What the jury didn't hear at the Laura Babcock murder trial
Babcock's accused killers were convicted last year of shooting Tim Bosma and burning his body
Jurors at the Laura Babcock murder trial have spent the past seven weeks in a Toronto courtroom hearing from 40 witnesses and viewing more than 80 pieces of evidence.
Now they are sequestered behind closed doors as they deliberate the fates of the two men accused of killing Babcock in July 2012, then burning her body in an animal incinerator
Dellen Millard, 32, of Toronto, and Mark Smich, 30, of Oakville, Ont., have both pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
Because the jury is sequestered, CBC News can now reveal some of the things jurors didn't hear during the trial.
Millard and Smich killed Tim Bosma
The murder of Tim Bosma, 32, in early May 2013 was never mentioned in front of the jury — not once. The married father of one from Ancaster, Ont., was never seen again after taking two men on a test drive of a Dodge truck he had posted for sale on Kijiji. The two men his wife Sharlene saw him leave with the night of May 6, 2013, were Millard and Smich.
- Tim Bosma trial: Millard and Smich guilty of 1st-degree murder
- Tim Bosma's death: How did the investigation unfold?
- Who was Tim Bosma? His friends remember
Bosma's senseless killing and the sinister disposal of his body in an animal incinerator made nationwide news. So did the five-month trial into his murder, which ended with the jury finding Millard and Smich guilty of first-degree murder.
A ban on all things Bosma
The Crown's battle to enter evidence related to Tim Bosma's killing was denied in a 16-page pretrial motion by Justice Michael Code of the Ontario Superior Court.
He said the Bosma and Babcock cases were too different: Bosma had never laid eyes on his killers until they showed up at his house to test drive the truck. Babcock, on the other hand, had briefly dated Millard and continued to have sex with him after they were no longer a couple. She seemed to harbour a lingering crush on him before she vanished.
But Code pointed out one glaring similarity between the two cases — the animal incinerator called The Eliminator.
Hours before resting their case, prosecutors made a last-ditch effort, pleading to show the jury Millard and Smich had used the machine previously to burn a body.
Crown attorney Jill Cameron argued Millard used Code's ruling as a shield, repeatedly telling the court The Eliminator was perfectly innocent: bought to burn garbage, dispose of problem deer on his farm, and start a mobile pet cremation business.
"The innocent use is a lie and the jury must know," said Cameron, while the jury sat in another room, on Nov. 23.
"There is not a shred of evidence that's what it's for. It's to burn humans."
Code, unswayed, stood by his earlier decision to ban all things Bosma.
That also included a confession.
Before his arrest for Bosma's murder, Smich told his girlfriend at the time, Marlena Meneses, that "it wasn't the only body they burned."
Convicted killers restrained in court
Extreme measures were taken, including physically altering parts of the courtroom decor, to make sure Millard and Smich received a fair trial in the Babcock case.
The two men, who both received prison sentences that will keep them behind bars with no chance of parole for 25 years, were escorted by guards inside the downtown Toronto courtroom every day before the jury arrived — their hands cuffed and ankles shackled.
While the cuffs were unlocked and kept out of sight, the ankle restraints were more problematic.
Heavy black curtains were specially crafted around the tables where Millard and Smich sat in order to hide those restraints — think seatbelts, steel shackles would be too noisy and draw too much attention.
And for Millard, who acted as his own lawyer at the Babcock trial, there was another special accommodation.
He needed a place to stand to address the jury and question witnesses. A tall wooden podium was brought into the centre of the courtroom, something only he used.
Millard got special prison privileges
Just days into the trial, Millard levelled one of many, many complaints to Justice Michael Code about his life in prison and the impact it was having on his ability to act as his own lawyer.
One of the problems, he claimed, was having to choose between a shower and shave — or preparing for his case.
He threatened a sort of personal hygiene strike.
"I'm not sure how long it takes you to shower and shave, but it takes me about five minutes," Code said dryly before looking into the matter.
Millard ended up with special transportation privileges, making sure he was promptly picked up after court every day, so he could get back to the Toronto East Detention Centre in Scarborough — giving him enough time to both work on his defence and grooming.
Bosma's parents asked to stay away
Tim Bosma's parents, Hank and Mary, were asked in early November to stay away from the Toronto courtroom where the Babcock trial was going on. They had reached out to the Crown hoping to sit in the courtroom for a day as a show of support for Babcock's parents, who attended the trial every day.
Code was concerned a visit had the potential to turn the trial into a media circus.
"The greatest kind of support they can give the Babcock family is to make sure we get through this trial," Code said. "I strongly suspect the Babcock family feels the same way."
He feared even the presence of Bosma's family could upset the publication ban and trigger a mistrial.
Some jurors had heard of Bosma case
During jury selection, about 200 men and women were asked if they'd ever heard Millard and Smich mentioned in previous media reports, and if so, had they formed an opinion of guilt or innocence? Again, Bosma's name was not mentioned.
About half of the jurors admitted they knew about the co-accused, but said what they knew wouldn't sway their decision in the Babcock case.
Even Paul Bernardo got a fair trial, and look what was known about him beforehand.- Media lawyer Peter Jacobsen
"In the olden days of a few years ago, juries were told not to watch the news, listen to the radio, or read the newspaper," said Jeffrey Dvorkin, the director of the journalism program at the University of Toronto.
"I'm not sure it's possible to ask that of a jury during a digital age. And if you can, how is it enforced?"
While the system may seem dated, veteran media lawyer Peter Jacobsen, said it still works. It is a juror's sworn duty to make their decision based only on what they hear in the courtroom.
"The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We haven't had any serious allegations of unfair trials due to jurors knowing more than they should know," said Jacobsen.
"Even Paul Bernardo got a fair trial, and look what was known about him beforehand."
Millard accused of killing father
Millard will face another murder trial next year. He has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of his father, Wayne Millard. Originally, the death was ruled a suicide.
It was late November 2012, some four months after Babcock disappeared, when the older Millard was found dead in his bed, at the Etobicoke, Ont., home he shared with his son.
Wayne Millard, who was in his early 70s, suffered a gunshot wound to the eye. His body was cremated.
With his father's passing came a big pay day: Dellen Millard inherited 50 per cent of the family's once successful aviation company, MillardAir and Millard Properties Ltd.
At the time of his arrest in May 2013, the then-27-year-old owned two properties worth more than $1 million as well as a 45-hectare farm in the Region of Waterloo, Ont., and had just closed on a condo in Toronto's Distillery District.
Even so, he recently applied for legal aid to help pay for his defence at his father's murder trial, set for March 2018, complaining he couldn't access his substantial assets because they have been frozen.
Smich, guns, and missions
At the Bosma trial, Smich turned on his one-time best friend, testifying that Millard shot the Ancaster man.
- Mark Smich says Millard looked 'like a lunatic' after he shot Bosma
- A dramatic account of Bosma's final moments, as told by Mark Smich
This time around Smich stayed silent, saying not one word in front of the Babcock jury.
One of the only things they learned about him was he fancied himself a rapper.
A verse from one of his songs — about burning a girl on ashy stone — was played over and over again in the courtroom. That almost didn't happen, as his lawyers argued to keep it out of the trial.
The jury didn't hear that Smich was planning to get his own handgun and bullets.
In April, a few months before Babcock vanished, Millard travelled to the United States to find Smich the perfect piece.
In a text, Smich wrote, "A lot of shit is happening soon, we gotta organize our time."
Millard responded, "I'll have you busier than you've ever been in life, you'll see, we're gonna build something you're proud of."
There was evidence of 16 prior "missions" carried out by the two men and their motley crew of hangers-on.
From May 2010 to January 2013, there was a spree of theft, mischief, arson, drug trafficking, robbery, among others — and the Crown wanted it all before the jury.
Proof, the prosecution argued, of a steady escalation of criminal activity and Millard's personality as a ringleader and thrill seeker.
But ultimately the so-called missions were not talked about in the courtroom. The judge ruled they didn't count because none of them resulted in criminal charges or convictions.
Where is Christina Noudga?
A ticket from Poland, where she now lives, was booked and Christina Noudga was ready to testify as a Crown witness at the Babcock trial but at the last minute, the prosecution chose not to call her as a witness.
Millard was also free to call his former girlfriend to the witness box, but opted not to.
And while she seemed to play a starring role in the Crown's case at the Babcock trial — at the centre of all those nasty texts, the love triangle, and the recipient of 65 handwritten letters from Millard — she avoided public scrutiny this time.
Last November, she struck a deal for her role in the Bosma case, pleading guilty to a reduced charge for covering up evidence.