Tim Bosma case: CBC and other media win right to attend pretrial hearings

Members of the public and the media will be able to attend pretrial hearings for the men accused of killing Ancaster native Tim Bosma, a Hamilton court ruled Tuesday.

Lawyers for the CBC and many of Canada's other major media outlets were in court and successfully overturned parts of a judicial order that barred the public from a previous court appearance back in February. Reporters can now access a transcript of those proceedings, but can't report on them because of a publication ban.

Lawyers also intended to fight a perceived order that the public would be barred from pretrial motions set to start at the end of April — but Justice Stephen Glithero told the court that no such ban was actually in place. This came as a surprise to lawyers on both sides, who were under a different impression and to reporters. 

Glithero also made the strange move of putting a publication ban on Tuesday's proceedings at the end of the hearing, which came as a surprise to some lawyers in the courtroom, who saw it as unnecessary. The public was also barred from the courtroom again Tuesday for part of the proceedings– this time barred from hearing arguments on the previous ban.

Dellen Millard, 29, and Mark Smich, 27, are accused of first degree murder in connection with Bosma's death.

'We have a legal obligation'

Defence counsel Faisal Mirza is acting as Millard's lawyer on a specific matter pertaining to the case, but hasn't been retained as his lawyer for the duration of the trial. He argued that the public should be barred from these hearings, and told CBC Hamilton outside of the court that it's a matter of solicitor-client privilege. 

"Ideally, counsel are mindful of the freedom of the press and we want to accommodate that as well," Mirza said. "Believe it or not, defence lawyers as well want to make sure that the public is properly informed of the case so nobody pre-judges things — especially during the jury selection process."

"We have a legal obligation — not just to our client, but also to the profession and the court, so it's important this got raised."

Pretrial hearings are scheduled for April 30 and May 1. Media will be allowed to attend, but what transpires will be under a publication ban. Sections of those hearings may go behind closed doors as well.

Lawyer Iain MacKinnon represented CBC, Postmedia, CTV and Sun Media in court Tuesday, and told CBC Hamilton that the original ban happens very rarely.

"It's a pretty extraordinary move to make," MacKinnon said, outside of court. Pretrial motions are usually conducted in public, but are subject to a publication ban, meaning media can attend, but can't report on what they hear.

Publication ban 'ridiculous,' lawyer says

MacKinnon also said he was baffled by Glithero's move to place a publication ban on Tuesday's proceedings. "It's ridiculous that there was a publication ban on today," he said. "It had nothing to do with evidence in the case."

Both Millard and Smich were present in court Tuesday morning.

Millard wore a grey suit jacket and jeans, and appeared with long, shoulder length hair and a moustache. He appears much skinnier than he has at previous times in court.

At one point Millard turned around to survey the courtroom, looking intently at Hamilton Police Det. Sgt. Matt Kavanagh, who is handling the Bosma case.

Smich sat in the prisoners box starting straight ahead for the proceedings. He appeared clean shaven with close cropped hair and wearing a green polo shirt. Millard and Smich were also in court last February when the courtroom was closed.

Accused also charged in other deaths

Bosma was last seen on May 6, 2013 when he left to take two men for a test drive in a truck he was trying to sell online. Bosma's charred remains were found on Millard's Waterloo farm.

Millard, who comes from an aviation family, is also charged in the first-degree murder in the death of his father, Wayne Millard. The elder Millard died in November 2012 and his death was initially ruled a suicide.

Millard and Smich are also charged in the death of 23-year-old Laura Babcock, who went missing in the summer of 2012.

Christina Noudga, 22, of Toronto has also been charged with being accessory after the fact in connection to Bosma's death.

Millard, Smich and Noudga are all headed straight to trial, skipping a preliminary hearing. The trial for Millard and Smich is expected to begin in January 2016.

adam.carter@cbc.ca | AdamCarterCBC