When the room hit the impasse, Courtroom 33 rose, crossed its collective arms and, like a crowd surrounding an auto accident to contemplate the oil and crushed glass on the road, talked over this unexpected moment, the wheels still spinning.
Nicole Proulx, the former head of Senate finance, had appeared just briefly on this, the morning of her sixth day in the witness box. Justice Charles Vaillancourt ordered a recess, halting proceedings that had hitherto been moving at speed and, now, Proulx won’t return till June.
On the afternoon prior, Sen. Mike Duffy’s lawyer, Donald Bayne, who is defending the former broadcast journalist against 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust, and bribery, had entered into territory that Crown prosecutors have consistently maintained should be off limits.
Vaillancourt, with the look of a man trapped in an extended bout of déjà vu, broke for the night, deferring the Crown’s latest objection to this morning.
At issue—one pressed by Crown prosecutor Jason Neubauer today—is something called the 11th report of the Senate Standing Committee on Internal Economy, which, at any other time, would be little more than an effective cure for sleeplessness, but which here, in Courtroom 33, the Crown condemns as inadmissible hearsay, and which Bayne has attempted to probe through his combative cross-examinations of Senate functionaries.
Bayne’s intention to go there with Proulx proved too much for prosecutors, and Neubauer demanded a voir dire—essentially, a hearing within the trial that would narrowly probe the admissibility of the document. Vaillancourt threw his hands up and said fine.
The irony is that the report is otherwise public, available for anyone to view. Dating back to 2010, it deals with an Ernst & Young audit on internal Senate rules; Bayne, presumably, wants to use it to undermine Proulx’s contention that these rules were clear and easily followed.
The arguments for and against are abstruse, and Courtroom 33 will get its fill when it reconvenes for this matter on Monday (Bayne is ready to present his view on the issue, but Vaillancourt gave prosecutors the rest of the week to prepare a response).
Perhaps more interesting for the general public was Bayne’s allusion this morning to Gerald Donohue, that strange figure, old friend to Duffy, who is somehow at the centre of the alleged, so-called “slush fund” the Crown contends Duffy operated through Donohue’s companies, Maple Ridge Media Inc. and Ottawa ICF.
Court heard from Donohue’s 30-year-old son Matthew just before Proulx’s appearance in the witness box a week ago, and that testimony proved tantalizing.
Donohue père, whose recent hospitalization has so far kept him from court, is now slated to appear next week.
Bayne warned the court of the potential impact of the voir dire delay on Donohue’s availability—in an existential sense.
He has “grave concerns about the loss of time” because, as Bayne put it, “Mr. Donohue’s health is of grave concern . . . He may not be with us.” He added variously that “the interest of justice and truth require his evidence,” and that “the full story needs to be out about Mr. Donohue.”
In the room this morning, the Duffy trial felt like a car accident—a plodding thing on the move stopped abruptly, with a jolt.
But in retrospect, it’s a gothic novel, all of us waiting to hear from a sick man said to know all.
Court reporter Nicholas Köhler on the Duffy trial
- Day 1: Mike Duffy talked for a living. On Monday, he spoke six words.
- Day 2: Kafka meets Frank Capra in Courtroom 33
- Day 3: The PM is just a girl he used to know
- Day 4: The subject of honour and the genie of Cavendish
- Day 5: Mike Duffy, patron saint of the good ol’ days
- Day 6: Oversight in Canada’s Senate? There’s no such thing.
- Day 7: Plucking the wings off a visitor from fairyland
- Day 8: The Genie of Cavendish, raining contracts like manna
- Day 9: All the Senate’s a Hollywood soundstage
- Day 10: Ottawa stitches Canada together. Mike Duffy did his part.
- Day 11: The mysterious #duffytrial comes briefly into focus
- Day 12: Nicole Proulx muddies #duffytrial with clarity
- Day 13: Hubris in Courtroom 33. Wait, never mind, it’s gone…
- Day 14: The unfilmable drama: Duffy’s defence takes on a Senate staffer
- Day 15: Courtroom 33 isn’t just another Senate committee
- Day 16: A pox upon this unshakable, inexplicable Senate