POLITICS

Fair trial in question for Ottawa man linked to 2007 triple homicide

02/19/2015 03:16 EST | Updated 04/21/2015 05:59 EDT
OTTAWA - A man facing charges in the alleged robbery of an elderly war veteran heads to court Friday with an even darker legal cloud on the horizon — one that at least one expert says has tainted the case against him.

Ian Bush is scheduled to be in an Ottawa court charged with attempted murder, robbery with violence, forcible confinement, and break and enter in connection with a home-invasion robbery last December.

That case garnered national attention on its own: the victim was a 101-year-old veteran of D-Day, and it came just weeks after two Canadian Forces soldiers were killed in separate attacks in Quebec and on Parliament Hill.

But the spotlight on Bush, 59, intensified after a number of media outlets reported that the quiet family man and father of three was also being investigated in connection with a triple homicide in 2007 that had stumped police.

Bush's lawyer, Geraldine Castle-Trudel, says it's clear police leaked the information linking her client to the deaths of retired tax court judge Alban Garon, his wife Raymonde and their neighbour, Marie-Claire Beniskos at Garon's swank Ottawa condominium.

The leak has turned the case into "a kind of free-for-all witch hunt and media circus," Castle-Trudel said earlier this week.

"Whenever you're into a situation where there's a suggestion (that), 'We've solved an unsolved case', the real concern ... (is that) in the desire to solve an unsolved case you make it fit when it really doesn't."

Now, questions are swirling about whether Bush can get a fair trial on the assault charges he already faces.

"Any time the police link publicly, for no apparent reason, someone to other uncharged, separate offences, that can have impacts on fair trial rights for sure," said criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt.

"In court we go to great lengths to make sure that people are tried for the charges that they're actually charged with and not tried based on reputation or character or other bad acts."

Bush has been in custody and undergoing psychiatric assessment at an Ottawa hospital since Dec. 20 when he was turned in by family members to face charges in the attack on Second World War veteran Ernest Cote.

Prosecutors expect the Orleans resident will be ordered held behind bars after a report from back-to-back 30-day mental-health assessments is released Friday.

But several media outlets, citing unidentified sources, say Bush is also expected to be arrested and charged in connection with the 2007 homicides.

While that could make it difficult for Bush to get a fair trial, said Spratt, it will be all but impossible for Bush's lawyer to argue for a change in venue in an age when news spreads like a virus on the Internet.

"Part of the reason why leaking information and fanning the flames of publicity needlessly is so dangerous is that, in this day and age, that information is accessible to everyone, everywhere," he said.

"And to some extent that might make a change of venue sort of a moot point."

Police have steadfastly refused to comment on the leak, saying the case is now before the courts.

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