The Case of The Beauty and the Boarder
WHEN young Antoine Rivard went to his father, the late Mr. Justice Adjutor Rivard, and told him that he had decided to handle a murder case, the elder Rivard was shocked. The 104-year-old law firm of Rivard, Blais and Gobeil had never handled a criminal case before.
“Very well, mon fils,” he finally said. “If that’s what you want to do go ahead, but you’ll find criminal law will keep you pretty busy.”
It has. Since that day in 192fi Antoine Rivard has handled almost 5,000 criminal cases. He has won fame as a stubborn and brilliant courtroom infighter who has lost only four of the 39 murder cases he has defended. His dramatic technique, his ability to win at the bell cases that looked hopelessly black for his clients, has earned him the title “the Perry Mason of Quebec.” He has also found time to give a daily lecture at Laval University and become the No. 2 mar in Quebec
politics. (As Ministre d'Etat he is actually a minister without portfolio; unofficially he is acting Attorney-General.)
Rivard seems to star in cases which call for almost superhuman efforts but which never lack the ingredients necessary to catch the interest of the sensation-seeking crowd.
Take, for instance, the “Case of the Beauty and the Boarder,” the amazing Gallop case of 1923. It is unlikely that Rivard will ever again encounter a greater challenge to his tenaciousness as a criminal lawyer than he did in this four-year struggle.
The principals in the case were a young, darkhaired beauty named Emily Gallop and her greying, middle-aged husband. They were a New Brunswick couple who did not get along very well, the main trouble being Gallop’s frequently voiced suspicions that his lovely young wife was unfaithful.
In an effort to straighten out their marriage and start life anew they moved to the Roberval district of Northern Quebec where Gallop got a job at the nearby Isle Maligne power development. They bought a house, took in a Canadien boarder to
help pay the mortgage, and settled down to live happily ever after.
But Emily Gallop was unpopular in Roberval from the start and rumors began to circulate in the little town on the shore of Lac St. Jean. It soon became common gossip that Emily and her boarder were lovers, and eventually the gossip reached the ears of Emily’s husband.
As resentment against Mrs. Gallop grew into open hostility, more than one of the townsfolk said it would serve her right if her husband killed her in one of the violent quarrels which had become a nightly attraction in the entertainment-starved little town.
Then one spring evening soon after eating supper Gallop was stricken with severe stomach cramps followed by convulsions. Emily phoned the doctor, and Gallop was rushed to the hospital. A few minutes later he was dead.
The town gossips were momentarily stunned. But when, the day after the funeral, Mrs. Gallop left for a holiday in New Brunswick, accompanied by her boarder, rumors Continued on page 48
Part Two of the Story of Antoine Rivard, Famous Criminal Lawyer
The Case of the Beauty and the Boarder
Continued from page 15
that there had been foul play were heard hundreds of miles away in Provincial Police headquarters in Quebec City.
In New Brunswick the dead man’s brother was also suspicious. The day after Gallop died he had received a large package in the mail from Mrs. Gallop. The package contained strychnine. In an accompanying note Emily explained that the poison was for a fur-hunting trip the Gallops planned to make to New Brunswick.
When Gallop’s brother opened the package he found the strychnine packed in 12 small sealed cartons of uniform size. He noticed that the seal on one of the boxes was broken; it was also lighter than the rest. He looked inside. It was half empty.
The day Emily arrived in New Brunswick her brother-in-law put in a long-distance call to the Quebec Provincial Police.
He Hits the Headlines
In Roberval the police talked to the doctor who had signed Gallop’s death certificate. He admitted that Gallop’s symptoms could have been caused by strychnine poisoning, but said that he had not been suspicious because he knew that for years Gallop had been suffering from stomach trouble.
That night the police quietly exhumed Gallop’s body for autopsy. Traces of strychnine were found in the stomach. The homicide squad traced the purchase of a large amount of strychnine on the day of the death to Mrs. Gallop.
The day after she and the boarder returned to Roberval, Emily Gallop was arrested and charged with the murder of her husband. At that point, Rivard, a young and untried lawyer, hundreds of miles away in Quebec City, entered the case.
It was certainly a baptism of fire for Rivard. He came up against two of the foremost crown prosecutors of that day— Lucien Cannon (later a
Superior Court justice), and Arthur Fitzpatrick (later a judge of the Sessions of the Peace), son of the late Sir Charles Fitzpatrick then a Supreme Court chief justice. But Rivard had the benefit of wise and experienced counsel for he was associated with Alleyn Taschereau, at that time Quebec’s leading criminal lawyer.
The trial of Emily Gallop was held in Roberval in the autumn of 1923 before a Canadien judge and jury. It lasted three weeks.
The highlight of the crown prosecutor’s case came when he put the Canadien boarder on the stand. The boarder admitted that he had been Emily’s lover and testified that the day before she was arrested she had told him in English, “The people around here talk too much. It looks like there’s going to be trouble because I poisoned my husband."
This development took Rivard by surprise, but even in those early days he had the ability to mask his feelings. With a great display of confidence he began his defense, the feature of which was the testimony of pretty Emily Gallop herself.
Rivard still refers to her as the best witness he ever put on the stand. “She was three whole, grueling days in the box,” he says, “and every minute of the time she was the perfect witness. She was sure of herself, never got upset, and was as easy to listen to as look at. She was never trapped or even ruffled by cross-questioning. And, most important, she had a plausible answer to everything.”
Emily Gallop readily admitted every fact the prosecution had brought out: her quarrels with her husband; her affair with the boarder; her purchase of the strychnine. She said she bought it to use on a hunting trip and admitted that before she had sent it on to her brother-in-law she had taken out some to kill rats.
When the prosecutor said he doubted very much if there were any rats in the Gallop house Rivard scored a point by calling a professional pest exterminator he had secretly sent to the house. The man produced eight rats which he swore he had trapped there.
Mrs. Gallop said that the Crown’s allegation that she had laced her hus-
band’s last supper with the rat poison was “just plain silly.” She explained that she had put the poison in a bottle and had placed the bottle in the bathroom cabinet. On the fatal night, she said, her husband had taken his regular dose of fruit salts for his bad stomach immediately after supper. She had inadvertently placed the bottle of poison beside the fruit salts bottle —which it closely resembled—and her husband must have taken the strychnine by mistake.
She had not thought of that at the time, she said, because she had thought her husband’s fatal attack was due to his old stomach ailment. She later had used the rest of the poison to kill rats but did not notice that any was missing. She had thrown the empty bottle into the garbage because she thought it would be dangerous to use again.
A Sentence Is Translated
Then Rivard asked her if she remembered the conversation described by the boarder.
“Yes, very well,” she replied. The jurors looked surprised.
“And did you say what he has quoted you as saying?” Rivard pressed.
“Yes, I said those words.” The crown prosecutor began to grin—until she added, “Only I did not say exactly what he says I said.”
“Then what exactly did you say?” Rivard asked. The jury leaned forward.
“I said, ‘The people around here talk too much. It looks like there’s going to be trouble because they say I poisoned my husband.’ ”
“Then how do you explain your boarder’s version?”
“Well, he’s French and neither speaks nor understands English well. 1 spoke in English and he either misunderstood me or missed the ‘they say.’ ”
“Then the whole affair of your husband’s death was just an unfortunate accident, and the boarder’s translation of your conversation just a natural mistake?”*
“Yes, it could have happened to anyone.”
There Rivard rested his case. He was convinced the verdict would be acquittal.
In his final remarks the judge instructed the jurors to pay particular attention to the boarder’s version of the conversation, which, if true, was a confession of murder by the defendant who, he pointed out, had admitted to the conversation and to the principal words quoted. Further, he made it clear that for his part he could not conceive how a Canadien who was well educated (the boarder had two years’ high school) and who knew and understood any English at all could possibly have missed or misunderstood the simple words “they say.” *
A Stuffed Rat in Court
It took the jury of Roberval citizens less than 10 minutes to find Emily Gallop guilty. She was sentenced to hang.
Rivard took the case to the Court of Appeals, charging that the judge’s remarks to the jury had been prejudiced against the defendant. The Appeal Court judges ordered a new trial. (Rivard has won more than 2,500 appeals because of the inadmissibility of judges’ remarks.)
At the second trial a year later Rivard managed to get three English-speaking jurors sworn. The trial paralleled the first one, but the hostility of the residents of the district to Mrs. Gallop was more evident.
This time the jury was out for more than a week. Finally the foreman reported that they were unable to reach a verdict.
Rivard immediately demanded that the third trial be held in Quebec City before a Quebec judge. He charged that the entire Roberval district, was prejudiced against his client. His request was granted, but the third trial in Quebec a year later before eight Canadian and four Canadien jurors ended suddenly when on the last day the judge fell seriously ill.
The fourth murder trial of Emily Gallop took place in Quebec in the autumn of 1927 before Chief Justice Sir Francois Lemieux and a jury that was evenly divided as to language. The trial was a little different from the first three, the Crown laying even greater stress on the conversation between the accused woman and her lover. Then Rivard, on the last day of the trial, suddenly pulled a surprise move on the prosecution.
He recalled the Canadien boarder to the stand and confronting him with an imposing array of French and English professors, all experts on languages and translation. They tested the witness’ English-into-French translating ability, and in practically every test he missed simple words, including, on one occasion, “they say.”
The crown prosecutor claimed the tests were tricky and designed to confuse the witness. He tried to dismiss the whole incident as nothing but a smoke screen to obscure the real issues. But the fact that he had previously laid such stress on the witness’ ability to translate “they say” had materially weakened his case.
Rivard’s final address to the jury was the climax of the case and it established him as an orator of exceptional and versatile ability. It ran the full gamut of the emotions. He bubbled with exuberant confidence, roared with righteous indignation, scornfully attacked the prosecution’s case with rapierpointed sarcasm, heaped vitriolic abuse on the Roberval gossip-mongers, emotionally painted a pathetic portrait of his client as the innocent victim of vicious rumors, and at other times had the jury laughing at his jokes.
Case of the Weeping Wife
He rolled his eyes, flailed the air with his arms, waggled his finger, and bounced like a rubber ball. At one point he dramatically waved a stuffed and somewhat motheaten rat (caught by the pest exterminator in the Gallop house four years before) under the jurors’ noses.
Rivard’s summation in the Gallop case has been described as “a one-man four-ring circus.” It lasted four hours and 23 minutes, and when it was over the little lawyer looked as fresh as when he had begun. But the jury looked exhausted. It took them less than an hour to return a verdict of acquittal.
From the Gallop case Rivard went on to more and bigger triumphs. He reached his peak, numerically at least, in 1944 which he says was his “lucky year.” That year he fought 380 cases (123 of them in civil courts) and won 324 of them. In 1944 he defended in seven murder trials in succession and won seven acquittals.
He is fond of talking about his cases and of the methods which have made him successful.
“Do you know what it takes to make a great criminal lawyer?” he will say, leaning forward in his swivel chair and jabbing at a visitor with his black horn-rimmed spectacles.
“It takes psychology, acting ability and a little law. A civil court case is all logic and law, but a criminal case
! is IQ'/t law and 90% mob psychology.
I say mob psychology because in a j criminal case the lawyer does not plead ! to the judge but to the jury of 12—and i you know, three’s a crowd.
“A criminal defense lawyer starts his plea to the jury the moment he enters the courtroom by the way he enters. His conduct throughout the trial is part of his plea. He can appear sore, for instance, hut he must never really lose his temper. At the outset he must immediately attract attention and hold it. He must be the pivot about which the trial revolves.
Courtroom is a Theatre
“He must let the jurors guess in advance what his basic defense will be so that they feel it is a résumé of what they know. At the same time he must keep enough little surprises up his sleeve to hold their interest.
“A great criminal lawyer must be an actor. He must use tragedy sparingly and know when and how to use it. And, above all, he must be a good comedian. I think a lawyer, before he studies law, should study under a great actor as did the great lawyers of France a century ago.”
To understand Rivard’s position in Quebec it is necessary to understand the personality of the Canadien. He is more interested in court cases than his fellow Canadians. He follows crime news with avid attention and prefers, if possible, to be on hand in the courtroom. (Even for minor theft cases Quebec courtrooms are jam-packed.) He is more easily moved to tears and to hostility (as in the Guay case where an angry crowd threatened to lynch the accused).
To (lie Canadien the courtroom is I a theatre where real people enact real drama. In this theatre he appreciates a talented performance. Rivard has never let him down.
One of Rivard’s murder trials, “the Cast* of the Weeping Wife,” illustrates the point.
Early in 1944 a young family man named Plante was charged with killing a friend at a riotous Mardi Gras party by heating him over the head with an axe. Several prosecution witnesses were later to testify that they had witnessed the crime. Rivard undertook to defend him. The only defense he had was sentiment.
Rivard’s client was what he calls “a sympathetic character.” Plante was young, handsome, had a good job and an excellent reputation. He also had a beautiful young wife and two young children. The victim, on the other hand, had been a bachelor of rather unsavory reputation.
From Tears, an Acquittal
When the trial opened in Beauce» Rivard knew that he could not put Plante on the stand. In the first place, he stuttered badly; in the second place, he would make what Rivard calls “damaging admissions” So, instead, he put Plante’s pretty wife in the witness box, as his main witness.
She did not say a word. She simply wept. When Rivard asked her questions such as, “Did not the dead man make improper advances to you?” and “Did not the dead man pick a fight with your husband?” she did not admit or deny. She only cried more.
When the crown prosecutor tried to browbeat her into talking on crossquestioning she wept louder than ever, which put that embarrassed and exasperated man in a had light with the jury.
Rivard backed up Mrs. Plante’s “testimony” with a series of emotional character witnesses and an impas-
sioned, heart-rending address, during which copious tears rolled down his fat round cheeks.
The jury tearfully acquitted Plante.
A few days later the victim’s brother told a lawyer friend of Rivard’s in Quebec: “I went to the trial sure that, the man who killed my brother would hang. I wanted him to hang. But as soon as I heard that bright, young so-and-so (Rivard) speaking, I knew he’d get off. Why, he had the spectators, the witnesses, the jury and even the judge crying all through the trial. And do you know what! I was crying with them!”
Although he won Plante’s acquittal with sentiment only, and against the undeniable fact that Plante had killed the man, Rivard is firmly convinced that the verdict was not only just but the best possible one that could have been returned. He points out that the Plante family have since been happy, model citizens.
“If that young fellow had hanged or gone to jail what would have happened to his young wife and his children?” he asks.
Rivard’s ability to weep in court, to have his witnesses weep and to make the spectators and jury weep as well was never put to better test than it was in what is now known as “the Case of the Seduced Servant,” a dramatic trial which was more than usually lachrymose.
Would a Banker Cry
This was another case in which Rivard knew he must rely only on sentiment for his defense. He had fought to get what he calls “cheap men who cry easily” on the jury. Eleven were men of poor or moderate income. All of them had daughters the age of the defendant. But with juror No. 12, Rivard had difficulties. He had used up all his pre-emptory challenges in the selection of the first 11 and the crown prosecutor managed to get a prominent hanker on the panel.
Rivard felt that the banker, a hardheaded businessman, was not one to
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cry easily. He need not have worried. As it turned out juror No. 12 wept so much during the three days of the trial that he was ill for two weeks afterward—a somewhat extreme tribute to Rivard’s oratorical ability.
The case was won finally by a superb bit of courtroom drama and theatrical timing which resulted in one of the shortest summaries on record—a 58-word speech to the jury that turned the tables on the prosecution and saved his client from the noose.
( In the third and final part of the Rivard story, in the next issue of Maclean's, Frank Hamilton recounts the “Case of the Seduced Servant.” This installment will also explain Rivard's political position in Quebec.) ★