Mayor Rob Ford called a radio show to comment on the first-degree murder trial before the jury had been sequestered, and made comments that the defence characterized in court Monday as “prehistoric.”
Mr. Ford called a radio show Sunday to discuss the Richard Kachkar trial over the January 2011 slaying of Sergeant Ryan Russell.
The defence and Crown agree Mr. Kachkar drove a stolen snow plow into the officer. But the defence has argued that Mr. Kachkar is not criminally responsible because he was in a psychotic state. The Crown has said Mr. Kachkar meant to kill the officer, even if he was exhibiting some psychotic symptoms.
Mr. Ford told the legal-affairs radio program he was “really disappointed how the defence is presenting this.”
“One of our finest got killed. Left behind a wife and a little son. And we’re trying to find an excuse why this guy stole … a snow plow and killed a police officer,” he said. “You can’t defend that. These people put their lives every day in the line of fire. They jeopardize their life and we’re trying to justify this?”
One of the program’s panelists told the mayor that no one is trying to justify the killing, but the law states a person with a mental illness who does not know right from wrong is not criminally responsible for what they’ve done.
Bob Richardson, Mr. Kachkar’s lawyer, referenced Mr. Ford’s “prehistoric comments on criminal responsibility” in court Monday, before the jury entered the room.
Mr. Richardson asked the judge to consider addressing the issue with the jury, but Ontario Superior Court Judge Ian MacDonnell said the case has received a great deal of media coverage along the way and he assumed the jury had followed the earlier direction to ignore all of the reporting.
The jury began its deliberations in the first-degree murder case Monday afternoon.
The mayor’s spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Trevor Farrow, an associate professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, said in an interview that the mayor is as entitled to his opinion on the case as is anyone.
However, Mr. Farrow said “it is not helpful to the impartial trial process for people in positions of significant power” to make statements at such a time, in such a context.
“A notion of a criminal trial that does not leave meaningful room for a fair defence, as well as a fair prosecution, is contrary to any basic understanding of how the criminal justice system works,” he said.
Mr. Farrow said the mayor’s remarks would likely not be grounds for appeal unless it could be proven they directly affected the jury.
Sean Robichaud, a criminal lawyer, called the mayor’s remarks “troubling.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this before. If anything, politicians go out of their way to not comment on cases that are before the courts. I suppose this is an explicit example of why that’s an important principle to follow,” he said in an interview.
With files from The Canadian Press