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Deal With The Devil....

Long after the trial, one of Canada 's most controversial and notorious criminal cases continued to dominate the news. One of the main stories concerning the case, the prosecution's 1993 deal with Karla Homolka -- a 12-year prison sentence in exchange for cooperation for testifying against her husband Paul Bernardo, who was convicted of murder -- has been called a "deal with the devil," and stirred up much indignation and public anger.

As the years in prison dragged by the rocky relationship between Paul and Karla continued unabated with them accusing each other of murdering victims Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French.

As Paul Bernardo prepared for his appeal in 2000, Karla made plans for her pending parole in 2001. Her lawyers spent much of the intervening time trying to get approval for visits to a half-way house but their appeals were denied.

From the time Karla Homolka came under public scrutiny for her crimes, journalists have taken a very dim view of her, implying that she is no more than a clever manipulator. National Post columnist Christie Blatchford expressed the sentiments of many Canadians about Karla when she wrote: "In the unremittingly bleak and featureless prairie that is her mind, she has always been a special little girl, and so, apparently, there does she remain. I remember her licking her lips for the camera, during one of the rapes. I remember how once -- this while Leslie was being attacked in another part of the house -- Homolka sat upstairs in her bedroom, reading and then drifted off to sleep. It was not that her conscience was clear, it was that she never had one."

As 1999 drew to a close, producers of the television show "Law and Order" made plans for an episode based on the Homolka-Bernardo case. Bernardo's lawyers expressed concerns that the television episode would jeopardize their client's appeal, even though public opinion about Bernardo was as bad as it was ever going to get.

In February 2000, as reported by The Toronto Star, Paul Bernardo launched his long-awaited appeal with his legal team accusing Justice Patrick LeSage of evidentiary and procedural mistakes during the 1995 first-degree murder trial for the sex slayings of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy. The appeal also attacked Bernardo's then-wife Karla Homolka's "deal with the devil" plea bargain agreement, saying LeSage "failed to instruct the jury that the fact that the Crown had agreed to accept her guilty pleas to manslaughter did not in any way prevent the jury from being left in doubt as to whether it was Karla Homolka who had intentionally killed the two girls."

The defense theory during the trial, which was echoed in the appeal, proposed Homolka alone killed Mahaffy and French, so Bernardo should be guilty of nothing more than manslaughter. The Crown's appeal response states Homolka's testimony was "not essential to a conviction for murder" due to the disturbing videos.

The crown asserted that the videotapes showed Bernardo's attitude towards his victims saying he not only brutally degraded them but also continually demanded that they thank him and ask for more. By his behavior, recorded on tape, he showed that he thought nothing of the two girls and would not have hesitated to kill them.

"Any reasonable person who had seen the videotapes would find it impossible to believe that Karla Homolka would do anything to his victims without his permission. The video footage demonstrates that Bernardo remained in 'control' at all material times and was the dominant participant in the murders. Nevertheless, the defense argued for manslaughter on the theory Bernardo twice suffered the great misfortune that the minute his back was turned, Homolka, to his surprise, killed their captive. Any suggestion that Homolka could have killed the girls on her own volition, when considered against the video footage and the relationship depicted therein, is incredible," the Crown stated.

The prosecution believed Homolka was "guilty as a party to first-degree murder when Bernardo strangled them, notwithstanding her convictions for manslaughter, which were permitted at the time when the videotapes were still hidden from the authorities. In the alternative that even in the unlikely event that Homolka killed the girls, Bernardo aided and abetted a planned and deliberate murder, or was a substantial contributing cause of murder committed in the course of sexual assault and forcible confinement." In that role, Bernardo would also be guilty of first-degree murder.

Later in February, Federal Court justice, Daniele Tremblay-Lamer, rejected an attempt by news organizations to gain access to unpublished details of Karla Homolka's life in prison. The issue concerned a publication ban on psychiatric assessments and other documents in Homolka's file. The documents were part of a lawsuit which Homolka filed in November 1999 when she asked the courts to overturn a warden's decision denying her escorted passes from the prison in Joliette, Quebec. Homolka later withdrew her request, which had prompted an outcry from those opposed to freeing her. Councel for news organizations the Globe and Mail, Thomson Newspapers and Southam Inc. attempted to appeal a court clerk's decision on the files' confidentiality but Justice Tremblay-Lamer refused to hear the matter, saying the matter was closed the minute Homolka withdrew her motion.


Early in May, 2000, Karla Homolka's bid to gain prison passes to attend a halfway house in Montreal received a boost when a taxpayer-funded women's group lent its support to her campaign. The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, which operates on a federal subsidy, not only supported her application but also wished Homolka "every success" in her Federal Court bid to overturn a warden's denial of escorted passes to a CAEFS-operated Montreal halfway house. Hearing of the groups support, Tim Danson, lawyer for the parents of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, suggested CAEFS was either "terribly ill-informed" about Homolka or was "not qualified" to assess her case.

Danson had previously asked that Homolka not be released on parole in July 2001 but should instead go before the National Parole Board as a dangerous inmate who should be held for the full 12 year sentence.

Homolka sought Federal Court relief in 1999 after Joliette warden Marie-Andree Cyrenne refused her bid for a series of escorted passes to the Maison Therese-Casgrain, a Montreal halfway house operated by the Elizabeth Fry Society of Quebec. Homolka's original bid was bolstered by psychiatric and psychological reports from her 1993 trial, which portray Homolka as an abused victim of Bernardo. Psychological reports filed in response by Joliette prison were deemed confidential and could not be published.

One reason for Homolka's bid to attend the safe house is that her girlfriend, Lynda Veronneau, was previously paroled from Joliette prison two years into a four-year term for leading a passive ex-girlfriend on a string of robberies. Veronneau had previously kept Homolka's true identity from her family by referring to her simply as "Jessica" telling them that she was deeply in love with her and planned to live with her when Homolka was released.

In September, while Joliette prison authorities were reviewing Karla Homolka's prison conduct to see if she should be kept in prison for another four years, a Montreal newspaper published a series of party photos of the killer. Several of the photos showed Homolka and fellow inmate Christina Sherry, convicted for her role in a Montreal rape and torture case, modeling black cocktail dresses for other inmates at a birthday party. The former inmate who sold the pictures to the newspaper described Joliette as an "adult daycare center that pampered inmates."

In the wake of the unfavorable publicity that Karla Homolka's "party girl" photos had caused, Homolka was advised that she would be moved to the Regional Psychiatric Center at maximum-security Saskatchewan Penitentiary to undergo a 45 to 60 day "psychiatric assessment." In response, Homolka was reported as having "kicked and screamed" in protest. The transfer was seen by some as a sure sign that her Joliette handlers were going to recommend she be detained in prison for another four years.

Lucie McClung, the newly appointed head of Correctional Services Canada ordered the transfer at Joliette prison's request after a prominent psychologist recommended it.

Unlike Joliette, the Saskatoon facility is surrounded by electronic wire fences and armed guards, and is definitely maximum-security. The concrete cells are 7.1 square meters with a stainless steel toilet and sink. Beds are bolted to the floor. There is one window with horizontal slats that act as bars.

In contrast to Homolka's former living conditions, Paul Bernardo is housed in one of Canada's toughest maximum-security environments. He is locked up for 23 hours a day leaving no time for birthday cakes or dress-up parties simply because there is no opportunity for him to mingle with the other inmates. The prison, Kingston Penitentiary, is Canada's oldest and largest maximum-security institution, a foreboding place that conjures up images of the classic turn-of-the-century insane asylum. Often, in the various segregation units, called ranges, anguished cries of prisoners desperate for human contact can be heard echoing down the hallways as prisoners peer out of their cells hoping to catch a glimpse of visitors.

Kingston , considered by many in the department to be the "bottom of the barrel," is a difficult facility to run as many inmates have special mental or physical health needs and must be segregated from the general population. Bernardo lives in a tiny cell not much larger than the average domestic bathroom, equipped with a cot, desk and toilet.

A small outdoor yard off the range allows segregated prisoners to step outside for an hour of fresh air each day, which they can spend with other specific inmates, depending on their status. It is unknown what status Paul Bernardo currently enjoys.

In December Karla Homolka's lawyer told the media that his client feared being killed by vigilantes if she was freed from prison. With Corrections Canada poised to ask that Homolka be detained for her full 12-year sentence on grounds she'll kill again, lawyer Marc Labelle said Homolka was petrified that she'd be murdered. Labelle said Homolka had not only received further threats from within the prison system, but she had also been targeted for death on chat groups that his legal assistants uncovered on the Internet.

"I haven't seen these sites myself, but I'm told there are numerous sites where threats are made that 'we'll kill you if you get out.'" Labelle said the only place Homolka felt safe was in Joliette prison.

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Marilyn Bardsley

Marilyn Bardsley is the founder and executive editor of Court TV's Crime Library. She has personally researched and written some of the most popular biographies and feature stories in The Crime Library.