Thursday, February 23, 2012

Musical courtrooms!

Queen's Bench urban legend (mysteriously stained carpets) courtroom 230

Good Day Readers:

One of the fascinating aspects of The Law Courts is everyday you learn something new - if it's not about the law than it's the buildings assets' as evidenced by our series of urban legend postings.

Yesterday, the Graham James sentencing hearing was originally scheduled in provincial courtroom 408, however, it was transferred to Queen's Bench 210 because it's much larger. We were advised this cross over happens from time-to-time-because of scheduling but more often public gallery size. Because there are no juries in provincial court the rooms of necessity are usually somewhat smaller. But there can be another problem.

Only a handful of Queen's Bench rooms are permanently configured for direct video feed. Although any can be it's a bit of a Royal pain in the ... because it means moving equipment from A to B and back etc. Take the Stobbe trial. To date it has predominately been in 230 but a couple weeks ago the morning session was in 120 then it was back to 230 for the afternoon. Today it was 117 but tomorrow it will be back to 230.

As we were watching counsel present we were suddenly set upon by a brain wave. What happens to the evidence once a trial is over and all avenues of appeal have been exhausted? Another benefit of hanging around "The Courts" is the ready access to both Winnipeg Police Service officers, as well as, RCMP members waiting to testify. Just so happened we encountered a Mountie so asked him. Fascinating. Apparently, there are various classes of evidence which determine how long it will be stored. For example, forensic DNA evidence may be retained for 199 years - that's right 199-years! When we inquired why so long the gentleman didn't know as that's the way it's been since he's been with the Force. Again, it's mandated by headquarters in Ottawa. There's another category for which it's 99 years and so on.

Any possessions seized under a search warrant that turn out to have no evidentiary value are returned as soon as reasonably possible.

As for the Mark Stobbe trial per se, the circumstantial evidence continues to accumulate. It is our view the defence has so far failed to hit a home run or land a knock out punch. An educated guess is the trial will not be jury ready much before about the middle of next month.

A special compliment for presiding Justice Chris Martin. As the process grinds on it must be terribly, terribly difficult for those directly impacted by the tragedy, however, His Lordship has a very fine courtroom touch and temperament combined with a finely tuned sense of humour which he has the knack of interjecting at the right moment to relieve tension. We'd post his picture on the internet but we were unable to find one.

As we troll the hallways of The Law Courts we've been asking Winnipeg Police Service officers about record searches. For example, if someone has spent 3-years in jail awaiting trial only to eventually be acquitted but down the road applies for a position requiring a police record check, what information would a prospective employer be sent?

Clare L. Pieuk


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