Tipping towards the bigger and the whole

How happy I was Saturday morning to wake to the headline of the Winnipeg Free Press, “Justice for Candace,” and to read that the jury, late the previous evening had returned a verdict of guilty. I’ve mentioned the trial here, and I won’t say more, as all the details are in the news and the rest belongs to the family and closest friends, our part now to share in their gladness of arrival and to honor their pledge “to love, to forgive, and to live”…

But I want to say that I was quite taken with the trial’s final day — yes, with the drama of it, and the contrasting styles of the two lawyers, for the defense and for the prosecution, but most particularly with the judge’s instructions to the jury. Newly appointed Manitoba chief justice Glenn Joyal’s reading of his charge took about three hours. I had no idea what such instructions might entail, but it was a thorough review of how the jurors should proceed to reach a (unanimous) decision, the relevant law for this case, and the evidence they had heard from the opposing sides. He talked, for example, about the meaning of “beyond a reasonable doubt”; how they might go about assessing witnesses and their testimony, their honesty, etc.;  how they must make their decision based only on the evidence, which included the submitted exhibits and the things witnesses had said; how they must not speculate but could infer. (He explained the difference between speculation and inference.) He reminded that the accused’s silence could not be used against him and told them that how much they relied on “expert opinion” was entirely up to them. It was the “cumulative effect of all the evidence” that was important, not any individual item. Continue reading

Back in the public eye

Our family lived in Paraguay for a couple of years in the early 1980s. I well remember our return to Canada, late 1984, because of how it overlapped with the news that Candace Derksen, a 13-year-old student at Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute in Winnipeg, had gone missing. We lived some months in Saskatoon that winter, before returning to Winnipeg, and the fear that all Winnipeg, as well as many in the national Mennonite community who knew the Derksens, were feeling for Candace came along with me. Around the same time, there had been an abduction in Saskatchewan, and I can still see the posters about that on store doors and feel my panic the day our middle child, who was in kindergarten, was late coming home from school at noon. My husband was out of town,  I had no vehicle, didn’t know my neighbours yet, and didn’t know what to do. Continue reading