It took nine weeks to try but only six hours of deliberation last Saturday for an Ontario Supreme Court jury to acquit Gordon Allen, the 37-year old insurance salesman from Orillia, Ontario, of a charge of having shot Toronto lawyer Bruce Lorenz through the head.
When attendants at the Warden subway parking lot saw a man’s feet sticking out of the window of his car, they assumed the driver was fixing something under the dashboard. An hour later Metropolitan Toronto police, staring at Lorenz’s blood-soaked body, wondered if they had a suicide on their hands. His wallet with $200 in it was intact. But though Lorenz may have been unhappy over missing out on an expected partnership in Toronto’s prestigious law firm Borden and Elliot earlier that day, the absence of a gun ruled out death by his own hands.
Since Lorenz’s career as a real estate lawyer yielded no clues, Toronto’s crack homicide team, Gerald Stevenson and Robert McLean, began looking closer to the victim’s home. A month later, on April 26, 1978, Lauralee Lorenz, 33, the svelte, dyed-blonde wife of the dead man, and Gordon Allen her one-time lover were charged with first-degree murder. The story that unfolded in one of the longest and most bitterly contested murder trials in recent memory was bizarre. Lauralee had returned to her husband, Bruce, only nine months before his death, having spent nearly two years living as man-and-wife with
Allen. Mrs. Lorenz’s shuttle-diplomacy seemed to have kept husband Lorenz waiting in the wings while her fling with Allen ran its course. One Mercedes car and a fur coat later Allen and Lauralee declared bankruptcy. Lauralee went back to lawyer Lorenz and it became Allen’s turn to hang around the reconciled couple. Whatever Lauralee had, it seemed sufficient to keep at least two men dangling and paying the bills.
Things came to a head, as Crown attorney Michael Lynch alleged in his circumstantial case, when Lauralee decided to reduce the number of men in her life. According to the prosecution Allen was selected to stay and Lorenz to go, this time permanently. The couple were committed for trial but on Febru-
ary 12, 1979, when it was scheduled to begin, Lauralee did not show up in court. Two days later Crown attorney Lynch told Mr. Justice Allan Goodman that Lauralee had been promoted from defendant to a witness for the prosecution. “The sweetheart deal,” as it was later referred to in court, was announced on St. Valentine’s day.
The case against Allen seemed strong. Lauralee, cool and poised on the witness stand, testified that Allen telephoned her the evening of Lorenz’s death: “Guess what? I think I’ve killed your husband. Oh God, Lauralee, the blood.” The reason this telephone call took so long to surface? Lauralee said she pushed it into her subconscious where it stayed until a psychiatrist fished it out two days before her trial for first-degree murder was to begin.
“If you believe this story about her
conscious and subconscious,” Allen’s defence lawyer Edward L. Greenspan told the jury, “you’ve got to be unconscious.” Fighting what observers describe as a brilliant legal battle, Greenspan tore gaping holes in the Crown’s net of circumstantial evidence. Tensions rose in the courtroom as he demonstrated that, eager for conviction, the police resorted to forging affidavits and attempted to obtain identification, instead of the normal procedure of lineup, by showing five different photographs of the same Gordon Allen to a Crown witness—practices which, Mr. Justice Goodman said, “cannot be condoned.” In the courtroom things reached a climax when the jurors asked the judge to stop the police from making faces while Allen testified in his own defence.
The Crown’s tactics included an attempt to revoke Allen’s bail on a charge of perjury—an early affidavit in which high-school dropout Allen asserted the high academic distinction of an MRA from the University of Western Ontario. Commented County Court Judge John Greenwood as he refused to revoke Allen’s bail: “I can’t think of something more trifling than the academic background of the accused.”
Maybe not. But even as Gordon Allen walked out of the court a free man, Optimist Club pin shining in his blue blazer lapel, Crown officers in Scarborough, Ont., were getting ready for his perjury preliminary early this week. If they can’t get him for murder, it seems, they might yet get him for leaving school too soon. Barbara Amiel
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