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John Rosen excerpts from new book on true crime cases

The following are two excerpts from Toronto criminal lawyer John Rosen's chapter in "Tough Crimes: True Cases by Top Canadian Criminal Lawyers." Rosen, partner at Rosen Naster LLP, wrote "Defending Paul Bernardo: Am I the Devil's Advocate?"

 Much has been written about the (Bernardo) videotapes, the failure of the police to find them and the horrific nature of their contents. But nothing has ever been said about the impact of the tapes on the lawyers. 

After taking possession of the tapes, (Toronto criminal lawyer Clayton) Ruby and I met at his home to view them for the first time. We played the VHS tapes so as not to damage the originals. We also fast-forwarded through most parts. Our intention was to get an understanding of what was depicted so we could assess my legal, professional, and ethical obligations.

 In truth though, the images depicted shook me to the core. At one point, I needed to stop and excuse myself for a few moments. The images were deeply disturbing and the implications were obvious. How was I going to defend this case in the face of these tapes? What would prevent the jury from coming over the boards at me for having the gall to advance any defence for this accused? Moreover, I am a father myself – what would my own family think of me? How was I going to survive a trial with my health and reputation intact?

 I could have avoided my responsibilities by claiming I was a witness to the chain of custody of the tapes. But what would that have said about the 25 years of my life that, at that point in time, I had dedicated to criminal law? After a moment’s hesitation, I decided to set aside my personal feelings and interests and get on with the job at hand.


 Like the O.J. Simpson prosecution, the Bernardo trial was covered daily in media across Canada and internationally. Since our laws prohibit cameras in the courtroom, the media reports were comprehensive and were supported with photographs and video footage of me walking to or from the Toronto Courthouse every day. The byproduct of this exposure was that people started to recognize me on sight. Complete strangers stopped me on the street to say hello or to shake my hand. No one uttered an unkind word. Perhaps it was their way of thanking me for my efforts or, more broadly, for validating and recognizing my role in the criminal justice system that all Canadians value. In other words, they recognized that we all had a stake in ensuring a fair trial and a just outcome for everyone. Even Paul Bernardo agreed.

Excerpts are courtesy of Durance Vile Publications Ltd. and the editors, C.D. Evans and Lorene Shyba

 For more information about the book click here Read Law Times CBC's The Current



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