Friday, April 23, 2010

"Eh?"

U.S. jurors to be vetted for anti-Canada bias
Canadians on trial for allegedly hiring hit man
Adrian Humphreys, National Post
Published: Thursday, April 22, 2010
One juror question asks if they have read, seen or heard anything that makes them "associate Canadians with violent crimes?"

Lawyers for two Canadians accused of plotting to kidnap and kill a lawyer to recover lost millions say anti-Canadian sentiment among jurors must be weeded out before their trial can start in Boston.

A motion at the trial of Nicholas Djokich of Calgary and Eginardo "Angelo" De Angelis of Montreal asks that potential jurors be asked three questions to detect any hostile bias against Canada, including: "Is there anything about the country of Canada, Canadian nationality, or anyone associated with Canada that would affect your ability to be fair and impartial?"

Another asks if they have read, seen or heard anything that makes them "associate Canadians with violent crimes?"

The third questions whether the accused men's Canadian citizenship would "make it difficult for you to fairly and impartially decide this case?"

Mr. Djokich, 59, and Mr. De Angelis, 76, face charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire after allegedly paying a man to pluck a Canadian lawyer from his tropical island estate, force him to turn over millions lost in an investment and then kill him.

The man was given the photograph and address of the intended victim, Richard DeVries, a lawyer from Calgary now living in the Bahamas.

According to the indictment, Mr. Djokich said he and colleagues had previously kidnapped William "Willie" Lenz, a Calgary businessman who he said was also involved in the wayward investment, and cut off one of his pinkie fingers with pruning sheers to make him sign a money transfer.

The men did not know the purported hit man was a U.S. government agent, and the conversations were secretly recorded.

"This guy was writing like you wouldn't believe after he lost his finger," Mr. Djokich said about the incident, according to documents filed in court.

"Oh, that'll do it to you," replied the purported hit man.

"Well, the thing is this," said Mr. Djokich, "the next day, he was going to taste one of his balls."

Mr. Lenz signed a wire transfer for $15-million during his ordeal, prosecutors say. The bank, however, required him to appear in person to receive the money and the kidnappers received nothing.

The hit man was told there were other targets after the lawyer was dealt with, including Mr. Lenz, a man in Detroit, another in London and a "Frenchman."

If enough money was forthcoming from Mr. DeVries, the police agent was allegedly told, they would likely not need to "wipe out" Mr. Lenz but rather just "put him in a wheelchair."

With those sorts of sordid details and the high stakes -- if convicted, the accused face a possible penalty of life in prison -- asking possible jurors about their feelings on Canada is a suitable precaution, said Bradford Bailey, lead lawyer for Mr. Djokich.

"Any time you have a client from another country, it is his attorney's obligation to probe juror prejudices to make sure there isn't any xenophobia, any anti-foreign sentiment, to make sure jurors selected are as fair and impartial as they can possibly be," he told the National Post.

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