Monday, August 30, 2010

What More to Expect at Bastarache Inquiry

Having heard the revelations of Marc Bellemare at the Bastarache Inquiry, the press reacted gleefully, revelling in the accusations that he made against the Liberal party and Premier Charest specifically, with dire predictions of a mortally wounded Premier. A quickie poll conducted by the Journal de Montreal indicated that 69% of Quebeckers believed his testimony.
This of course is to be expected, when one hears only one side of the story.

At first glance, there's no doubt that Bellemare's evidence, given so matter of factly, seems damning and credible. Calm, collected and assured, he detailed a litany of transgressions that fit neatly with the narrative that has been woven in the media of a corrupt and cynical government. His apparently flawless memory, including the most mundane of details, adds to the aura of honesty.

His evidence might very well be true and if the inquiry were to end today, there'd be no doubt that Charest's goose would be cooked.
But what is clear today, made be made muddy tomorrow, remember the O.J Simpson trial that started with an 'open and shut' case and ended with an acquittal?

It remains to be seen how good inquiry lawyers are in breaking down the credibility of Mr. Bellemare.
Since Bellemare admits that he has no evidence other than his recollections, the defence has a lot to work with.
Their job is two-fold. First they must try to discredit him, by getting other witnesses to tell a different story and by exposing factual errors in what he did say.
If for example he said he took a meeting with a certain witness on a certain date and the defence proves that witness was in Timbuktu at the time, his evidence will be tainted.

Secondly they must attack Bellemare's motives. Without offering some sort of alternate theory as to why Bellemare is "making up his story" there is no reason to disbelieve him.  There, lawyers also have a lot to work with.

A couple of years ago a classic example of how to destroy credible evidence was delivered by defence attorneys in a case where four Los Angeles police officers were acquitted of beating the crap out of an unarmed black male, Rodney King, all caught on tape. The video was pretty convincing, watch it here, it's only a minute long, and it's quite devastating.


It's hard to believe that after watching that, the officers beat the rap, I mean nothing looks more damming. How could a jury ever believe the officers acted in self- defence?

The opening of the trial went off much like last week's Bastarache Inquiry with evidence entered that appears credible and devastating.
It was then that defence attorneys went about destroying every foundation that the case stood upon.

Witness after witness was subjected to the most methodical and clinical cross examination that exposed any and all weaknesses in their testimony. The tape of the beating was shown over and over again until its shock value was reduced to zero and in the end the jury acquitted the officers, giving rise to the famous Los Angeles riots that broke out in reaction.

Read an interesting account of the whole affair and how lawyers won their trial for the officers involved. LINK 

Every word of Bellemare's testimony is being scrutinized to the nth degree. Lawyers will pick at any weakness or scab to discredit his story. Already a serious discrepancy has been uncovered by the press.

Apparently he got his time line mixed up and made a statement that couldn't be possibly be true because a related event that he referred to, hadn't happened yet. LINK 
Look for some fancy footwork by Bellemare in explaining his mistake to commission lawyers. 

As for myself, listening to Bellemare's testimony, I picked out one thing that just didn't ring true. Bellemare told the commission that during their last meeting Charest told him that;
"You know that you have a ministerial oath. Fava, Rondeau, the judges, the money, it doesn’t exist. You don’t have the right to talk about that.”
To me that line is just not credible. It's too neat and convenient. Charest has always been more circumspect. He'd never make that type of a self-incriminating statement to someone he viewed as an adversary. He would have reminded Bellemare about his oath and left it at that.

In rebuttal of Bellemare allegations, witness after witness will tell a different story, denying Bellemare's accusations, but more importantly, offering an alternate theory for his decision to go public with his accusations, six years after the fact. If they can, they will besmirch his reputation, but the alternate theory is the key to winning or losing.
Whenever a defendant is on trial for murder, it isn't enough for defence lawyers to cast doubt on whether their client is innocent or guilty, they need to provide an alternate theory that people can hang their hat onto.

Now Charest witnesses have a huge advantage in having already heard what Bellemare has to say and the fact that he has no evidence other than his memory, is going to prove problematic for him. Without emails, tapes or transcripts that back up his account, witnesses can conger up an alternative view of reality with relative impunity.

If you believe that people tell the truth in court you are sadly naive. I'm not saying that they will lie..... I'm just saying they can.

Every Charest witness is in full trial preparation and now that they've heard what Bellemare has had to say, they are fine tuning their narrative.

In mock witness boxes in their lawyer's offices they are 'testifying' in front of a team of friendly lawyers, getting their story down pat and practising reacting to opposition lawyers questions.

They are being coached, not only on their testimony, but body language and demeanour as well. They are being attacked, prodded and confronted to see how they will stand up in court. Others in the room will offer critiques and the testimony and answers to questions will be further 'modified' to better play in court.

I have no specific knowledge that this happening, but I've been there and I've gone through the drill, so I know what I'm talking about.

Charest and friends are not the clumsy oafs we saw at the Gomery Inquiry, they are used to the limelight and speaking under pressure. They think fast and react quickly and with the right coaching it will be hard to crack them. Guys like Franco Fava, the Liberal party fundraiser who Bellemare implicates are no pushovers, expect him to deliver an effective dose of pain when he testifies and don't expect him to be on the defensive for a minute.

One only has to think back to the superb performance conducted by Brian Mulroney at the Oliphant Inquiry to understand the effects of good coaching and superb acting skills.

By the way don't think for a moment that Bellemare hasn't gone through the same process.

Will the truth win out, whatever it is?

I doubt it.
In a case of 'He said- He said,' it isn't about who is telling the truth, its about who can better convince the public, a jury or a judge. Sometimes the better witness wins despite a weaker case.
It might be Bellemare or it might be Charest, it remains to be seen.

So far, from what I've seen, my theory that these type of enquiries are no longer useful at getting at the truth seems to bear out. Everybody is just too sophisticated.

The whole legal process has been forever tainted by the OJ Simpson trial where we learned what lawyers, jury selectors, consultants and assorted experts with unlimited resources can do with the truth.

Up to now Bellemare has enjoyed a free ride, but that is over.  He now faces a ferocious counter-attack. It won't be pretty, with all sorts of allegations to be levelled in his direction. I daresay public opinion will change over the next week or so and the speedy Bellemare  express will slow considerably. Whether that train can be stopped or reversed remains to be seen.
Stay tuned.

Read two other posts that I wrote on the subject;

Can Bastarache Inquiry Save Jean Charest?


  1. Mississauga Guy said...(and not intended for publication, but if you want to...)


    You picked a shitty topic, pure and simple. Being a politician, Bastarche is going to be slippery as an eel, Goldilocks will be slippery as an eel, and most of these people are coached to be slippery as eels. More often than not, these stupid inquiries don't solve shit.

    Mulroney put on an academy performance as you said at the Schreiber inquiry, the fuckasses that they are lied through their fucking teeth and S got the worst of it...not that he didn't deserve what he had coming to him, and let his corrupt bones rot in a German jail rather than ours. Mully the Bully sits free as a bird by the fireplace in his Westmount abode, and God knows how many millions we had to pay that son of a bitch in legal fees et al. He's as big a crook as the rest of them, but this is Mully's home turf, he knows the umpires intimately, and he's a lawyer and knows the words he can use and what not to do in these inquiries.

    Mully had finance ministers who taxed the shit out of us, but Mully the Bully used his "celebrity" to escape a lot of tax. One of his favorite tricks was to have lots of pics taken on his political junkets, encluding his all-taxpayers'-expense paid farewell tour, take possession of all the pics and then give them to the National Archives in exchange for a tax write-off under Gifts to Her Majesty.

    I'm sure if Her Majesty was a Canadian taxpayer, she would be the first person to shove them up his fat, arrogant ass and out throuh his nose.

    Suddenly, when he's summoned for the inquiry does he "voluntarily disclose" that Schreiber forked over thick cash filled envelopes and finally decides to pay tax on what could have actually been a lot more money. One said $300.000 the other said $225,000.

    The Canada Revenue Agency has ruined innocent lives with their malicious means of prosecution that go beyond the powers of the Constitution. Think Mully the Bully will ever go through a grilling like that? DON'T HOLD YOUR FUCKIN'-EH BREATH! You'll turn blue and drop dead before THAT ever happens! Politicians are given a license to print money! CASE CLOSED!

  2. Bang on Mississauga Guy, the entire system is so corrupt, it doesn’t matter what the Police or politicians do or say in this country, they generally get off, keep their jobs and life is back to normal. Same old, same old, but don’t worry we are going to pretend that were getting to the bottom of things, have meetings, hearings, consulting, spending a fortune on lawyers fees…,blah, blah, blah…just more spin, lies and BS from government. That’s what this country has stooped to and any “informed” thinking person knows this. What a mess. Its all about greed, greed and more greed, just follow the money. Seriously, think about it for a minute. We now have over 3.5 million people working for government across the country. Just sickening! Average salary in government is about 70 thousand yearly and rising. Average salary in the private sector is around 45 thousand yearly and dropping. Over 10% of government employees now make over 100 thousand yearly. In the private sector the number is under 2%. Nice eh? Look to Greece and Quebec, this is where Canada is headed if we don’t stop equalization and get spending and government growth under control. This tax and spend, union, socialist, big government, social engineering that has been destroying this country has got to stop. Yes, it has left Quebec and has been spreading throughout the rest of the country since the 1960”s, that’s right over 4 decades of massive government growth, massive government hiring, skyrocketing government salaries and more and more debt. Go check the stats for yourself. Thanks Trudeau, Tanks kebec.

    The Liberals and Conservatives have spent the last few decades destroying Ontario and Canada’s economy, its English speaking history and culture, not to mention the racism, bigotry, ethnic language cleansing and human rights violations going on in Quebec, a la bills 22, 178, 101…What are they really up to? “First Quebec, then we take over the rest of the country, one step at a time…through bilingualism…” PT, “How to take over a country through bilingualism…” SD. That’s what’s really going on. Wake up, people! High taxes, green fees, user fees, HST, high government salaries, social engineering - expensive forced bilingual and multicultural policies (only outside Quebec of course), greedy unions controlling just about everything, new programs and more government departments yearly, more government empire building, the size and growth of government is out of control!!!

    Honestly, when was the last time you heard of a politician talk about downsizing government, eliminating waste, a hiring freeze, a salary cap, eliminating debt not just reducing it a little, cutting back on things…???

  3. "...eliminating waste..."

    No!We want you to stay with us but stop copy & paste the same post,pleaaaase!

  4. "I wish they had on all the ballots, be it local, state, or federal, a 'none of the above' (...) What that truly would mean is that I'm here, I'm participating in the system, I'm voting, but it's also a vote of no confidence in your government. And I believe strongly that if they did that, at local, state, and national, you would see 'none of the above' occasionally win"

    -Jessie Ventura