The Week That Was

The Week That Was

March 25 2002
The Week That Was

The Week That Was

March 25 2002

The Week That Was

Mother found guilty of bathtub murders

A Texas jury found Andrea Yates of Houston, Tex. guilty of the June, 2001, drowning deaths of three of her five young children. Yates, 37, who suffers from schizophrenia, admitted she killed all five youngsters in the family bathtub but pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. (The prosecution did not file charges in the deaths of the other two.) Under Texas’s strict application of the insanity defence, though, Yates’s lawyers had to show

she was incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong-something they clearly failed to do.

But when it came time to determine Yates’s punishment, the same jury appears to have taken her mental illness into account. In deciding between life in prison or death by injection, the jurors had to answer two questions: does Yates pose a danger to society, and are there mitigating circumstances to sentence her to life rather than

death? The jury sentenced her to life in prison, where she’ll have to serve at least 40 years before becoming eligible for parole.

Throughout the trial, much attention also focused on Yates’s husband, Russell, who compelled her to continue having children in spite of warnings that her illness would worsen, and then left her at home alone with the kids. Russell Yates, an evangelical Christian, told the court during his testimony that “the man’s the breadwinner and the woman’s a homemaker.”

More violence in India?

India’s Supreme Court vetoed plans by a radical Hindu sect to hold a prayer meeting near the site of a 16th-century mosque destroyed by Hindus in 1992. Hoping to stave off another round of religious bloodshed, authorities clamped down; under tight security, only a few thousand people marched near the disputed area, where Hindus want to construct a temple. A Feb. 27 attack by Muslims on a train carrying Hindu radicals back from the contested site left nearly 60 people dead in the western state of Gujarat, and triggered a week of reprisal killings in which 700 people died and 56,000 were left homeless.

Tragedy in Toronto

Three days after she was reported missing, the body of a two-year-old Toronto girl was discovered in a tract of rolling, wooded countryside northeast of the city. A massive search for Alexis Currie was triggered when her father, Peter Currie, who is separated from his wife, Maureen, did not return the toddler after a scheduled visit. He had picked up Alexis and her four-yearold sister, Robyn, on March 9, but the next day only the older child was returned to her maternal grandparents. Police, who had originally scoured a stretch of Lake Ontario shoreline before the father led them to the other area, declined to say whether there were any signs of trauma on the toddler’s body or speculate about how or where she died. Peter Currie faces abduction and weapons charges.

Denying the charges

Former Russian diplomat Andrei Knyazev denied being drunk when he killed Ottawa resident Catherine MacLean in a traffic accident on Jan. 27,2001. Knyazev, who invoked diplomatic immunity and left Canada without facing prosecution, is on trial in Moscow for involuntary manslaughter. But he did acknowledge he was to blame for

the accident, saying his car had hit a patch of ice, and apologized to the families of MacLean and her friend, Catherine Doré, who was seriously injured in the incident. Ottawa police photographs have shown there was no ice on the road. A doctor at the Russian embassy told police there was so much alcohol on Knyazev’s breath she could still smell it seven hours later. And in a letter to the Russian government, which was submitted as evidence, the embassy warned that Knyazev, who refused a breathalyzer test, was drunk when his car hit MacLean.

Killer smog

Smog can kill-that was the finding of a report by Canadian and Ameri-

can scientists published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. For the first time, research carried out at the University of Toronto found that inhaling smog can have an immediate adverse effect on healthy hearts, and can trigger heart attacks in people who are already suffering from cardiovascular disease.

Bad credit?

A Vancouver lawyer launched a classaction suit against three Canadian banks over their interest-rate charges on credit cards. Acting on behalf of two B.C. women, David Rosenberg focused on the way credit card issuers calculate interest from the so-called transaction date-when an

item or service is purchased-rather than the posting date-when the seller is paid. A restaurant, for instance, may serve a card holder on Monday but not be paid by the bank until Wednesday. But if the card holder owes interest on his bill, he will be charged from Monday. Filing a case in the provincial Supreme Court, Rosenberg argued that, in effect, interest is being charged before the debt is incurred, in violation of consumer protection lawsThis, he maintained, means all credit card interest charges should be declared invalid.The three card issuers-the Royal Bank of Canada, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Bank of Montreal-had no comment.

THE CHANGING FACE OF CANADA

The first data to be released from the 2001 census shows Canada’s population grew by just 4.0 per cent since 1996-matching the smallest five-year growth rate in the country’s history (1981-1986). Statistics Canada attributed most ofthat growth to immigration, as already low fertility rates declined even further.

Land daims referendum

British Columbia is going ahead with its controversial plan to hold a province-wide referendum on native land claims. Attorney General Geoff Plant said ballots will be mailed to B.C. voters on April 2, with May 15 as the cut-off date for returns. Among the issues the plebiscite will address: native self-government, tax exemptions for aboriginals and hunting and fishing rights.

No early parole

Karla Homolka will not be granted early parole. In an annual review, the National Parole Board decided that the former wife of sex murderer Paul Bernardo remains a risk to society. Homolka was convicted of manslaughter in July, 1993, in a controversial plea bargain, and sentenced to 12 years in prison for her role in the killings of southern Ontario teens Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy. In return, she testified against her husband, who is currently serving a 25-year sentence with no chance of parole. Homolka first became eligible for release on July 6,2001, after serving two-thirds of her sentence. The board must review her case every year until her sentence expires in 2005.

Ruling for veterans

The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a ruling that the federal government mismanaged the pensions of mentally and physically disabled war veterans. Specifically, Ottawa did not invest or pay interest on pension funds it administered for some 10,000 veterans incapable of looking after their affairs. The ruling could result in the veterans or their surviving relatives receiving as much as $4 billion. Ottawa has 60 days to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

No-account Andersen

Accused of shredding truckloads of documents, beleaguered global accounting firm Arthur Andersen LLP was charged with obstruction of justice over its dealings with bankrupt energy giant Enron Corp. U.S. prosecutors said “high-level Andersen management” oversaw the destruction of documents. Many analysts doubted Andersen, which employs 85,000 people around the world, could survive the blows to its reputation from the Enron scandal. Dozens of major clients have dropped the company. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, a fellow member of the Big Five accounting firms, called off talks on a possible merger.

Fighting terror and remembering Sept. 11

As dusk settled over the city, 12-year-old Valerie Webb, the daughter of a police officer who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City, flicked a switch. Two massive pillars of blue light shot skyward-a shimmering reminder of where the two gleaming towers of the World Trade Center once stood. It was a haunting tribute, marking six months since 3,044 people, including Valerie’s father Nathaniel, perished in Manhattan, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. Earlier, at 8:46 a.m. in nearby Battery Park-the exact time that the first hijacked jetliner smashed into the north tower-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and hundreds of relatives of the victims stood silently as bells rang from a nearby church. Then Bloomberg, former mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Gov. George Pataki dedicated

a shrine to the dead, a giant steel and bronze sphere weighing 22 tons that once sat atop a granite fountain in a plaza at the foot of the towers. Tumbling debris dented and smashed holes in the sphere, but it survived and Pataki declared it a metaphor for the city: “It is damaged, but it is not destroyed.”

In Washington, George W. Bush also remembered the victims. (Not counting the 19 terrorists, 2,820 died in New York City, 184 at the Pentagon and 40 in a hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.) At a solemn ceremony at the White House, the President urged America’s allies to press on with the war against terrorism. “Every nation,” he said, “must take seriously the growing threat of terror on a catastrophic scale.” Bush appealed for support to broaden the war, including a possible attack on Iraq, but

Canada and most European and Arab countries are continuing to resist, claiming it would destabilize the region. And following a dinner meeting with Bush in Washington, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said an invasion of Iraq was not imminent. “He assured me there is no plan at this moment,” said Chrétien.

As that debate continued in capitals around the world, coalition soldiers were searching for the remnants of Al-Qaeda forces in the mountains of the Gardez region in eastern Afghanistan. Nearly 500 Canadian soldiers from the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry were deployed in the mountains as part of Operation Harpoon. Under Canadian command, the soldiers were searching for remaining AlQaeda fighters who recently lost a savage 12-day-long battle in the area. During that fighting, a team of six Canadian snipers gunned down

an undisclosed number of Al-Qaeda soldiers, the first confirmed enemy killings by Canadian troops since the Korean War. Speaking in Ottawa, Vice-Admiral Greg Maddison said the snipers “suppressed enemy mortar and machine-gun positions with deadly accuracy.”

With Al-Qaeda now all but destroyed in Afghanistan, American determination to prevent another terrorist attack was underscored by a leaked Pentagon report that called for the development of small nuclear weapons capable of destroying underground complexes containing stockpiled weapons in countries such as Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Libya. That report triggered an international uproar, but the White House dampened the criticism, claiming the U.S. is not actually targeting specific countries. But Bush said he stands ready to use any weapon at his disposal in the fight against terrorism.