INTERVIEW

'Bernardo and I talk about what’s in the news, or he makes some scatological remark about what's happened to Karla’

PAUL BERNARDO’S DEFENCE LAWYER TONY BRYANT TALKS WITH KATE FILLION ABOUT THE BACKGROUND TO HIS CLIENT’S VIDEO INTERVIEW

June 30 2008
INTERVIEW

'Bernardo and I talk about what’s in the news, or he makes some scatological remark about what's happened to Karla’

PAUL BERNARDO’S DEFENCE LAWYER TONY BRYANT TALKS WITH KATE FILLION ABOUT THE BACKGROUND TO HIS CLIENT’S VIDEO INTERVIEW

June 30 2008

'Bernardo and I talk about what’s in the news, or he makes some scatological remark about what's happened to Karla’

INTERVIEW

PAUL BERNARDO’S DEFENCE LAWYER TONY BRYANT TALKS WITH KATE FILLION ABOUT THE BACKGROUND TO HIS CLIENT’S VIDEO INTERVIEW

Q You’ve represented Paul Bernardo for 14 years. Is that typical? A: It’s a bit unusual in that he’s not a recidivist. It’s not uncommon to represent an individual who keeps coming back to you because he keeps getting in trouble.

Q: How does he pay you?

A: He doesn’t. I haven’t been paid for a long time.

Q: Usually when you think of a lawyer doing pro bono work, it’s for the impoverished, not for a monster.

A: Well, nobody’s going to pay me, and I believe that every person’s entided to have someone speak on their behalf. I make myself available to all my clients who’ve been convicted. I don’t think that just because the money has stopped coming in, that cancels the relationship.

Q: What kind of relationship do you have with Bernardo?

A: I’m sort of the guy he can call and shoot the breeze with for five or 10 minutes, because there are not many people he’s speaking to. We talk about something in the news, or he makes some scatological remark about what’s happened to Karla [Homolka, his ex-wife and partner in crime]. He might call every six months, depends what’s going on. Sometimes he just wants to say hello.

Q: Do you like him?

A: That’s really tough. The best way to answer is simply to say that a proper balance

has always been maintained. He’s never asked me to do anything inappropriate. He is polite, he is respectful, he is appreciative of my time— that’s three more attributes than most clients. I would have no hesitation shaking his hand. But taking it to a social level? No, that hasn’t happened and it never will.

Q: Do you ever feel sickened when you hear his voice?

A: No. Look, I represent bad people, or persons who are alleged to be bad. That’s my job. Many counsel are representing a scumbag dragged in off the streets, who stinks and has beaten the crap out of somebody. But those people need the help of a dedicated lawyer willing to step up to the plate and make sure the process is as fair as we can possibly make it. I do not lose a minute’s worth of sleep if I think that a client has been fairly convicted. Paul Bernardo’s been convicted of horrific offences, and I have no doubt whatsoever that he was guilty of seven of the nine charges on the indictment, the sexual assaults and the indignities committed to the bodies of the girls. Those were offences we acknowledged. The question was whether he was primarily responsible for killing Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy. We were hoping he might be found guilty of second degree murder, but the jury ruled differently. I said then and I still believe that Karla Homolka was primarily responsible for those killings.

Q: There’s speculation that Bernardo, not Robert Baltovich, killed Elizabeth Bain after

she disappeared in 1990. Did he readily agree to be interviewed by police last year, video footage of which is now on the Internet?

A: There have been efforts to interview him with respect to that matter for years. His initial position was “I don’t see why I should give a statement, they’ve never done anything for me.”

Q: What did he want?

A: I assume he was seeking some very modest efforts on the part of the authorities to provide him with a bit more internal freedom at the Kingston Penitentiary. It’s right out of the movies, Kingston: it’s dark, there are enormously high çeilings, and these ranges of prisoners are stacked right on top of each other, opening onto a common space. Bernardo’s cell is on the ground floor. The people on the top level can launch something at the guard station, which consequently has a Plexiglas shield, it looks like a semi-Quonset hut. He’s locked up 23 hours every day. It’s what they call solitary, but certainly he can hear other inmates, there are presumably guys mopping in front of his cell on occasion. A while back, actually, a prisoner tried to poke him through the bars with a broomstick. I think they put up a piece of Plexiglas. But he’s not allowed out of his cell with other prisoners.

Q: For his own protection?

A: That’s their perspective. But he doesn’t get a vote, he doesn’t get to say, “I’m prepared to waive liability if something happens to me in the general population.”

Q: Wouldn’t he be a marked man?

A: He certainly would’ve been initially, but he’s been there 14 years and never been able to take one course, nothing’s offered to him that is offered to the general population. He’s indicated he would like to take some programs, I don’t think he particularly cares at this juncture what they are. [Currently] he’s allowed magazines and newspapers, books, that’s pretty much it. He doesn’t have access to the Internet. He is very limited—appropriately so, in the opinion of most Canadians.

Q: He told police he knows nothing about Elizabeth Barn’s disappearance. Do you trust him?

AI don’t know whether my opinion is worth any more than anybody else’s. There’s not one word in his file— which is huge, 150 bankers’ boxes at one point—suggesting he is guilty of that crime. And when you look at what [Baltovich’s lawyers] collected, it really didn’t amount to much. It sure looks suspicious that you’ve got this one guy committing all these sexual assaults at the exact same time, attending the same school [as Bain], and a number of other coincidences, but you couldn’t possibly expect any jury in Canada to convict Paul Bernardo based on that. There’s no evidence.

Q: Why then did he say in the interview, “the 800-lb. gorilla in the room” is that a confession would mean a sentence of 25 years to life?

A: I didn’t understand it then and I’m not sure I understand it now. He went into that interview with an agenda, no question. The nature of Paul Bernardo’s personality is that he can’t resist the opportunity, he wanted to get off his chest whatever was bugging him. That’s why he just goes off on a tangent and doesn’t answer the question directly. That is very like him.

Q: Why, in the interview, is he incensed about being called a liar by the police?

A: In 2006 he sent me a letter, it was a page and a half list of criminal activities he had committed [prior to incarceration] and some detail associated with each crime: a time frame, a location, maybe a brief description of the victim. He said, “Do with it what you will.” Subsequently, he was interviewed by police officers about some of the crimes. It turned out that another person had for whatever reason been pressured into pleading guilty to one crime, so there was a big investigation. There was also an investigation of an offence I thought had the most detail: time, place, circumstance and detail only the assailant could’ve known. But that investigation turned up nothing, and the police came back and said, “You’re lying.” So he’s angry:

“Why should I co-operate [with the Baltovich interview] if they’re calling me a liar?”

Q: “Liar” is minor compared to “rapist and murderer.”

A: There are a lot of persons who’ve committed those offences who have been released. After many, many years, and not at the end of their minimum sentence, but they’ve been released.

Q: He holds out hope he’ll be freed?

A: I don’t think there’s a person in custody who does not have some hope. I don’t think he’ll ever be released, because he’s continued to be Canada’s poster boy for evil.

Q: Has he changed over the past 14 years?

A: He is a pretty intelligent fellow, pretty well-educated, and he’s articulate when he wants to be. He has trouble staying focused, that has been a constant. And after he was sent down to Kingston, he put on quite a bit of weight, far too much, really. Now, he looks even thinner than at his trial. I don’t know what that demonstrates.

Q: On the video interview with police, he still seemed bitter about Karla.

A: He’s waxed and waned. When she was coming up for parole, I asked what he thought, and he said, “Well, it sucks.” No surprise: she’s out, he’s in.

Q: Do you know who he’s in touch with?

A: I’m reasonably confident he’s in touch with his family, and I know he has had contact with some people who perceive themselves to be quasi social workers. There was one, five or six years ago, who made the effort to go see him. I don’t know whether the purpose was to provide some ordinary social intercourse with someone on the outside, but it didn’t last long. It tends to be a flash in the pan, people basically want to add his name to their CV.

Q: He said in the video, “I made a mistake 17years ago. ’’Has he ever expressed contrition or remorse?

A: I believe he has. The problem is that given his psychiatric assessment, no one would be prepared to accept that he can even properly understand those concepts. It’s just contrary to the norms of a psychopath that you have such feelings. I need to choose my words carefully: I still think there are huge problems with respect to his understanding of the issues around the sexual assaults, the whole panoply of domination, mental distress, physical distress. I don’t think there’s any depth to his understanding. And of course he’s received no counselling, no nothing. So to whatever extent there could be a real change, it’s not happening.

Q: Do you feel tainted by association with him?

A: Damaged is a better word. I don’t think there’s any doubt that my spouse felt those

tapes [of Bernardo and Homolka’s assaults] were very damaging. There are only two other people who watched them more than I did, both police officers. In order to prepare for the cross-examination of Karla, to try to prove she was the killer, I had to examine the videos frame by frame. We were trying to find the time of day things were going on, trying to hear the radio in the background, anything that would assist us in pinpointing when a particular thing occurred and where she was. At the end of the trial, the associate chief justice told the jury, “We’ve made arrangements for you to have access to counselling”—also for the court staff and Crown attorneys. I’m looking at John Rosen [Bernardo’s lead lawyer at trial] and our legal assistant, thinking, Hey! That was never provided to us. Because we’re not worthy of it? That was surprising.

Q: Can you get those images out of your head?

A: One does one’s best to compartmentalize. But flashbacks come quite unexpectedly. And some of the images even from the tapes that aren’t considered the “bad ones” are chilling. They made a video in Hawaii and—I don’t think I can go to Hawaii. Karla delivers this soliloquy, talking about what a wonderful person he is, they’re starting their life together, and I’m going, “You just left a body encased in concrete back in St. Catharines.” She’s looking at this fabulous scenery, cavorting about. It haunts me. M

1A while back, actually, a prisoner tried to poke him through the bars with a broomstick1