The Hamilton Spectator
Saturday, January 25, 1997
page A5

Tapes unlikely to be played at lawyer's trial

by Sharon Base

The families of Paul Bernardo's murder victims probably won't have to relive the horror of the girls' videotaped confinement when his two former lawyers are tried for obstructing justice.

While memories of their daughters' murders were renewed with the latest charges, the explicit videotapes of Bernardo's brutal crimes won't likely be played in court when Ken Murray and Carolyn MacDonald go to trial, said a Toronto lawyer.

"I can't imagine an actual playing of the videotapes would in any way advance the case, either for the prosecution or the defence", said Timothy Danson. He represents the families of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy in their bid to close the courts to the public whenever child pornography is introduced into evidence.

Not only would playing the videotapes likely prove irrelevant, Danson said counsel representing the pair have "a real class to them" and wold likely avoid their contents at all costs.

Murray and MacDonald will appear in court Feb. 25 to answer charges of possession of child pornography, obstruction, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Murray is also charged with making obscene material. The pair, who represented Bernardo in 1993 and 1994, are charged with keeping the tapes when they could have prevented Karla Homolka from striking a plea bargain by turning them over to authorities sooner.

Police have refused to elaborate on the making obscene material charge against Murray. A spokesman for the attorney-general's office also declined comment.

The tapes used as evidence at Bernardo's murder trial in 1995 remain in a special security vault at a Toronto courthouse, Danson said. They may be accessed by only the Crown attorney or defence counsel involved in the appeal of Bernardo's first-degree murder conviction.

Debbie Mahaffy, Leslie's mother, said she is haunted by the painful prospect of rehashing the tapes which show Leslie and Kristen being raped by Bernardo and Homolka.

Mahaffy told The Spectator she fears the tapes will one day emerge as so-called "snuff films" in the hands of underground pornography dealers.

The families want section 486.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada - which decrees courts should be open to the public - struck down as unconstitutional.

They want the section amended so courts would be closed in cases involving evidence of child pornography. Danson is hoping for a date in May to argue the case before the Ontario Court of Appeal.

-- with files from Adrian Humphreys

Copyright © 1997 by The Hamilton Spectator. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.