Richard Charles Wills, 50, displayed no emotion as he stood in the prisoners box, neatly dressed, to hear the verdict.
Relatives and friends of his former mistress, Linda Mariani, were elated at the oucome. But Mr Wills’s teenage daughter Jessica collapsed in hysterics outside the courtroom.
"It is a verdict that is amply supported by the evidence," said Ontario Superior Court Judge Michelle Fuerst.
Mr. Wills, 50, was accused of murdering his long-time mistress Linda Mariani, 40, in February 2002, by bludgeoning her with his son’s aluminum Louisville Slugger baseball bat and then strangling her with a red skipping rope that was wrapped three time around her neck.
The 25-year veteran of the Toronto Police Force then stuffed her body, the bat and the skipping rope into a 60 gallon bin, which he sealed tightly and walled up in the basement of his Richmond Hill home.
He testified at his trial that she had died accidentally in a fall from the stair steps, and that he had only hidden the body because he feared that her family would bury her body in the family and plot and not at his Wasaga Beach cottage lot, where the two planned to be buried together under a secret lovers’ pact.
The prosecution argued that he killed Ms. Mariani after she refused to leave her husband, who had been a partner with Mr. Wills in a power skating business.
Her body was discovered four months after her death when Mr. Wills directed York Region Police, who at his insistence had searched the house the day after she died, to the plastic garbage bin and its gruesome contents.
The Crown’s pathologist, Dr. David Chiasson, a veteran of about 3,000 autopsies, testified that Ms. Mariani was possibly alive when she was entombed in the can and he body was so badly decomposed that it was impossible to determine a definitive cause of death.
However, his examination of the rotting remains located two eight-centimetre fractures on the back of her skull, found the skipping rope around her neck, and suggested that the act of shoving her headfirst into the bin may have caused “positional asphyxia.”
One of the most compelling pieces of evidence introduced at the trial was the testimony that Shirley Rochemont, his stepmother, who died of cancer two year ago, gave at his preliminary hearing a year before she died.
In her testimony, which was read into the record, she said that, the day before Mr. Wills turned himself into the police, he told her that he was responsible for his lover’s disappearance.
“Basically I asked him if he had done it, and he sort of nodded yes,” Ms. Rochemont told the court.
With reports from James Rusk and Erika Beauchesne
The remarkable trial of Richard Wills
The accused challenged the justice system with threats to prosecutors, verbal abuse of court officials, meandering monologues and behaviour so bizarre that he was exiled to the ‘rubber room’ for three months. Richard Wills admitted to stuffing the body of his lover in a trash bin, but swore he didn’t kill her The judges responded by taking every step to ensure a fair trial. In doing so, they tolerated extremes of behaviour and assented to orders that led to defence lawyers being paid at least $800,000 of public money to defend him. It was, in a strange way, a triumph of the system
To borrow from Al Jolson in the original version of The Jazz Singer, the first feature-length movie made with snatches of audible dialogue, "Wait a minute, wait a minute – you ain’t heard nothin’ yet, folks."
Rick Wills is that punishingly loquacious fellow with the coffin-shaped head who last month spent 11-plus days in the witness stand, theoretically testifying in his own defence.
He blithely admitted to one grotesque offence – dumping his lover’s body face-first into a garbage bin and then hiding it in his basement for months – and stands charged with another that is among the most serious on the books, first-degree murder.
Because of who Mr. Wills is – a 50-year-old former Toronto Police officer with an ex-cop’s bag of tricks and so pure a narcissist he might just as well have walked out of the psychiatric Bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision, Page 717 – his trial was as compelling and alarming as watching a train hurtle off the tracks.
But the jurors who yesterday retired to consider their verdict, like those who compulsively followed the case in the press, don’t know the half of it.
Over the life of Regina v Wills – the case has dragged on over five years and eight months – the Canadian justice system was uniquely tested and came perilously close to defeat.
Thanks to Mr. Wills, its most dearly held tenet, a fair trial, often seemed utterly unattainable. Its sense of decorum was daily assaulted by him. Its rules and endearing courtesies he ignored or mocked. Its every participant, from judge to court security officer to lawyer, was personally taunted, subjected to streams of vile profanity and demeaned by Mr. Wills.
And because of the collective terror that if he were unrepresented by counsel – or as he put it once, letting the firm of "Wills, Wills and Wills" do the lawyering – the case would stall forever, he was able to hire and fire a parade of lawyers with impunity.
The costs to the public purse were staggering.
The Globe and Mail made a request for the total legal tab under Freedom of Information legislation weeks ago, and yesterday Globe lawyer Carlos Martins appeared in court, after the jurors retired, to argue that taxpayers have a right to know what they paid for Mr. Wills’ defence.
According to figures released in court yesterday, the Ontario public paid $804,310.92 for defence lawyers up to June 14, 2007, when the trial began.
It is fair to conclude that the final bill will be well over $1-million.
NO ONE SPARED
Mr. Wills is pleading not guilty in the Feb. 15, 2002 death of Lavinia (Linda) Mariani, a 40-year-old bookkeeper and a married mother of one whose long affair with Mr. Wills bewildered then troubled her friends.
He claims she died in a tragic accident at his Hart Street home in Richmond Hill, Ont., falling backwards from the first or second stair of the staircase in the foyer and fatally cracking her skull on the tiled floor. Prosecutors say Mr. Wills is a control freak who, losing his power over Mrs. Mariani, hit her in the head with a bat and tried to strangle her before tossing her body into the bin, where it decomposed so badly her remains had to be poured onto the autopsy table.
Several judges suspected that Mr. Wills was engaging in a deliberate strategy of trying to knock the trial off the rails, and there were times when he came close, many more when his toxic filibustering corroded the administration of justice.
The most wrenching of these moments occurred earlier this month, when Mrs. Mariani’s ill father, Nino Valeri, abruptly stood up in the courtroom and yelled, in front of the jurors and with the trial just weeks away from concluding, to Ontario Superior Court Judge Michelle Fuerst: "I would like to say something – that bastard killed my daughter, not yours!"
As his wife Anna and Dianne Blair, an official with the Victim/Witness office, struggled to usher him out of the room, Mr. Valeri continued, "You don’t even have children, you cannot understand!"
It was his second such outburst, the first having occurred during Mr. Wills’ preliminary hearing, aborted after eight excruciating months because Mr. Wills, then representing himself and so wild-haired he bore a striking resemblance to Charles Manson, was still delaying when the Ontario Attorney-General finally preferred an indictment, committing him to trial.
Reluctantly, Judge Fuerst cited Mr. Valeri with contempt of court and ruled he could not return to the courtroom.
She later told the jurors to "completely disregard" his remarks.
It was bitter irony that the victim’s 73-year-old father, just out of hospital, should have been called on the carpet for an isolated episode while Mr. Wills had carried on for nearly six years a campaign of outrageous abuse.
No one was spared his bile, no one safe from the bellicose garrulousness beneath which simmers the possibility of physical violence.
He managed to learn something private about most of the players and would casually disclose it, such as the day he offered condolences to Judge Fuerst on her father’s recent death: Such knowledge to Mr. Wills means power.
His most overt threats were cop-savvy: When he threatened to punch out prosecutors Harold Dale and Jeff Pearson, for instance, it was always with the codicil that he would have done it "in my younger days".
He regularly insulted even a succession of his own lawyers, for instance describing his fifth, Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, a black man born in Zambia, as "a pompous nigger, an uppity fall-down nigger" – though never within Mr. Hamalengwa’s earshot. As with many of his worst verbal attacks, this happened when Mr. Wills was barred from the courtroom proper because of his conduct, and was monitoring the proceedings from an adjacent room.
Six times on one day alone, using the notorious C word that is one of his favorite epithets for women, Mr. Wills referred to Judge Fuerst as "You fucking —-" or "a biased —-" and "you stunned —-."
He baldly told another judge, Ontario Superior Court Justice Bryan Shaughnessy, that "maybe you should pull up your socks", and labelled a third, Justice Joseph Kenkel of the Ontario Court of Justice, "asinine".
He impugned the integrity of countless witnesses, frequently accusing without a shred of proof the police and prosecutors of destroying or planting evidence.
Half a dozen times, he urinated in the brand-new police car that carried him to court every day from the jail in Lindsay, Ont.
On another unforgettable day, May 30 last year, with the case in the midst of pre-trial motions, Mr. Wills was from the prisoner’s box repeatedly complaining about the state of his clothes, yelling that he smelled like "a pile of shit."
It appears he was displeased with the lack of response he got, because in short order, he either actually defecated or plucked out excrement from his underwear.
"Court’s indulgence," Mr. Hamalengwa said.
He conferred briefly with Mr. Wills, then said, "I am told that Mr. Wills has excrement on his hands."
Judge Fuerst, by then inured to Mr. Wills’ creative theatrics, didn’t miss a beat, mildly asking the court clerk to hand over some Kleenex and hand sanitizer.
THE RUBBER ROOM
Mr. Wills’ behaviour has been so spectacularly outlandish that twice Judge Fuerst ordered him removed from the courtroom, once for almost three months when he was held in an room next door, colloquially referred to as the "rubber room", that was purpose-built for him and equipped with audio-visual equipment so he could listen to and watch the proceedings, and talk to his lawyer.
The rubber room was just part of the elaborate security system Judge Fuerst had installed early last summer, sparked, she said in a ruling, by the fact that transcripts don’t convey Mr. Wills’ dismissive "body language and vocal tone".
Neither do they capture the occasions where Mr. Wills laid down in the prisoner’s dock, loudly farted or burped, laughed during testimony, shrieked "Liar!" or feigned illness, even unconsciousness once such that he was rushed to hospital by ambulance only to be pronounced fit as a fiddle.
Other elements of the security system include a video camera directed at Mr. Wills in the courtroom, and the videotaping of his every movement to and from it, with one security officer leading him, a second operating the camera.
These were merely the lowlights of the freak show the case became.
For all that transcripts fall short of capturing Mr. Wills in full flower, they are nonetheless riddled with references to his various belches, tsk-tsking, grunting and more ordinary histrionics.
His relentless talking alone – once started on one of his battering-ram monologues, Mr. Wills would not be deterred – was wearing.
Yet despite this incessant pattern of thumbing his nose both at judiciary and justice system, despite dozens of explicit warnings, neither Judge Fuerst nor any other involved in the case ever cited Mr. Wills for contempt.
Most gratingly, perhaps, was the fact that while Mr. Valeri had to pay for a lawyer to represent him on the contempt charge, Mr. Wills, by his own admission once a wealthy man, has been greedily sucking away at the public teat since 2003.
OPENING THE PUBLIC PURSE
Arrested on June 7, 2002 after he turned himself in to York Regional Police and directed them to Mrs. Mariani’s body in his basement, Mr. Wills first hired Tim Danson, famous for representing the families of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, and gave him $30,000 of his own money as a retainer.
He fired Mr. Danson in November that year, and hired Todd White of Ed Greenspan’s office on a $50,000 retainer, $10,000 of which was returned unspent when he fired Mr. White in September of 2003.
It isn’t disputed that Mr. Wills spent $70,000 from his own pocket, a significant sum.
But he also had embarked upon what one judge later found was "a deliberate course of action" to divest himself of his considerable assets.
Over a few months beginning shortly after Mrs. Mariani’s death, Mr. Wills transferred ownership of five houses he owned, a half-interest in a family cottage, his vehicles, a private RSP and a police pension worth $1,900 a month, all but the cottage to his estranged wife Joanne Wills and their three teenage children – assets deemed worth at least $500,000.
Thus, when he first applied in the fall of 2003 to Legal Aid Ontario and officials went to put a lien on one of the houses as security, they found Mr. Wills no longer owned it, and the application wasn’t processed.
Then he made a second application, and was granted a certificate on the condition he pay $500 a month to a total of $50,000 – then the estimated legal costs.
Mr. Wills flatly refused to sign it.
With the preliminary hearing looming, and Mr. Wills persistently complaining he had no lawyer, Judge Kenkel appointed Howard Borenstein, a respected veteran counsel, as amicus curiae, Latin for "friend of the court".
It was during Mr. Borenstein’s time on the case that yet another lawyer, Dirk Derstine, applied to Ontario Superior Court Judge Alan Bryant for what’s called a Rowbotham order, which requires a provincial attorney-general to foot the bill, typically at Legal Aid rates that in Ontario now are a maximum $96 an hour for the most senior lawyer.
But on March 11 of 2004, with the preliminary hearing slated to begin, Judge Bryant dismissed Mr. Wills’ application – finding "he set upon a course of conduct which rendered him impecunious."
By the time the matter made its way to Judge Shaughnessy almost a year later, the preliminary hearing had gone on for eight months and been halted, mainly because Mr. Wills kept the pace achingly slow.
Mr. Borenstein said that approving a Rowbotham order would set "a dangerous precedent" because of the message "that those who are charged with serious offences can divest themselves of their assets and come before a court and say … ‘pay for it’."
But he also told Judge Shaughnessy that "the primary concern of the court ought to be to ensure that a fair trial, especially for somebody charged with first-degree murder, proceeds."
In the end, the judge agreed with Mr. Borenstein that Mr. Wills’ ability to offend everyone with earshot "may extend to a jury."
Judge Shaughnessy granted the order at Legal Aid rates and called a temporary stay until Mr. Wills could arrange state-funded counsel.
The judge also asked Legal Aid, whose counsel Lee David was present and agreed, to oversee the bills, since the Attorney-General, while paying the tab, can’t be privy to the confidential accounts of a defence lawyer.
The reasons are valid and even noble. Detailed accounts could betray to one arm of the Crown the tactics a lawyer intends to use at trial against another arm of the Crown.
But this hands-off approach, coupled with what turned out to be Legal Aid’s failure, saw the costs of Mr. Wills’ defence appear to start spiralling out of all control.
THE COSTS MOUNT
By January of 2005, with pre-trial motions starting before Judge Fuerst, Mr. Wills still didn’t have a lawyer and claimed he couldn’t find one who would work at Legal Aid rates.
Then, on April 5, the highly respected Cindy Wasser attended court to advise that she would represent Mr. Wills, but that she was going to pursue better funding with the attorney-general.
Accordingly, Judge Shaughnessy heard what is called a Fisher application, named after Larry Fisher, the Saskatchewan man convicted 30 years after the fact in the murder of Gail Miller, in whose slaying David Milgaard was wrongfully convicted (and later acquitted).
Fisher orders typically consist of two controversial elements – they specify the appointment of a particular lawyer usually chosen by the accused and they see the courts establish fees for the lawyer.
Judge Shaughnessy granted one on April 2, 2005 – ordering the attorney-general to pay Ms. Wasser $200 an hour, or more than twice the going Legal Aid rate; junior counsel $140 an hour and a student $50 an hour for research and interviews.
The lawyers also received $40 an hour in travel time and 40 cents a kilometer for gas.
In the event of disputes, they were to return to Judge Shaughnessy, and once Ms. Wasser had reviewed Crown disclosure, which was estimated to take about 200 hours, she was to submit her accounts to Legal Aid.
Judge Shaughnessy concluded the case was "untriable" unless Mr. Wills "is represented by experienced and skilled counsel."
Ms. Wasser, alas, did not last long; Mr. Wills fired her a few months later in the fall.
As 2006 approached, Mr. Borenstein was briefly back on as amicus until Mr. Hamalengwa showed up in early January.
According transcripts of a hearing over the summer, Judge Shaughnessy ordered Legal Aid in 2006 to vet Mr. Hamalengwa’s accounts in a manner consistent with the agency’s own "big case management program" – its scheme for examining the books on the bigger cases it finances.
Despite written confirmation later from Legal Aid that its role "will be to manage the budgetary process", what its officials did instead was simply check Mr. Hamalengwa’s arithmetic.
This bombshell emerged only this summer when the AG was copied on a letter from Legal Aid to Mr. Wills’ new lawyer, Raj Napal, informing him the agency was not "case managing" the bills, merely "reviewing the math."
This past June 14, Ms. Fairburn was again back before Judge Shaughnessy to tell him his order from the previous June hadn’t been followed.
There was, she said, "no meaningful budget, indeed no budget in place in this case. … It is in desperate need of some kind of financial management. … Otherwise, the public will continue to pay and pay and pay and pay for this case."
She brought with her that day an affidavit containing "the total amount of monies paid out to date" and pointed the shaken judge to the "breathtaking" numbers.
Judge Shaughnessy described Legal Aid’s failure as "injurious to the public purse and public confidence in relation to the administration of justice…
"What has happened in this case is…shocking…and I am actually disheartened that there could be an abandonment of such an important function."
Indeed, just a week earlier, shortly after Mr. Napal officially took over from Mr. Hamalengwa, Judge Fuerst had expressed her suspicion the funding order was "being abused."
Though as the trial judge she deliberately was kept in the dark about the funding arrangements, Judge Fuerst had excellent reason to be wary.
She had just learned that Mr. Napal was considering calling as many as 18 expert witnesses, and that Mr. Napal’s law student, Phil Viater, who was first brought on by Mr. Hamalengwa, had hired one of his former high school chums, a 24-year-old photographer named Coby Sirkovich, to crop autopsy pictures of Mrs. Mariani’s terribly decomposed body.
Alarmingly, Mr. Viater and Mr. Sirkovich had had the pictures copied at a Japan Camera outlet in a mall, a grievous breach of the rules of evidence-handling and a further assault upon Mrs. Mariani’s already battered dignity.
And, Judge Fuerst discovered in a subsequent inquiry, Mr. Sirkovich was intending to bill the defence $13,000 for his work, Japan Camera had already been paid a further $2,400, and Mr. Viater wasn’t even an articling student yet but rather a third-year student.
Judge Fuerst was concerned enough to have a transcript of those proceedings, and her own remarks, brought to Judge Shaughnessy’s attention.
"It is my opinion," she said, "that the time has come for the attorney-general to look very carefully at the expenditure of public funds in this case…"
At the hearing this past June 14, Ms. Fairburn read aloud what Judge Fuerst said, and expressed her own doubts that it was possible for a student to do $40,000 worth of interviews and research.
At Ms. Fairburn’s suggestion, Judge Shaughnessy imposed a new order telling Legal Aid to meet with Mr. Napal and set a budget, with a proper approvals process, and appointed a three-man panel of senior lawyers to resolve any disputes.
Legal Aid, through its spokesman Kristian Justesen, refused to comment, citing privacy regulations that prohibit discussion of a specific case, though in fact the Wills’ matter wasn’t its case.
By the time Mr. Wills fired him in May this year on the very eve of trial, Mr. Hamalengwa had been on the case for a total of 109 court days over almost 17 months.
Mr. Wills cheerfully blurted out Mr. Hamalengwa’s alleged total billings before Judge Shaughnessy – a total, Mr. Wills claimed, of $862,857, a figure which may or may not have included Mr. Hamalengwa’s final account for $92,038.65 submitted, Ms. Fairburn said, just that week.
"I cannot discuss the actual amount I received because even I do not know," Mr. Hamalengwa told The Globe and Mail in a recent email interview.
But he said the bill includes "thousands of dollars in disbursements", "several thousand dollars" in transcripts alone and additional copying costs for Mr. Wills, who of course demanded copies of transcripts and case law, weeks spent in preparation, as well as visiting Mr. Wills in jail, taking his frequent phone calls and being available to him 24-7.
And most of the time he worked alone, Mr. Hamalengwa said, "because Mr. Wills essentially disapproved of every counsel I mentioned…on reflection, I think (he) wanted just one lawyer to deal with."
A Bay Street lawyer, Mr. Hamalengwa said, would have earned "slightly over $2-million. … My account on this case is on the low end of what Bay Street and other lawyers would have billed."
Besides, he said, fairly because Mr. Wills is a demonstrated liar, "The client is the least qualified to comment about the costs of this case. Nor is any person who did not deal with Mr. Wills on a day-to-day basis for one and a half years."
Imagine, he wrote, "spending a Saturday for eight straight hours in a closed room alone with Mr. Wills, not one or two times, but several times!"
However, the cynic would note that Mr. Hamalengwa, like Mr. Wills’ sixth lawyer, Mr. Napal, and even the two amici, Mr. Borenstein and Andras Schreck, who took over when Mr. Borenstein was appointed a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice, were amply compensated for their pain.
Mr. Borenstein was on the case as amicus for more than a year and worked the entire preliminary hearing at a rate of $200 an hour; court transcripts show he had earned $142,000 as of November, 2004.
His successor, Mr. Schreck, was rarely in court because by then Mr. Wills had hired Mr. Hamalengwa, but like Mr. Borenstein, he was paid $200 an hour for every day he spent in court and $200 a day, every day the court was sitting, for remaining on standby lest Mr. Wills fire his lawyer again.
Those are just the known or in Mr. Hamalengwa’s case the alleged, costs.
Back in courtroom 403, Judge Fuerst acted swiftly on the matters within her control.
She sent York Police to the Japan Camera store, prohibited its staff from disclosing any information about the case, barred Mr. Viater from any further access to disclosure materials unless Mr. Napal or Suzie Scott, an experienced lawyer who was only briefly on the case and had the misfortune of stumbling into the Japan Camera near-disaster, were present.
It was Ms. Scott who stood in court that day with the jury absent and faced the judge’s fury, while Mr. Napal sat squirming in his chair.
When he finally got to his feet, it was to disavow knowledge of the Japan Camera arrangements and to blame Mr. Hamalengwa.
After all, Mr. Napal mumbled, "Mr. Hamalengwa was senior counsel" then.
"Just a minute," the judge snapped.
"Mr. Hamalengwa wasn’t senior counsel. You told me, when you came on the case, that you were co-counsel.
"In fact, when either Mr. Dale or Mr. Pearson at one point referred to you as junior counsel, you very quickly corrected him and said that you were co-counsel."
Mr. Napal, who practised in England as a barrister before coming to Canada in 1995, had huffily replied that not only was he co-counsel but also that he had practised there "with the silks", meaning those Queen’s Counsel who wear special silk robes.
This was one of the most curious aspects of the trial, how Mr. Napal maintained a sunny view of his own performance in the face of Judge Fuerst’s withering, if invisible to the jurors, criticism of him.
It was as though Mr. Napal and Mr. Viater were immersed in a folie à trois with Mr. Wills, as if by osmosis they now shared some of his qualities, if not the symptoms of the narcissistic personality disorder with which their client was diagnosed by Dr. Jeff McMaster.
Over the course of the five-month trial, Mr. Napal was so frequently found wanting by the judge that his self-esteem ought to have been in tatters. Yet it never was.
Ditto young Mr. Viater.
Despite his role in the Japan Camera fiasco, Mr. Viater this fall is alleged to have facilitated a phone call from Mr. Wills in his jail cell to Toronto Police Detective Reg Wright just days before the officer was to testify.
According to Det. Wright, Mr. Wills made it clear to him that he wanted him to offer false evidence.
Mr. Dale has said on the record he has asked York Police to investigate that incident.
A JUDGE’S PATIENCE
Judge Fuerst suffered in good-humored silence Mr. Napal’s regular late arrival at court and the occasions when he failed to rise when addressing her or turned his back to her when she was speaking to him.
Always exquisitely polite to him in front of the jurors, she several times – always, of course, in voir dire hearings out of their presence – reamed him out for failing to even attempt to control his client and to meet even the minimal disclosure obligations of defence lawyers, flatly saying he had "again played fast and loose" with the rules.
Her most stinging words came in response to Mr. Napal’s last-minute motion that she recuse herself from trial, which would have meant starting from scratch before another judge, on grounds of bias.
He announced the motion late on Oct. 5, with the jurors already sent home for Thanksgiving and a week off while the lawyers were to hone their closing arguments.
Judge Fuerst had been discussing the schedule for days when Mr. Napal, shuffling to his feet with eyes downcast, first disclosed the motion. As she said in her ruling four days later, "Mr. Napal, who obviously had known for some time that he would be bringing this application, sat silent and made no mention of it. He has offered no explanation for his silence."
His legal factum on the motion was puerile in its language, with headlines that read, "Mr. Wills’ Suit was Vandalized and Justice Fuerst Does Not Care" and "Mr. Wills is Not Getting Enough Sleep and Justice Fuerst Does Not Care". But Mr. Napal insisted in oral submissions that, as Judge Fuerst said in her ruling, "the assertions he makes…are his, not simply those of Mr. Wills."
And those assertions, she said, "are startlingly misleading and disingenuous."
In fact, the judge made extraordinary efforts to accommodate Mr. Wills.
In addition to not citing him for contempt, only because as she said in the ruling it would have served "no purpose other than making these difficult proceedings more so", she made sure he received extra privileges at the Lindsay jail, asking officials to let him keep his lights on later than anyone else, get daily access to the disclosure in the case, extra phone privileges, and a constant supply of paper, pens and markers.
Mr. Wills thanked her by constantly claiming maltreatment, demanding more privileges and once going on a hunger strike.
Judge Fuerst also made critical evidentiary rulings in favour of the defence, deeming inadmissible Mrs. Mariani’s statements to friends that she was afraid of Mr. Wills and wanted to end the affair, Mr. Wills’ confession to a friend that he had "killed Linda" and his offer, made through one of his first lawyers, to plead guilty to manslaughter.
Her unwritten job, as it was also for the various judges who went before her, was to protect Mr. Wills from the potentially ruinous effects of his own personality.
But in the end, Judge Fuerst also had to protect Mr. Wills from the effects of Mr. Napal, who was at his best only vaguely ineffectual and at his worst, as the judge said once, willing "to be controlled" by his client.
Noting that just six years earlier, Mr. Napal had been criticized for making "an entirely unmeritorious allegation" of bias against another judge, she said, "He has chosen to repeat this conduct. I leave it to others to determine whether he has engaged in professional misconduct that is worthy of the attention of the Law Society of Upper Canada."
Mr. Napal has been there before; in July of 2003, he was found guilty of professional misconduct for among other offences failing to pay into his trust accounts a total of almost $20,000 and billing a client for services he never performed.
He was suspended for a month, ordered to produce his books for review and to enroll in the bar admission course on professional responsibility.
Yet when Mr. Napal was recently asked how he felt about Judge Fuerst’s criticism, he was serene. "I had to do what I had to do," he said, using the very words Mr. Wills so often said about putting Mrs. Mariani into the trash bin.
Mr. Napal said he made a decision that since "I didn’t have time to do the preparation" required, he would "rely" on Mr. Wills "more than normally I would.
"I think," he said with a smile, "we’ve done a good job in trying circumstances."
When the jurors retired yesterday, Judge Fuerst, Mr. Dale and Mr. Pearson and the court staff appeared drained. After years of exposure to Mr. Wills, it is probable they were too ground down to recognize there was anything to celebrate.
But they had wrought a miracle.
It was never pretty. People and institutions made mistakes along the way. The costs went over the moon.
But for all the right reasons, against all the odds and at significant personal sacrifice, they collectively got that malevolent, manipulative chatterbox Rick Wills to and through a trial.
In the famous words first uttered by U.S. Congressman William Bissell in 1850, they snatched victory from the jaws of defeat – and from the lantern-chinned Mr. Wills as well.
STRAINING THE SYSTEM
Richard Wills turned courtrooms into circus sideshows for more than five years with a string of bizarre and often abusive antics. The justice system was forced to accommodate an accused murderer who seemed determined to turn his trial into a mockery, and possibly a mistrial.
OPENING THE PUBLIC PURSE
In the months before turning himself in to police, Mr. Wills transferred assets including homes and his police pension to his estranged wife.
THE COSTS MOUNT
After hiring and firing two respected lawyers, Mr. Wills refused ordinary Legal Aid. In order to ensure a fair trial the court made a special order allowing him to hire more lawyers at rates far above those paid by Legal Aid — which was ordered to oversee the bills.
It emerged during a hearing this summer that Legal Aid was only checking the arithmetic, not managing the billing. A judge described the situation and the costs as "injurious to the public purse and public confidence".
A JUDGE’S PATIENCE
"It is my opinion," the trial judge said a few months ago, "that the time has come for the attorney-general to look very carefully at the expenditure of public funds in this case."
NO ONE WAS SPARED
Mr. Wills’s campaign of abusive behaviour was aimed at everyone. He hurled obscenities at judges, insulted witnesses and police, threatened prosecutors, feigned illness and even soiled himself.
THE RUBBER ROOM
So disruptive was he that Mr. Wills was removed from the courtroom twice, once for almost three months, and held in a separate room with an audio-visual link, which became known as the "rubber room".
BENDING OVER BACKWARD
Despite all this, judges made extraordinary efforts to ensure Mr. Wills received a fair trial. He was never cited for contempt – and received extra privileges in custody
THE WILLS FORM OF LANGUAGE
It is, of course, for his jurors to decide if Rick Wills is guilty of murdering Linda Mariani.
But what is indisputable is that the ex-Toronto Police officer and accused killer has butchered the Queen’s English.
What follows, taken from his 11-plus days in the witness stand at trial and from transcripts of five years’ worth of proceedings, is a glossary of Willsapropisms — examples of his penchant for mangling a common expression.
Judicial privilege: "Judicial plumage"
Separate the wheat from the chaff: "Separate the wheat from the Chief" (unknown whether police chief, Indian chief or a reference to the late John Diefenbaker
Hunky-dory: "Honky-dory" (presumably a term for well-being felt only by white people)
Between a rock and a hard place: "Between a hard rock and a hard place"
Smile like a Cheshire cat: "Smile like the Chesser cat"
Dog and pony show: "Horse and pony show"
Fast times at Ridgemont High" (from the 1982 movie of the same name): "Tough times at Ridgemont High"
Mr. Wills also made up a number of words, some of which follow, with possible meanings:
Trivoulous: referring to a matter trivial in nature
Sematics: similar to semantics
Alamonish: either akin to "admonish" or reference to massacre at the Alamo
Authenticize: confirm authenticity
Vaccicious: a distant cousin of "vexacious"
Fantisickle: like "fantastic", only better