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The Docket

Michael Spratt

Criminal lawyer Michael Spratt and legal expert Emilie Taman discusses the intersection of the courts, the law and policy. What our government does affects you. And check out our The Staircase and Making a Murderer after show series. Michael is and Emilie Taman and quest break down these popular docu-series - episode by episode. Check out more at: www.michaelspratt.com

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So episode 81 - a new record.  But you know that right? Because you subscribe to the show on iTunes and have already rated and reviewed the podcast - right? You should. And now you can join The Docket’s Discord chatroom. What I hope will be a community of legal/political nerds and Docket fans. Ask us questions, listen to live recordings, and join the conversation. Join the Discord channel with this link: https://discord.gg/2TzUamZ After a weekend at the Criminal Lawyer’s conference we sat down for a bit of an update. Emilie settled her twitter lawsuit with Ottawa’s mayor Jim Watson. Watson reversed his position, admitted he was wrong, and unblocked all of Ottawa. Then we move onto Andrew Scheer’s justice announcement. He wants to crack down on guns and gangs and is not afraid to mislead the public and violate the Charter. So we decided to deconstruct his dishonest six-point plan. And then Michael pisses off the whole civil bar. Pro Bono Ontario is a necessary and valuable service. But funding to the tune of $500,000 has fallen through and the Ottawa and Toronto office will be forced to shut down next month. The civil bar is rightly up in arms. But if the issue is access to justice maybe civil lawyers could take a closer look at the role their high fees play in the problem. Emilie Taman on Twitter: @EmilieTaman Michael Spratt on Twitter: @mspratt If you like show spread the word. Enjoy

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Finally a new episode! Sorry Sorry Sorry. We have been slammed at home and at work. Almost three weeks ago we sat down with Peter Sankoff and Dino Bottos the night before they headed to the Supreme Court to argue the appeal of Barton v. The Queen. The case is complicated with important legal issues and the facts are tragic. Barton was charged with the death of Cindy Gladue. Gladue died of injuries sustained during sex - the question is whether the sex was consensual or not. Barton was acquitted by a jury but the Alberta Court of Appeal found that errors had been made and sent the case back for a new trial. Now its the Supreme Cours turn to weight in. There have been strong feelings about the case - it involves allegations of sexual violence that can be very disturbing. For more information check out the Supreme Court of Canada website for the legal factums and a webcast of the arguments made by all parties and interveners. After Barton we talked about Brett Kavanaugh - which I swear was topical at the time. And we promise to get a new episode out soon!

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In Chapter 8: The Verdict we get our hearts broken. But before that we talk about closing arguments and the tips and tricks of the trade. Side note: what does the T in Pure-T-Filth stand for anyway. And then the verdict. Waiting for the verdict is the most intense thing ever and then hearing a verdict is that x100. We try to break down what David Rudolph is feeling and then talk about how to pick up the pieces.

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Notwithstanding Doug Ford

Sep 12th1:03:11

In late July, after not campaigning on the issue and in the middle of Toronto’s municipal election, Doug Ford and his Conservative government introduced Bill 5, also known as the Better Local Government Act, 2018. Bill 5 radically altered Toronto’s electoral districts by cutting the wards from 47 to 25 and in most cases doubling both their physical size and the number of potential voters. The immediate impact of Bill 5 was wide-spread confusion and uncertainty. So dramatic was this mid-election change that the new law was before the Ontario Superior Court in a matter of weeks. And this week the court released its decision finding Ford’s legislation unconstitutional because it violated both the candidates and the voters freedom of expression under section 2(b) of the Charter. Ford’s reaction was swift and unprecedented - he said that the Ontario would invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Charter to push through the unconstitutional bill - despite the court decision. Invoking the rarely-used notwithstanding clause is a nuclear option to deal with a non-urgent matter. But it seems that Ford is perfectly content to prioritize political expediency over Charter rights. It also seems that Ford either does not understand the relationship between the courts and the legislature - he says he was elected by the people so he should be able to do as he pleases - constitutional rights be damned. And Ford says he will do it again if the courts try to hold him back. This week we break down the legislation, the court decision, the notwithstanding clause and why this all matters. It’s going to be a long four years.

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Is the defence of extreme intoxication in sexual-assault cases back?  The headlines were attention grabbing after a Toronto Judge ruled that section 33.1 of the Criminal Code, which limited the defence of extreme intoxication in all assault cases, was unconstitutional. As the Globe and Mail put it: The defence of extreme intoxication in sexual-assault cases is back in Ontario, after a judge ruled that a federal law removing it violates the constitutional rights of the accused. The twitter storm that followed was predictably biting. But in the legal world the decision came as no big surprise. After all, that section of the Criminal Code had been found unconstitutional 9 times over the last 25 years.  And a successful defence of extreme intoxication in sexual assault cases is as rare as a unicorn - you can count the times it has been successful on one hand that is missing a bunch of fingers. So while it is completely justified to be concerned after the media reports, a deeper look at the case and the constitution may help reduce some of the shock and disgust that some people felt following the decision. This episode we take a look at the recent court decision and the history of extreme intoxication as a defence to general intent offences like sexual assault. And at the end of the day it is not as bad or offensive as it may appear at first blush.

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In Chapter 7: The Blow Poke Returns the defence makes its toughest call - will Michael Peterson testify. Calling the accused to the stand is one of the biggest decision in any trial. This week we break down the tactical considerations when calling defence evidence. Oh and the Petersons also found the blow poke. What! What!?! The Staircase is full of surprises  and we look at the complex and sometimes murky ethical obligations that can arise when new evidence is discovered.

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In Chapter 6: The Prosecution's Revenge the prosecution puts its case to the jury - complete with prejudicial "gay sex" and a speculative similar fact application implicating Peterson in the 1980s death of his friend Elizabeth Ratliff.  Peterson's defence team of David Rudolf and Tom Maher take apart the Crown's case with some great courtroom work - but will it be enough to overcome the unfairness create by the prosecution?

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In Chapter 5: A Weak Case we finally get to the good stuff - the trial. Michael Peterson's lawyer David Rudolf dismantles the prosecutions case and the defence calls into question the integrity of the evidence - a fact that impacts the validity of any blood spatter analysis. Then we meet Dwayne Deavers - the State's blood spatter expert. Except Deavers fudged his experiments and seeming had a hand in a exculpitory report that was never given to Peterson. It is amazing to see Rudolf map-out and then execute his cross-examinations. The witnesses never see it coming - until 257 medical reports in a dozen binders are dropped on their lap. Oh - the media is still terrible and the lawyers still have not learned to standup when asking questions.

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This episode we have a special guest - the man himself - criminal defence legend - David Rudolf.  David Rudolf stopped by The Docket to talk to us about defending one of the most high profile cases in modern history. We picked Rudolf's brain about trial strategy, procedural irregularities, and the emotional toll the Michael Peterson case took on him. It was a fascinating talk with a truly inspirational defence lawyer.  All your questions will be answered: Were Judge Hudson's ruling really so short? Was the documentary a fair representation of what happened in court? And how did Rudolf end up as Michael Peterson's lawyer? A huge thanks to David Rudolf for his generosity and his time!

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In Chapter 4: A Prosecution Trickery the Peterson defence team receives a fax (and yes faxes are still a thing) of the prosecution's autopsy report on Elizabeth Ratliff. And surprise surprise the State's pathologist not only determined that the death was not due to natural causes but went on to find the the cause of death was a "homicidal attack". Not only did the defence team receive the pathology report two weeks before the trial was to begin, and not only was the report released to the media to poison the jury pool, but the prosecution refuses to seek an admissibility ruling on the tainted but damning evidence. Its trial by ambush and David Rudolph is pissed. This episode we look at the prosecution's tactics, discuss the rules and strategy for opening statements, and debate gammer - is it banker's boxes or bankers boxes?

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In Chapter 3: A Striking Coincidence we look at some breaking news - there was another staircase death! The prosecution sets the stage for a similar fact application. What is similar fact, when is it admissible, and would this fly in Canada? Spoiler Alert: prejudice destroys probative value in this fight.

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In Chapter 2: Secrets and Lies we look at the role bad character evidence can play in a trial. In Peterson's case the prosecution made the most tenuous of links between Peterson's sexuality and a motive to commit murder. The prosecution's theory was pretty speculative and it was way prejudicial. But maybe that is what the prosecution was counting on. We also look at the initial stages of trial preparation - identifying the facts, testing your presentation, and getting your client ready to testify.  And Peterson also comes to the realization: the poor don't stand a chance in the justice system.

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It is like deja vu all over again as The Docket Podcast returns to an episode-by-episode examination of a real life crime docu-series.  Only this time its all about The Staircase instead of Making A Murderer. In December 2001, novelist Michael Peterson called 911 to report that his wife Kathleen had fallen down a narrow twisting set of stairs and died. The prosecution and police did not believe it was an accident and soon Peterson found himself charged with his wife murder. The trial that follows was one of the most bizarre, prejudicial, and high profile court cases of the century.  And now the 2004 French television miniseries by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade documenting the trial of Michael Peterson is available on Netflix - with 3 new bonus episodes. Join us - criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt and former federal prosecutor and law professor Emilie Taman - as we dissect The Staircase chapter-by-chapter. Each podcast we will break down the legal strategy, evidentiary issues, and give our opinions on the case - with a Canadian twist.  In Chapter 1: Crime or Accident, we look at the role that wealth and privilege plays in Peterson's defence, discuss police tunnel vision, and give our initial impressions on the investigation.  We are going to try to keep each podcast spoiler free about what follows but what quickly emerges is a story about how the presumption of innocence is constantly under attack by police and District Attorneys intent on securing a conviction at all costs.  Ultimately, The Staircase is about every accused person in the United States, Canada, or anywhere.  It’s about what it’s like to be confronted by the full resources of the State when your life hangs in the ballance.

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This episode we open with a discussion of an important op-ed written by Amanda Byrd. Byrd, a law student, spent hundreds of hours preparing for a moot court. When she got there, she was told to smile more. Courtroom demeanour is important but critics based on appearance are very unhelpful and smack of sexism. We then dive into the mandatory minimum sentence debate. The Liberal government promised to reform these out-dated, unfair, and counterproductive sentencing straightjackest - but they have not lifted a finger to make good on their promise. So Senator Kim Pate has stepped up to the plate and introduced legislation to restore judicial discretion. Bill S-251 is an ambitious bill that will give court a safety valve to depart from any minimum sentence - including murder. Huge thanks to Kim Pate for inviting us into her office to talk about her very important and principled bill.

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We tried to keep it short this week. We failed. But who could blame us - I mean we were talking about Budget implementation bills. More than a year ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood in the House of Commons and spoke some truths about omnibus legislation. He said that, for many years, the previous government used omnibus legislation as a way of avoiding debate. He complained that the Harper Conservatives would “put everything into a piece of legislation, whether it had links to it or not.” Trudeau was right. Omnibus bills were abused by the Harper government to the detriment of democracy. Omnibus legislation too often leads to a divisive all-or-nothing approach to the legislative process. This is especially true because when legislation is overbroad, filled with unconnected amendments and unfocused, debate is difficult and evidenced-based study is next to impossible. So, we did not even bother to read bill C-74, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 27, 2018 and other measures because why on earth would a bill all about implementing the budget include any substantive amendments to the Criminal Code? However, bill C-74 does just that and the brand new criminal law is buried on page 527 of the 556-page bill. The amendment was so well hidden that even Liberal MPs sitting on the House of Commons Finance Committee, which is currently studying the bill, were caught by surprise. In addition to implementing the budget, the bill amends the Criminal Code to allow corporations to buy their way out of a criminal conviction. This new legal loophole is called a remediation agreement. It would work something like this. Step one: A corporation engages in a criminal activity such as a massive fraud or conspiracy. Step two: The corporation is caught and charged criminally. Step three: The prosecutor reviews the file and determines that there is a reasonable prospect of conviction. Step four: If the corporation agrees that it committed a crime and pays back all of the ill-gotten profits, then the prosecutor can ask the court to drop all criminal charges. So we do what parliament won't be able to do - study the new criminal code amendment. But before we do that we talk about the 50-year embargo on Supreme Court documents - too long? Some former Supreme Court judges think so,

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Is it a criminal offence to lick an opponent during a hockey game? After Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand licked Tampa Bay Lightning's Ryan Callahan during a play off game this is a burning issue. So, Emilie and I dive into the law around consent fights and look at fighting in sport. Why can someone consent to bodily harm on the ice but not off it? What is the legal standard for proving an assault? And when is a lick a sexual assault? But we lead off the episode on a much more important topic - the tragic case of Hassan Diab who was order extradited to France for his alleged role in the bombing of a Paris synagogue. The evidence was weak and a secret government memo uncovered by the CBC reveals that Canada helped France patch up its case and actively withheld evidence that could have shown Diab's innocence.  Diab never did face trial in France. After 38 months of solitary confinement in a French dungeon, after missing the birth of his daughter, after losing years of his life, Diab was released and all charges were dropped by a French judge.  Emile and I discuss why Diab should never had been extradited in the first place and why the Canadian judge did not have the power to throw out a shockingly weak case. And we end with a short conversation about the Toronto van attack and why there have been no terrorism charges.

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Bold Justice Reform?

Apr 3rd1:16:36

This episode we are joined by good friend of the podcast (TM) Peter Sankoff to take a deep dive into Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould's new BOLD justice bill. The legislation, Bill C-75, was billed as a silver bullet to unclog our courts and bring about a “cultural shift” in the justice system. The changes may be bold, but in this case the proposed reforms will likely result in more delays, more racial inequality and more unfair trials. Bill C-75 promises to speed up court cases by eliminating preliminary hearings for all but the most serious matters. Also, quietly slipped into the bill is a provision that would allow Crown prosecutors to simply file written copies of police officers’ evidence instead of actually calling them at trial to testify. Not only will these changes waste more court time than they save, they will erode fundamental safeguards of trial fairness. Perhaps most galling is what is not in the new law: the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences. This change would reduce court delays and increase fairness. It also has decades of evidence and study to back up its positive impacts. And, if you care about such things, it was also an explicit election promise. Bill C-75 has been widely condemned in the legal community. It has also shown that, like her predecessors, Wilson-Raybould is willing to draft reactive legislation based on one high-profile case, is willing to disregard evidence, is willing to sacrifice trial fairness, and is willing to break promises. The Liberal's flagship justice bill is massive and it is already in trouble. The debate about this bill is not going to be quiet and will not be going away any time soon - so lets dig in....

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So episode 73 - a new record.  But you know that right? Because you subscribe to the show on iTunes and have already rated and reviewed the podcast - right? You should. Hey look we have a sponsor! Let the podcast money start rolling in! But seriously a huge thanks to Emond Publishing! So, after some technical difficulties we have a new episode - sorry about that. Maybe it is time to start one of those Patreon deals so we can buy some fancy equipment! We start off with another hard topic - another verdict in a case involving a young indigenous victim. We look at the tragic case of Tina Fontaine. The system failed her at every step of her life and last month a jury acquitted the man accused of murdering her. But did the criminal justice process fail her? We take a look at the trial and the jury's verdict. Then we move on to the bizarre case of a Radio Canada journalist arrested for criminal harassment for doing his job. The charges were dropped but WTF. And finally we take on the federal government's cherry picking of crime stats. Fear is a very good motivator and this is what our police and politicians depend on. Fear of guns. Fear of gangs. Fear of drugs. Fear of violence. Fear to justify seemingly ever-increasing police budgets. The reality is that fear of increasing violent crime is completely irrational. Canadians have never been safer.  The most recent crime statistics continue a two-decade trend of decreasing violent crime.  Violent crime rates were 24 per cent lower in 2016 than they were a decade earlier and are lower today than they has ever been in the last half-century. But the federal government chose to manipulate statistics about gun violence to sell the budget and new firearm restrictions.

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Not a fun episode this week. On Friday Gerald Stanley was acquitted of murdering Colten Boushie. People are often acquitted of serious crimes but this case was different. Boushie was a young indigenous man. Stanley was a white farmer. Boushie's friends said that they had some car trouble and went to the Stanley farm for help. Then Stanley murdered Boushie - for no real reason. Stanley said that Boushie was trying to steal some of his property and he accidentally shot him. So the best case scenario is that a white farmer shot a young indigenous man over some property. But there was more to the story. The night Boushie was killed the RCMP treated his family like they had done something wrong.  In the aftermath of the killing "rural crime" - a dog whistle for indigenous people - was a hot topic in the Canadian Prairie. And then as the trial began the Stanley defence team used their peremptory jury challenges to exclude every potential indigenous juror.  An all white jury acquitted a white farmer of killing an indigenous youth. There was justifiable outrage and questions about racial bias in the justice system, The Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice tweeted their outrage and sadness.  Those tweets also attracted scrutiny - the government should not be commenting on the outcomes of individual court cases. The government should take action to fix problems in the justice system but so far the Trudeau Government has chosen tweets over legislation. This week we break down the Stanley verdict, talk about the jury selection process, and look at what can be done to make sure there is justice in the justice system.

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#MeToo and the Law

Feb 5th1:14:57

This episode we look at two high profile murder case in Toronto. First, the case Berry and Honey Sherman who Toronto police now say were murdered.  Berry's cousin Kerry Winter says he definitely did not do it - except his denial may raise more questions than answers. Then, we look at Bruce McArther, a landscaper and mall Santa, who the Toronto police now say is a serial killer responsible for string of murders in Toronto's LGBT community. There are lots of questions about what police knew and questions have been raised about why an arrest took so long.  We then turn our sights to the political fall out of the #MeToo movement and look at my opinion piece for the CBC and appearance on CBC's The Current that has pissed of some defence lawyers. Long story short - the presumption of innocence is for the courtroom and should not operate to shield powerful politicians. And then we take a look at the Ottawa police's absurd carding statistics. According to the police there is no carding problem because they don't do it any more. Police also say crime is on the rise because they can't arbitrarily stop young minority men and ask them their names. We call BS on the police and their statistics.

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Fresh off our #Clawbies2017 award we had a New Year party and invited all of our friends! Emilie and I kick of 2018 with a call in show - with predictions, resolutions, and admissions from past Docket guests: Louise Arbour, Senator Kim Pate, Making a Murderer's Jerry Buting & Dean Strang, Naomi Sayers, Anne-Marie McElroy, Member of Parliament Nate Erskine-Smith, the crew at PolitiCoast podcast, Borderlines podcast's Peter Edelmann & Steven Meurrens, and good friend of the podcast Peter Sankoff. Oh, Emilie and I also talk about our resolutions and some plans for 2018. Thanks to everyone for listening and sharing the podcast. We had a fantastic year and can't wait dive into 2018.

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No Warrant, No Text Messages

Dec 12th, 20171:13:34

Emilie and I take a depot dive into two new Supreme Court of Canada cases about text messages. In a majority decision, authored by Chief Justice McLachlin, the Court ruled that individuals have a privacy interest in the text messages they send - even if those messages are found on someone else phone. And in a companion case the court clarified who can bring a privacy claim for text messages stored by telecommunication companies - hint: that person is you if the prosecution says you sent them. But the police don't need the more stringent wiretap authorization to get those stored message. But before we do that we take a slightly detour to talk about Jagmeet Singh's "rookie blunder" of taking a principled stand on drug decriminalization. We don't think it is a blunder to do the right thing - no matter how unpopular. We also take a looks at hypocrites getting into the legal marijuana business. And I cop to an embarrassing inappropriate gavel admission.

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Who is that new Supreme Court Judge?

Nov 30th, 201757:44

A special guest! Ian Bushfield - the Executive Director of the @BCHumanist, @bccla board member, and the left half of @PolitiCoastPod - returns to talk about the Supreme Court.  But we start with the important stuff - a deep dive into the red hot debate about the best Canadian TV show of all time. And I have an epiphany about Danger Bay. Then we dive into some law an politics. Justin Trudeau announced his new pick for the Supreme Court - Sheilah Martin. We give the honest of hot takes on the new appointment. We also take a look at the government's historic apology for past LGBTQ2 discrimination and ask why is legislation that would repeal zombie laws - including some of the discriminatory and unconstitutional offences that were used against LGBTQ2 communities - stalled at first reading? Then we take a look look at some other legislation that seems to be stalled. As the Supreme Court is set to hear a constitutional challenged to the Conservative victim fine surcharge legislation the current government seems content to let their legislative fix languish at fist reading.  We also take a quick look at the Bill Morneau debacle, why we need a law reform commission, and as usual talk about pot and pardons.

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A Renowned Lawyer

Nov 25th, 201759:08

Cannabis legislation is being debated on Parliament Hill. One MP called me a renowned lawyer and one MP said marijuana was as dangerous as fentanyl. At lest one of those MP is batshit crazy. Yes, Peter Kent claimed that by legalizing marijuana we might as well as be force feeding our kids fentanyl - well that was the gist of it. So we make some fun of him. We also update the tragic Ezekiel Stephan case. The Alberta Court of Appeal upheld Ezekiel's  parents conviction for their role in his death. We looked at the case way back on episode 41 and we will likely do it all again because this thing is headed to the Supreme Court.    I also tell Emilie a long story about the worse courthouse in Ontario - welcome to Smiths Falls. And then we talk about mental health in the justice system. The House of Commons Justice Committee is looking at the mental health of jurors. Ontario took action last year. But we need to do more for everyone in our courts.  We don't talk about mental health enough but maybe that is changing.

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You Are Tearing Me Apart Lisa!

Nov 13th, 20171:16:05

Hey look we have a sponsor! Let the podcast money start rolling in! But seriously a huge thanks to Emond Publishing. And holy hell this was a good episode. We kick off the episode looking at the recent litigation in Toronto involving the best worse movie ever made - The Room. Tommy Wiseau tried to block the release of the documentary Room Full of Spoons. His performance in court was about as good as it was in his movie and the judgement is hilarious. Then we take a look at the tale of two police interviews. One was cut short because of excessive farting and one was thrown out of court for the oppressive lack of bathroom breaks. And then something more serious. Charges were dropped against a number of police officers accused of obstructing justice, planting evidence, and lying in court. It seems the officer's own police force so badly botched the disclosure of evidence to the Crown that the trial would have had to be delayed. And in an unprecedented move the Crown conceded the resulting delay would have been unconstitutional - in the absence of any defence application or court ruling. Wow. But then onto the main act. We are joined by Vancouver based immigration and criminal lawyer Peter Edelmann. He took a break from his preparation for the next day's Supreme Court hearing to chat with us. We talk about his case, immigration policy, and criminal law. Peter also is the host of the immigration podcast Boarder Lines - so you should go listen to that too.

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The conversation about the justice system and sexual assaults has become a polarizing topic. But it should not be. It is possible to believe and support victims without throwing away the fundamental principles of our justice system. But it is a hard conversation. Court cases like the latest debacle from Ottawa's Superior Court of Justice don't help. The case is simply called R. v. H.E - a husband raped his wife. He was acquitted. The judge got it wrong (and the case will be reversed on appeal). But this case does not prove that the law is broken - it proves that judges make mistakes.  These conversations are hard - but they are necessary. But before diving into sexual assault myths we talk about Ontario's new bail policy. It can be summed up as follows: "Hey Crown Attorneys - Follow the fucking law". Make no mistake this is a major development and a rebuke of Crown practices - but don't pretend it is the final fix or some progressive unicorn. It's not. So we tear it apart.

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Good friend of the podcast Peter Sankoff makes a triumphant return to the podcast studio. Peter was in town making arguments before the Supreme Court  of Canada in the very interesting case of R. v. Suter. You will want to follow this case - vigilant kidnapping, revenge thumb amputation, and some very poor advice from a lawyer. We also talk about the most Canadian crime ever - Drunk Canoeing. Yes it is a crime. It should not be but it is.  Speaking of pointless Criminal Code amendments, a Conservative wants to amend the Criminal Code to make theft of firefighting equipment illegal - the problem is that it is already a crime. Then we debate who is the best judge ever. Check out more of Peter Sankoff's work, videos, and writing at www.petersankoff.com

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Its true. Canada has a drug problem but it is a problem of policy. The war on drugs has failed and the results are laid bare in our court, hospitals, and morgues. People are dying. This is not new only recently has the general public finally starting to engage in a rational conversation about drugs and how we can help prevent harm. One of the reasons we are finally able to have a rational conversations about drug policy is because of the advocacy of people like Leila Attar. Attar has her own personal story and lived experience with overdoses but she is much more than that.  She travelled across Canada this summer talking to parents, health professionals, and politicians about drugs, recovery, and harm reduction. She is a volunteer with Ottawa's first pop-up safe consumption site organized by Overdose Prevention Ottawa. She is a powerful advocate and a necessary rational voice for sensible drug policy. Trust me, you will want to listen to this one.

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Its back to school and we offer our advice to new law students - but it really applies to just about every one.  The short version - don't be a dick. But before we tell you how to succeed in school we break down the Liberals' marijuana legislation - Bill C-45. There is some promise in Bill C-45 but there are also serious flaws and room for improvement. The Legalization bill does not go far enough in removing marijuana from the Criminal Code and this failing diminishes the bill’s potentially positive results. Bill C-45 is an unnecessary complex piece of legislation that leaves intact the criminalization of marijuana in many circumstances. Canadian drug policy and legislation is in need of reform. The war on drugs has been a complete and abject failure. The social and financial cost of marijuana (and all drug) criminalization outweighs any illusory benefit. Every year, scores of young men and women are killed over relatively small amounts of marijuana — killed because marijuana is illegal, making it the focus of a vastly profitable and violent black market. Bill C-45 may limit, but it does not end this problem. Even worse Bill C-45 continues marijuana criminalization in many circumstances and imposes unreasonable penalties on a relatively low-risk vice. In the real world, a drug record means limited employment opportunities, travel difficulties, and many other devastating collateral consequences. So there are big issues - head over to the blog at michaelspratt.com to read more.

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This episode we are joined by Ian Bishfield - Executive Director of the @BCHumanist, @bccla board member, and the left half of @PolitiCoastPod.  First we nerd out about British Columbia politics and then we talk about the strange case of Trinity Western University and the Supreme Court of Canada.   We talked about the Ontario Court of Appeal's decision a few months ago - can the Law Society of Upper Canada refuse to accredit a law school with discriminatory and homophobic policies - the Ontario Court of Appeal says YES.  But controversy erupted before the Supreme Court heard any arguments when Justice Wagner denied intervenor status to groups representing the LGBTQ perspective (Wagner gave the thumbs up to religious groups). The the chief justice reversed his decision, and then the Supreme Court issued a press release, and then Wagner spilled his guts to the Globe and Mail. It was a rather strange affair and perhaps a rare glimpse into some politics at Canada's highest court.

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Erin O'Toole on Omar Khadr

Aug 4th, 201757:48

First thing first.  Go back and listed to episode 59 for your Omar Khadr primer.   Conservative member of parliament Erin O'Toole was one person who listened and he had some stuff to say about the episode.  So we invited him on the podcast to discuss it. O'Toole has been one of the Conservatives' lead critics of Justin Trudeau's 10.5 million dollar settlement with the polarizing Khadr.  O'Toole is also a fellow Dalhousie law school grad and a pretty smart guy. So we jump into the legal weeds on this one and break out some Latin Maxims and Supreme Court of Canada case law. Interesting debates are never easy. So put on your thinking caps and buckle up.

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Omar Khadr

Jul 17th, 20171:24:01

Before we jump into the heavy stuff lets look at something fun.   Brendan Richmond's Canadian comedy song "Out For a Rip" went viral in 2013 raking up over 12 million views, but this Canada Day he was shocked to find his trademarked catchphrase on the side of Coca-Cola bottles. So he lawyered up and released a followup song, titled "Out for a Sip" which doubles as the best legal demand rap video ever made. Then onto the heavy stuff. There has been so much misinformation surrounding the Canadian Government's settlement with Omar Khadr.  We break it down to separate the truth from the spin.  Does the Charter apply outside Canada? Was Khadr tortured? What exactly did the Supreme Court find in 2008 and 2010? And is 10.5 million dollars appropriate compensation? Time to fact check what the politicians and political pundits are saying.

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Last month, after 28 years on the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin announced her retirement. She was first appointed to the court by Brian Mulroney in 1989 - when we were still in grade school. McLachlin also holds the record as the longest serving chief justice (she was elevated to chief justice by Paul Martin in 2000).  McLachin won't be easily replaced - her accomplishments were unparalleled. So who will Trudeau appoint as her replacement and who will be named as the new chief justice? This week we discuss, speculate, and dissect the possibilities for Canada's top court. And more court delays. This time its the Senate who weighed in on the issue with the release of a massive report on the issue. We evaluate the Senate's top recommendations - thumbs up or thumbs down.

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Remanding the Victim

Jun 8th, 20171:09:31

This week the CBC's Janice Johnston shed light on a horrifying courtroom injustice - the victim on a brutal sexual assault was remanded into custody because she had difficulty answering questions. The victim was a vulnerable indigenous woman. She had committed no crime. She showed up to court. But she found herself in jail - beside the man who attacked her.  The accused - Lance Blanchard - was convicted of his crimes but there can be no justice for the victim of his offence. This week we take a look at this tragic and horrible situation. We also take a look at the justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould's new bill to 'modernize' the criminal code. The bill is numbered C-51 (not that C-51) and it is again a half hearted attempt to reform the justice system by grabbing the lowest of the low hanging fruit. Oh - there is also a major change to sexual assault law in the bill that is probably unconstitutional - but the Liberals were not really talking about that. Is C-51 another missed opportunity for the justice reform we were promised - the short answer is yes.

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JJJ: Juries, Judgements, and Jails

Jun 2nd, 201753:16

Do we really want to know how the sausage is made? This week we take a look at juries. We trust 12 non-legal experts to pass judgement on the most serious criminal charges. But we have no idea who they are, they don't explain their decisions, and its a criminal offence to ask them about their deliberations. Is it time to rethink trial by jury? Then we look at Judges. Judges are required to provide reasons. When they don't there is trouble. We take a look at the Ontario Court of Appeal's decisions R. v. Sliwka - a case where the judge never provided reasons for her decision. Last up - failed correctional policy. Ontario want's to build some new jails. It is a horrible idea - because the government will screw it up. It always does. Building new bigger is nothing to be proud of. It is an admission of failure.

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Pot Politics

Apr 18th, 20171:22:10

Emilie Taman returns!  This week we talk about the Liberal government's new marijuana legislation. But it is not just pot that gets a legislative makeover.  The government has adopted the contents of an old Conservative bill that will radically change alcohol impaired driving.  We also dive into some Jordan fall out - what is the government doing about court delays? Is it really a problem - turns out maybe not.  Is the Supreme Court's Jordan decision being used as a criminal justice Trojan horse? All that and so so much more....

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With Emilie on campaign trial award winning blogger and friend of the podcast Anne-Marie McElroy jumps into the void. We chat about the ill-informed political push to eliminate the preliminary hearing to speed up trials. Then Emilie stops by to confront her temporary replacement. Then we move on to more politics and the justice system - this time the Conservatives be all Conservative and misrepresent some facts about the justice system. The cases is graphic and tragic - Vincent Li beheaded a man on a bus. He was found to be not criminally responsible due to his mental health issues and 10 years later was found to not pose a risk to the public.  But the Conservative omitted those details from their talking points.  The Liberals and Justin Trudeau also neglect to talk about important mental health issues - so we did. Finally we discuss collect call rates in our jails - in a word they are the most price gougiest rates that ever gouged a price.

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The Future of Canada

Feb 13th, 20171:20:21

A very Special episode this week. The awesome Emilie Taman is running for the NDP in the soon-to-be announced federal by-election in Ottawa-Vanier. Emilie will be a fantastic member of parliament. Lets start with the obvious: she is super smart, hard working, principled, and deeply committed to justice and fairness.  But I think most importantly she is a consensus builder who makes instant connections with everyone she meets - she always makes the right decision for the right reason. In a climate of political cynicism and broken promises Emilie is exactly with our parliament needs. Last week Emilie and Louise Arbour (yes - former Supreme Court judge, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and friend of the podcast) sat down with a roomful of students from Ottawa University to talk about some really important issues: electoral reform, the vibrancy of our democracy, feminism, the environment, immigration, and the refugee crisis. It was fantastic. And I was there to recorded it.

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To open 2017 we recorded our first episode in front of a live studio audience at the University of Ottawa and its all about plea bargains. Plea bargains have turned into a bit of a dirty word. The public is often concerned about what can be perceived as a deal with the devil. But in reality plea bargains are often more unfair to an accused than to the state. The power imbalance between the machinery of the justice system and a single accused can be overwhelming. Often guilty pleas are far from voluntary - an innocent accused may be tempted to take a plea deal to avoid minimum sentence, to get out of hellish jail conditions, or to be reunited with their families. Plea bargaining is an ethical quagmire for both prosecutors and defence lawyers. So lets shine some light into a dark corner of the justice system and talk about it.

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This week we sat down with Renu Mandhane - the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission to talk about... well.... human rights. Renu Mundane and the Human Rights Commission have been a leading voice against the deeply troubling practices of solitary confinement and racial profiling. Mandhane and the Commission exposed the horrific case of Adam Capay - a young native man who spend over 4 years in solitary confinement. They were also instrumental in the Ottawa Police Services' Traffic Stop Race Data Project - which showed that the Ottawa police were stopping visible minorities at a disproportional rate (and for no reason). Mandhane is articulate, passionate, intelegent, and a fierce advocate - in other words our kind of people.

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The Government in your Bedroom

Nov 29th, 201649:13

Today we talk about the CSIS data spying and lying to the court, the RCMP's power grab, and anal intercourse... yep the government in your bedroom. The Federal Court slammed CSIS for retaining massive amount of information secretly obtained from people who are not suspected of committing any crime. Big bother is watching - read the courts decision here. - and - The RCMP wants even more power and is using the media to scare Canadian's into handing over that power. I wrote about it for iPolitics. - and - Anal intercourse. It is illegal in Canada - well not really - but it is still in the Criminal Code. The Liberals plan to repeal the unconstitutional law - but it is the lowest hanging fruit. We wonder why the Liberal government is lacking leadership when it comes to Criminal Code reforms.

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Canada has a new Supreme Court judge - his name is Malcolm Rowe and he seems pretty adorable. He is also an old white guy and his appointment was not without some controversy. The Liberal government has talked about a new era of transparency in the appointment process but all seemed more like a dog and pony show. Emilie was there to watch it all go down. In less awesome - but totally not surprising news - the Ottawa police are racist. Well they might just be systemically racist - but that is still pretty bad. Worse was the official response to a new study showing that visible minorities are pulled over more than their white counterparts - usually for no reason. We check out the study and throw some shade. In even less awesome news it turns out that Canadian jails are torturing inmates. They call it 'segregation' - 1,500 days alone, in a small jail cell, with the lights on a 24 hours a day - so ya - its torture. We check in on the troubling and heartbreaking case of Adam Capay. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

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It has been a long time. Let's catch up: a new house, a new job, a day at Parliament Hill - oh and we put together too much IKEA furnature. No better time to discuss two strange local cases: an accused who seems to literally shit gold and the micro penis defence. We also break down the new Liberal legislation that will roll back the prior Conservative government's changes to the victim fine surcharge. The Conservatives made the surcharge mandatory. The Liberal's bill restores the judge's discretion to impose a fair surcharge - no more bad breaking fines for the homeless. A simple legislative change..... that took a year.

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On September 15, 2016 an Alberta judge found Travis Vader guilty of the second degree murder of retired couple Lyle and Marie MaCann. Then the internet blew up - at least the legal corner that I live in. The verdict was televised - a controversial rarity in Canadian courts - and on live TV the judge made a massive mistake. Vader was found guilty based on a criminal law that has been unconstitutional and of no force or effect for a quarter century. This week we discuss the Vader verdict and the glaring judicial error. We also dive into the issue of cameras in court and throw some shade at the government for leaving zombie laws on the books. Law, Politics, and Murder - oh my!

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Desmond Cole! The man needs no introduction - journalist, social activist, and civil rights crusader. Desmond Cole, author of the Toronto Life cover story “The Skin I’m In” about police discrimination against black men, won the National Magazine Award's Gold medal for Best New Magazine Writer. He has a bi-weekly column in the Toronto Star and a weekly radio show on News Talk 1010. Desmond was also the inaugural co-host CanadaLand Commons. So in the wake of yet another high profile death of a black man at the hands of the police - this time in Ottawa - we sat down to talk with Desmond about police accountability and transparency. In late July Abdirahman Abdi died in police custody. According to eye witnesses police beat a hand cuffed Abdi and stood by as he died face down in a pool of his own blood. The police did not administer CPR - instead they tried to confiscate cell phones from bystanders who were taking video. Abdi was unaramed. He was also black. Ottawa's mayor Jim Watson remaned silent for 48 hours (he was on vacation). And since then the mayor has attracted justifiable criticism for backing the police and shouting down those who demand increased police accountability and transparency. So there was a lot to talk about.

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Senator Baker Returns

Aug 29th, 20161:10:36

Senator Baker returns to talk about the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs' interim report: Delaying Justice is Denying Justice: An urgent need to address lengthy court delays in Canada. There is a problem with delays in the criminal justice system. Delayed cases harm: the innocent, victims, the community, and the quality of justice - memories fade, the innocent languish in jail, and victims are denied legal closure. So ya - delays are bad. The Senate's interim report identifies problems and more importantly looks for solutions. Senator Baker walks us through the findings. Oh - Senator Baker also flatters me and basically volunteers to be a reference for a judicial application. But seriously there is not a more knowledgable, intelligent, passionate, and affable person than Senator Baker. Emilie and I also talk about some other stuff too - but seriously - it is all about Baker!

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There was so much to talk about we imposed time allocation - 10 minutes per topic. Breaking Making a Murderer news - a Wisconsin appeal court has just ordered a new trial in the Brendan Dassey case. Check out the full decision here and stay tuned for a full episode on this crazy decision! This episode we take a quick look at four topics: the new Supreme Court Appointment process, two recent terrorism cases, the sentencing of Toronto police officer James Forcilo for the shooting death of Sammy Yatim, and the Ottawa case of Abdirahman Abdi who died while in police custody.

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Pokémon Go and Speedy Trials

Jul 20th, 20161:00:07

Pokémon! Yes - there is a way to talk about Pokémon Go! on a legal podcast. Its not just click bate. Emilie and I also talk about our West Wing rewatch and minimum minimum jail sentences. We hate mandatory minimums and it turns out so did the Bartlet administration. We save real life for last. There was a new Supreme Court of Canada decision released all about the constitutional right to a speedy trial. We chat about R. v. Jordan and a brief history of section 11(b) of the Charter. It is more fun than it sounds - we even disagree a bit for once!

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This week Emilie and sift through the legal and political news of the day and discuss a few topics: Penile Swabs, Cyber Bullying, Trinity Western, and the Ezekiel Stephan sentencing. The Supreme Court of Canada found that police have the power (without a warrant or any prior authorization) to take penile swabs from suspects - by force if necessary. In our view it is a problematic decision with far reaching privacy implications. We also discuss the case of Amanda Todd after a Dutch court ruled that a man suspected of cyberbullying the B.C. teen before she took her own life can be extradited to face trial in Canada. And by discuss I mean we totally steal the topic (and some audio) from Jesse Brown's podcast CanadaLand. Then we move on to the Trinity Western case. Can the Law Society of Upper Canada refuse to accredit a law school with discriminatory and homophobic policies - the Ontario Court of Appeal says YES. Finally we wrap up our look at the Ezekiel Stephan case. Ezekiel's parents were sentenced and one of them escaped jail - but maybe both should have.

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Dean Strang

Jun 27th, 201655:43

This week Emilie and I jumped back into Marking A Murderer and gave one of Steven Avery's lawyers Dean Strang a call. Of course we chat about the Netflix documentary but we also talk about Dean and Jerry Buting's speaking tour, women in the legal profession, gun control, and much much more... Hey Ken Kratz - give us a call?

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Kim Pate

Jun 17th, 20161:13:20

This week Emilie and I sat down for a chat about jail and justice with Kim Pate. Kim is the executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies. She is was named a Member of the Order of Canada for her work on behalf of women who are marginalized, victimized or incarcerated. In short - she is awesome.

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Making a Murderer Road Trip

Jun 12th, 201620:32

A bit of a short but special episode this week. I was invited to moderate to Toronto stop of Dean Strang and Jerry Buting's speaking tour - A Conversation on Justice. Ya - that Stang and Buting - from the super popular Nexflix Documentary Making A Murderer. So Emilie and I ditched the kids and hopped a train to Toronto for the weekend. It was a fantastic weekend: a crazy hotel upgrade, a packed Sony theatre, a good conversation, and a promise from Strang to do what Buting did earlier this year - come on the podcast! Emilie and I break down the weekend and share a couple audio clips we smuggled out of the Sony theatre.

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This week Emilie and I catch up on the last two weeks. She was in China and I kept the kids alive. I also wrote an open letter to Ottawa's Chief of Police about some shocking behaviour by the local cops and then wrote about issues I had with a report on major problems at the Ottawa jail. But then we dive into the really important and complex issue of medical assistance in dying, the Supreme Court's unanimous decision in Carter, and the government's legislative response - bill C-14. There are some real problems with the Liberal's new bill. The Alberta Court of Appeal and the Ontario Superior Court both indirectly questioned the constitutionality of bill C-14. The legislation is now before the Senate and Emilie and I reflect on the first day of testimony - including some serious questions raised by constitutional scholar Peter Hogg. So we sort of nerd out a bit.... Fun.

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This week Emilie and I were joined by Liberal MP for Beaches—East York Nathaniel Erskine-Smith to talk about his private members bill designed to reform some of Canada's animal cruelty laws. Of course we also could not resist talking about marijuana and a couple other justice issues. Erskine-Smith has a law degree and a masters in political philosophy and constitutional law. He has worked at litigation firms and spent time volunteering for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. He has been an outspoken critic of his own party's drug policy and raised concerns about the Liberal's assisted-dying legislation. There has been some misleading criticism of Erskine-Smith's animal justice bill - including by the Liberal parliamentry secretary to the Minister of Justice Bill Blair. Bottom line - it is a really interesting bill and we had a very thought provoking discussion.

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This week Emilie and I dive into two cases and then take aim at former Justice Minister Peter MacKay. First After almost two and a half years in jail Connie Oakes is a free woman. Last month the Alberta Court of Appeal over turned Oakes' conviction and the Crown declined to re-prosocute. The case bears some similarities to the convictions documented in Making a Murderer - tunnel vision, questionable confessions, and lives destroyed. Second On April 26th David Stephan and Collet were convicted of failing to provided the necessities of life in the death of their 19-month-old son Ezekiel. How far can the criminal law stretch into parenting and what sentence might the Alberta couple receive. Last Peter MacKay defended the Conservative government's tough on crime legacy and wrote some other dumb stuff in a National Post op-ed. Emilie and I talk about it and throw up a little in our mouths.....

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Duffy Not Guilty!

Apr 29th, 20161:18:45

This week Emilie and I almost made it through the whole Duffy decisions - almost. Spoiler alert - Mike Duffy was found not guilty of all charges last week. The decision was long, and a bit confusing, and really long. So we dragged back peter Sankoff back on the show to talk about the 'ol Duff and help us understand what happened Peter Sankoff is a Professor at the University of Alberta, Faculty of Law. He concentrates his teaching and research on legal issues surrounding the criminal trial process. Sankoff is also a bit of a Duffy expert and has written two great papers on the trial: The Worst $90,000 Ever Spent: 10 Questions About Mike Duffy, Nigel Wright, the Criminal Code and the Canadian Criminal Justice System and the follow-up: Still The Worst $90,000 Ever Spent: 10 More Questions About Mike Duffy, Nigel Wright, the Criminal Code and the Canadian Criminal Justice System

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This week Emilie and I phoned it in - we called former Supreme Court Judge and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour to talk about last weeks United Nations General Assembly Special session on the drug problem. Canada will legalize marijuana in 2017 but there may be some problems with our international obligations. What are the road blocks and what went down last week at the UN - i guess you gotta listen to find out. Oh - you will also find out one of my top ten fears.

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This week we talked with Rob Boyd director of the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre's Oasis program. The Sandy Hill Community Health Centre provides medical and social services for people living with HIV and/or hepatitis C, and who encounter barriers to services because they use street drugs, have a mental illness, are homeless or are involved in the sex trade. The Centre is also in the process of conducting community consultations in support of an application to operate a supervised injection site in Ottawa. As you may expect there has been some controversy about the proposed injection site - but Rob breaks it down and makes a very compelling case. So.... something happened with the audio of the last 10 minutes of our interview with Rob. Not sure what - maybe when the Mail Chip money starts rolling in we can do better. We also chat about the latest Supreme Court case striking down a Conservative minimum sentence for drug trafficking. Yep - another cruel and unusual law bites the dust.

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What the hell is happening at the Dickensian hell scape otherwise known at the Ottawa Jail? Prisoners locked in the shower, women inmates spending 22 hours in solitary because the is no room anywhere else, oh and a guy died there too. Seriously it is bad. Then we stumble about talking about privacy. On a recent re-watch of The West Wing we were struck by a 15 year old line by Rob Lowe's character Sam Seaborne - so we talk about how not far we have come since then.

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Rap, Bail, and Power

Mar 24th, 201652:53

This week we talk about the prejudicial impact of admitting rap lyrics in court. It seems to happen too often in Canada. Why? Check out Windsor law professor David Tanovich's paper: R v Campbell: Rethinking the Admissibility of Rap Lyrics in Criminal Cases. And then on to bail. An Ottawa Justice of the Peace wrote a scathing indictment of Canada's bail system. In her words - its a disgrace. It may be true but was it appropriate. Then I tell a story.

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Michael Spratt and Emilie Taman feed your brain and discuss the most burning political and legal issues. This week: dive into the unique issues that woman face in practicing criminal law, lament the correctional investigators report on Canada's deplorable jail conditions, and then talk about the latest unconstitutional marijuana law.

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This week: Drugs, Sex, and Ice Holes. There are lots of questions about the Liberal government's position on pot. Yes we know - they are going to get to work legalizing it 'right away' - but right away may be longer than you think. And what happens in the mean time? The Liberal pot car - Bill Blair - acknowledges that over 22,000 people were arrested in 2014 over small amounts of pot and that a disproportionate number of these people were visible minorities and that prosecuting pot is expensive and that criminal records are of pot are harmful - but he refuses to take any action to mitigate these wrongs. We also talk about the insane history of the criminalization of homosexuality in Canada and one very tragic case. And finally we talk about some of the insane criminal laws on the books in Canada - keep your ice holes covered, don't steal oysters, and put away your comic books.

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Ottawa lawyers Michael Spratt and Emilie Taman discuss Netflix super popular docu-series Making a Murderer one episode at a time. So, this is the end for now - Making a Murderer Season 2 anyone? Steven Avery may have found a new girlfriend but he has exhausted all his avenues of appeal and is now acting as his own lawyer. Brendan Dassey's case has moved to Federal Court where his awesome new lawyers Laura Nirider and Steven Drizin appear ready decimate the State on appeal. Oh and Ken Kratz is a sex addict. And with that we are done with the episode by episode Making A Murderer review - there will be more. You have not heard the last from Emilie Taman and Michael Spratt.

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Ottawa lawyers Michael Spratt and Emilie Taman discuss Netflix super popular docu-series Making a Murderer one episode at a time. In episode 9 the focus of Making a Murderer shifts from Steven Avery to Brendan Dassey. The lawyers are different, the trial is different, the issues are different - but the result is sadly the same. Dassey's' trial focusses on his confession. Why would an innocent man confess to a crime he did not commit? The answer - the Reid technique - a police tool that is good at getting a confession, not the truth. Let's just say we are less than impressed.

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Ottawa lawyers Michael Spratt and Emilie Taman and special guest Carissima Mathen discuss Netflix super popular docu-series Making a Murderer one episode at a time. So, Episode 8 is where Steven Avery is acquitted and all charges against Brandon are dropped - right? Oh yah - it is the exact opposite. This episode we are joined by Carissima Mathen - law professor at the University of Ottawa and an expert in the Constitution of Canada, criminal law and U.S. Constitutional Law. We chat about some Canadian/American differences - jurors can talk about deliberations? the judge's closing charge was 14 pages? And seriously - lawyers look so much cooler in vests, gowns, and tabs! Follow Carissima on twitter: @cmathen

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Ottawa lawyers Michael Spratt and Emilie Taman discuss Netflix super popular docu-series Making a Murderer one episode at a time. Keys, Blood, and EDTA - Oh my! As Steven Avery's trial draws to a close the defence team points a spotlight on the police. Why was the Manitowoc police department involved in the search of the Avery residence given the conflict of interest? Why does the dynamic due of Lenk and Colborn keep finding importance evidence? How come no one in Manitowoc police department knows how to take notes? The prosecution is offended by the defences 'dastardly' tactics. Blood experts battle it out in court. Oh and also since when did it become appropriate to wear fake moustaches in court?

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Ottawa lawyers Michael Spratt and Emilie Taman and special guest former Supreme Court judge and UN high commissioner Louise Arbour discuss Netflix super popular docu-series Making a Murderer one episode at a time. Canadian content! This episode we were lucky enough to chat with forensic anthropologist Scott Fairgrieve. Yep - Steven Avery's expert bone burning defence witness from episode 6! Dr. Fairgrieve is the Chair of the department of forensic science at Laurentian University; director of the forensic osteology laboratory; forensic anthropology consultant to the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario - in other words an expert. Fairgrieve went head to head with the prosecution expert Dr. Eisenberg and in our opinion won the logic battle. Fairgrieve dishes some inside info, comments on the US court system, and explains the science of a human body burns. A wholesome good time!

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This week we were joined by Tony Spears and Matt Day to debrief on Making A Murderer Episode 6. Matt and Tony are both awesome reporters who have worked the court and crime beat in Ottawa. It turns out it was a great episode to have Tony and Matt drop by because the media played a huge role in episode 6. The press cross-examined the prosecution, dissected DNA evidence, and asked many of the questions that were on our minds. I mean lets face it - Episode 6 is the best. The defence destroys it in court, the prosecution does their best to prejudice Steven Avery through endless press conferences, and scientific experts battle it out under oath - how can that not be the best! So lets get to it.

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This week - Bonus time - we skipped watching an episode today and decided to talk to Jerry Buting. Ya, the guy who the internet made into a Simpsons character - he was also one-half of Steven Avery's defence team. In other words a fearless, passionate, and super smart defence lawyer. So it was awesome to be able to talk with him. Jerry was fantastically accommodating and generous with his time - especially since we asked him for 15 minutes and then talked for almost an hour. Maybe Len Kachinsky next...... maybe not.

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Alright! It’s time to sit back and talk about Episode 5 of Netflix's super popular docu-series Marking a Murderer. This week we are again joined by special guest, former Supreme Court of Canada judge and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour. And we finally get into the courtroom. The prosecution does a 180 on Brandon Dassey's evidence - despite the fact they have been trumpeting Dassey's statements as proof of Avery's guilt in public, in court (where it can actually be tested by the defence) the prosecution intends to bury it. After all, the damage to Avery's presumption of innocence has already been done. Meanwhile, the defence begins to sow the seeds of police misconduct that have the potential to call into question the entire investigation. The prosecution whines, the judge tries to shut down the defence and the wheels of a potential wrongful conviction really start to turn. Ugh!

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An unexpected confession casts doubt on Steven's role in the murder case, but the new suspect gives conflicting accounts of what occurred - oh and we are introduced to one of the worst criminal defence lawyers ever - Len Kachinsky. Kachinsky speaks to the media and opines that Brandan Dassey, his client, is 'morally and legally responsible' and public suggests a plea deal - all befor speaking Brandan. Meanwhile Steven Avery's lawyers wrestle with the ethical dilemma of how to deal with Kachinsky's incompetence. After Dassey's confession is inexplicably admitted into evidence Kachinsky extracts a confession from his own client and fights against Brandan's request for a new lawyer who believes in him. The prosecution says some crazy shit, the media foams at the mouth, and new questions are raised about possible police misconduct. So just a typical day in Manitowoc Wisconsin.

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Things seemed to be going Steven Avery's way until they weren't. After 18 years in jail Avery's case was the driving force behind much need justice reform, the State was going to introducing a bill to compensate him for his wrongful conviction, and Avery's civil lawsuit against Manitowoc County and the police was gaining momentum. But when Avery becomes the main suspect in Teresa Halbach disappearance those who had supported him the most began to question his innocence. Avery's life is thrown into chaos when he is charged with Halbach murder. His guilt is presumed even by his closest allies, his civil suit collapses and the wheels of a potential wrongful conviction begin to turn, again. Episode 3 of Netflix's Making a Murderer raises important questions about the erosion of the presumption of innocence, the disparity between the rich and the poor, the necessity of expert legal counsel, and the police and prosecution's role in poisoning the fairness of the trial process through the media. This week we are joined again by special guest, former Supreme Court Justice and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour (who shares a personal story about potential police misconduct). So a former judge, a defence lawyer, and former prosecutor - the dream team together again!

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Just as things seem to be going his way, Avery finds himself at the centre of yet another criminal investigation in which he adamantly maintains his innocence. We’ll explore how the investigation was flawed from the start; how it’s clear that notwithstanding near irrefutable evidence of Avery’s innocence of the Beernsten assault, the Manitowoc County police still clearly viewed him as a violent criminal; how at best tunnel vision set in for a second time, or at worst the seeds of a second miscarriage of justice were deliberately sown.

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Episode One of Making a Murderer tells the story of Steven Avery’s wrongful conviction for the brutal 1985 sexual assault of Penny Beernsten. An incontrovertible miscarriage of justice, Avery’s conviction led to his incarceration for 18 years before he was conclusively exonerated by DNA evidence and released. Avery’s 18 year-long saga, which could stand alone as a story worth documenting, is just the back story for what was to come as set out in the subsequent nine episodes.

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Michael Spratt, Naomi Sayers, and Anne-Marie McElroy talk about the reporting of sexual assaults and violence against woman, the push to change the rules in court, and Netflix's Making a Murderer

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This week I sat down with Gib Van Ert executive legal officer of the Supreme Court to talk about Star Wars and the law. In truth it is mostly just us geeking our about Star Wars: The Force Awakens - make it so.

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With the Duffy Trial set to resume this month there is no better time to chat with criminal law professor and Duffy expert Peter Sankoff. Will Duffy testify? Will he win? What can we learn from the who cluster-duff? We almost get to the bottom of it all.

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This week Leo Russomanno and Michael Spratt talk with Mark Bourrie, author of the best selling book Kill the Messengers: Stephen Harper’s Assault on Your Right to Know.

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The Docket - Episode 12: Carding

Jul 31st, 201558:18

Carding has been described by Toronto Mayor John Tory as an "illegitimate" and "disrespectful". The issue in Ottawa has been met with shameful silence.

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This week Leo and I sat down with Lee Chapelle. Lee served 22 years in prison. He beat the odds and despite the deplorable state of our prison system he turned his life around. Today Lee helps offenders reintegrate into society and provides assistance to individuals who are facing jail time. In today's political environment of parole reform based on electioneering Lee is a necessary voice. Lee tells it like it is - he literally knows the system inside and out. We talk jail myths and realities, the current sate of the jail system, and why government gets jail policy so wrong.

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Courthouses are unpredictable work places but Tony Spears seems to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. From murders to 'willy wager' Tony Spears has seen it all.

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Vice's parliamentary report Justin Ling drops by to discuss life on the Hill and the Conservatives' new terrorism legislation - Bill C-51

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