Santa standing outside the front door of a home on Christmas Eve
with his lawyer:

“My client would like you to sign this waiver before he descends your chimney.”

7. A lawyer sitting on Santa’s lap in a department store, reading his Christmas
wish list:

“Sympathetic judges, evidence that is irrefutable, friendly juries, no hostile witnesses.”

8. Young boy sitting on Santa’s lap in a department store:

“As to your question “Were you a good boy?”, my attorney tells me I have the right to remain silent.”

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Merry Christmas Disclaimer

PLEASE ACCEPT without obligation, express or implied, these best wishes for an

environmentally safe, socially responsible, low stress, non addictive, and gender

neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday as practiced within the most

enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice (but with respect

for the religious or secular persuasions and/or traditions of others or for their

choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all):

AND FURTHER for a fiscally successful, personal fulfilling, and

medically uncomplicated onset of the generally accepted calendar year

(including, but not limited to, the Christian calendar, but not

without due respect for the calendars of choice or of other cultures).

THE PROCEEDING wishes are extended without regard to the race, creed,

colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform, or

sexual preference of the wishee.

 

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

It All Seemed So Good: Toronto Neurosurgeon Arrested for Murder of Wife

GeorgiaLeeLang025Mohammed Shamji had it all:  a beautiful wife, who was herself a family doctor, three lovely children, and a PhD from Duke University in biomedical engineering, which paved the way for his reputation as a world-renowned neurosurgeon. But the family was hiding a secret…according to news reports, the Shamji’s had visits from the police more than once for allegations of domestic violence and neighbours reportedly heard them fighting.

Tragically the ultimate weapon for men that engage in family violence was unleashed when Dr. Sahmji, age 40, allegedly murdered his wife, Elana Fric-Shamji last week in their garage. He was arrested on Friday and is in police custody charged with first degree murder. The media reports that Dr. Shamji placed her body in a suitcase and dropped her  beside a river in suburban Toronto, where she was found the day before her husband was arrested.  The coroner determined she died from strangulation and blunt force trauma.

It is impossible to pigeon-hole Dr. Shamji as he does not fall within the typical profile of a husband (or wife) who murders their partner, which includes severe mental illness, previous felony convictions, lower intelligence, and more cognitive impairment than in other types of murders. However, eschewing political correctness,  it may well be that his cultural upbringing played a role.

The killing of a female intimate partner or spouse is referred to as “uxoricide”. Statistics reveal that of 2,340 partner murders in America in 2007, female victims made up 70%. In South-East Asia 55% of all murdered women died at the hands of their partner, in Africa it is 40%, and 38% in the Americas. It is reported that approximately 7 women are killed per month in England and Wales, 4 women per month in Australia, and in the United States it is 76 women per month.

Dr. Elana Fric-Shamji had recently filed for divorce and expressed relief that she was on her way to a new life. This stage of separation is the most dangerous time for women. Her last tweet on November 27, 2016 was lively and upbeat, displaying a photo of her and a fellow female physician. Her children have now been placed with their maternal grandparents. How very sad…

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Court Orders Maintenance Enforcement Program to Pay Dad for Abusive Collection Efforts

GeorgiaLeeLang009Some of the worst complaints about the  British Columbia family law justice system arise from litigants dealing with the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program  (“FMEP”), called the Family Responsibility Office in Ontario.

Support enforcement programs permit parents and spouses who have court orders or agreements providing for child or spousal support payments to register their orders or agreements with the enforcement program in their province, at no cost to the registrant.

The protocol is that once an agreement or order is registered, the payee parent or spouse must pay support to FMEP, no longer directly to the recipient. FMEP ensures that the recipient parent or spouse receives the payment monthly, and in cases where a payee fails to pay, they take steps to enforce the payment of the support.

Interestingly, a payee does not have to be in arrears of support to be monitored by FMEP.  I remember years ago when a client of mine agreed to pay support for his wife and children, an agreement that was incorporated into a court order. My client’s wife registered with the Program as she was entitled to, however, my client was most distressed when he received a letter from FMEP  addressed, “Dear Debtor”. My client made every payment every month on time and was insulted by the program’s cavalier use of the term “debtor”. He was certainly not a debtor, just a regular guy whose wife registered with the program.

Sometimes recipients enter the program out of spite for their former spouse, however, 99.9% of the cases involve payees who have fallen behind in their court ordered payments.

In a recent Ontario case, a typical scenario unfolded for Richard DeBiasio, who paid child support to his ex-wife for the support of the two children residing with her, with a set-off because he had one child living with him. It is not uncommon that as children mature they switch homes and move from mom’s house to dad’s house. That’s what occurred in the DeBiasio case where over time all the children resided with their father.

Mr. DeBiasio negotiated new terms for child support with his former wife, entered into a new agreement and made arrangements to appear in court to finalize their new arrangements. Unfortunately, Ms. DeBiasio had already registered with the Family Responsibility Office,  (“FRO”) who were unaware of the new support agreement that had yet to be confirmed by the court.

The first Mr. DeBiasio heard of any problems was when FRO sent a letter advising him that they were reporting him to the credit bureau. Shortly thereafter FRO issued a garnishing order to his employer which prompted his lawyer to send a letter to FRO advising of their mistake and the pending court order.  FRO was unmoved–they were enforcing the order they had received from Mr. DeBiasio’s wife and had now taken steps to have his driver’s  license suspended. Needless to say, FRO was not responsive to any communication and regularly ignored letters from his lawyer, also refusing to accept phone calls.

Mr. DeBiasio finally obtained a court order directing FRO to cease their collection efforts. He then asked the court to order FRO to reimburse him for his legal fees, an amount close to  $10,000. The court reviewed numerous other decisions ordering FRO to pay costs, noting that most of these cases involved “aggressive enforcement actions on the part of FRO”.

Justice Nelson awarded Mr. DeBiasio the sum of $7,500 saying:

“In this case it was made clear to the FRO caseworker that there was a dispute over the amount of arrears owing.  It was made abundantly clear that there had been a material change because of the move of the children.  While I understand that FRO has a mandate to enforce, it seems to me that insisting on enforcement by way of licence suspension, when it is likely that the matter will be before the court within a very short period of time, is an unreasonable exercise of the Director’s mandate to enforce.

…the caseworker was kept fully apprised of all relevant information about the motion to change.  The refraining motion was December 10, 2015; the motion to change was scheduled for December 30, 2015.  The insistence by the Director on proceeding with enforcement under such circumstances is not only costly to the individual involved but costly to the court in terms of time allotted to the case.”

It should be noted that FMEP’s and FRO’s inappropriate attitude while serving the public is not limited to payors who have arrears of support. It is also nigh impossible for recipients to be heard in a timely manner. The British Columbia program is contracted to a large American corporation that makes oodles of money, with little apparent concern for customer relations.

DeBiasio v. DeBiasio 2016 ONSC 2253

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang