2012 Year in Review: Top 10 newsmakers

1.   Luka Rocco Magnotta: Magnotta, the Montreal native, made international headlines in May for the grisly murder of Lin Jun – a 33-year-old Chinese student at McGill university. It is alleged that Magnotta video-taped the murder, dismembered the body and sent the victim’s body parts to political offices in Ottawa and to schools in Vancouver. After an international man-hunt, Magnotta was found and arrested at an internet café in Germany. He currently sits in a Quebec jail awaiting trial.

2.   Paula Todd: Journalist Paula Todd brought back the name Karla Homolka to our collective consciousness in 2012. In the early 1990s -- of course – Homolka gained notoriety along with then-husband Paul Bernado for the rape and murders of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristin French. Todd tracked down and interviewed Homolka for her e-Book titled “Finding Karla: How I Tracked Down an Elusive Serial Child Killer and Discovered a Mother of Three. Homolka now lives on a Caribbean island with her husband and three children and goes by the name Leanne Bordelais.

3.  Judge Lori Douglas: A Manitoba judge, bondage photos and a sexual harassment charge highlighted one of more peculiar stories of 2012. A court inquiry has been examining whether Judge Lori Douglas should be removed from the bench after her husband, Winnipeg lawyer Jack King, posted nude photos of her online. As the story goes, King uploaded photos of his wife clad in bondage gear as a means to solicit a client to have sex with her in 2003.The inquiry is on hold while the Federal court contemplates Douglas’s request to quash the inquiry.

4.   Trayvon Martin: The subject of race relations in the United States made headlines after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a black youth walking through a gated community in Sanford, Florida. The local police’s initial decision not charge the shooter Geroge Zimmerman – a Hispanic neighbourhood watch volunteer who claimed the murder was for self-defence  – sparked a national outcry and allegations of racism. Six weeks after the shooting, Zimmerman was finally charged with second degree murder by by a Special Prosecutor. His trial is scheduled to being in June 2013.

5.   Alison Redford: Alison Redford defied the pontification of the political analysts and the opinion polls in April by winning the Alberta election and becoming that province’s first ‘elected’ female premier. The 47 year old former Brian Mulroney and Nelson Mandela staffer, continued to make headlines throughout the year for her highly publicized spat with B.C. premier Christy Clark about the proposed Enbridge Gateway pipeline. By the end of the year, however, Redford was plagued with a series of conflict of interest allegations: there was one allegation suggesting that her sister was paid with government money to attend campaign events; there was another claiming that Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz broke campaign finance rules with donations to  Redford’s PCs; and, in November, she was accused of awarding her ex-husband’s law firm with a multi-million anti-tobacco contract, while justice minister.

6.   Jerry Sandusky: In June, the child sex-abuse trial of Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant coach of the Penn State football program, captivated worldwide audiences. During the two week trial, a train of Witnesses described a series of disgusting acts perpetrated by Sandusky, which included the rape of a young boy in Penn State football locker room. Sandusky, who never took the stand in his own defence, was found guilty on 45 counts of child sex abuse and sentenced to between 30 and 60 years in jail. The trial and conviction also reverberated on to the Penn State campus: the iconic head coach Joe Paterno – who incidentally died in January -- had his win-loss totals deleted from the record books, and a statue of him removed, for allegedly concealing facts about Sandusky’s conduct.

7.    Felix Baumgartner: One of the good-news stories of the year was of daredevil skydiver Felix Baumgartner. In October, the Austrian-native they call “Fearless-Felix” jumped out of small capsule 38 kilometres above the earth and landed safely on the ground in New Mexico. In doing so, he earned the world record for the longest free fall and became the first human being – not in an airplane -- to break the sound barrier. And, of course in the digital age, it was all caught on video and posted on YouTube. 

8.    Mayor Rob Ford: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was a god-send for journalists in 2012; it seemed that there wasn’t a week that went by without a newsworthy Ford-ian gaffe. There were lighter ‘ha ha’ moments liked the time he mixed up Windsor and Winnipeg or the meme of him tumbling to the ground at a Grey Cup Event. There were also the ‘OMG’ moments like when he chased a Toronto Star reporter off his property or was caught reading and driving. But then there were the more serious allegations of misuse of tax dollars and city resources -- for his beloved youth football – that could ultimately cost him his job.
In November, a judge booted Ford out of office – pending appeal – for improperly participating in a debate about donations he collected for his personal football charity in 2010.

9.   Justin Trudeau: The year-long ‘will he or won’t he’ question was answered in October, when Justin Trudeau announced that he would seek the Liberal leadership. The announcement spurred an excitement across the country reminiscent of the ‘Trudeau-mania’ for his father in the 1960s. Despite criticisms that the son of Pierre was more splash than dash, the polls indicate that a Trudeau-led Liberal party could form a majority government in the next federal election. We’ll find out in 2013 if Trudeau will be able to withstand the increased media scrutiny and the onslaught of attacks from the Tories.

10.  Ashley Smith: One of the saddest stories of the year was the coroner’s inquest into the death of Ashley Smith, a troubled teenager who committed suicide in 2007 while guards watched at a women’s correction centre in Kingston, Ontario. During the Ontario inquest, video evidence was made public depicting the last few months of Smith’s life in the Canadian prison system which included graphic and disturbing footage of officers restraining her with duct-tape and of her being forcefully tranquilized against her will.

Top Newsmakers of 2012: Heroes and Inspiring MomentsA look back at the heroes and inspiring moments that made headlines in 2012.