Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Dignity of the Crown

What's going on with the prosecutor's offices in Ontario?
Emmily Lucas died seven years ago Tuesday.

Her battered body was taken off life support after 10 comatose days at the Hospital for Sick Children. She was 2 years old.

On Monday, the jury was dismissed in the second mistrial in the case against Erika Mendieta, Emmily’s mother, who was charged with second-degree murder in the toddler’s beating death.

A prosecutor from the first trial — assistant Crown attorney Paul Alexander — distracted the jury and intimidated the defendant by making faces while sitting in the gallery as a spectator.

“I’ve been involved in the criminal justice system for 30 years, and I can’t say that I’ve heard of a similar circumstance,” said Attorney General Chris Bentley. “It’s just very, very unusual.”

Last week, the jury wrote a note to Justice Nola Garton stating they wanted a man removed from the gallery. “We find him very distracting, and he is making strange faces all the time. We feel very uncomfortable with him.”

They did not know at the time who Alexander is.

The defence counsel brought forth a motion for a mistrial, and Mendieta testified — in the jury’s absence —that Alexander was rolling his eyes, shifting awkwardly, and making faces during Crown Attorney Allison MacPherson’s cross-examination.

“His look intimidated me a lot,” Mendieta said. “It made me feel very uncomfortable.”

Mendieta said it made her nervous, and changed the way she answered questions. She said she didn’t know she had the ability to challenge his presence in court until the jury wrote the note.
Factor in the bizarre and almost incomprehensible decision to proceed with prosecution against Stacy Bonds despite the clear video evidence of the abuse she had been subjected to by the police and we are left with a portrait of provincial prosecutor's offices seemingly being run without adult supervision.

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