Millard, Smich murder appeals reopen wounds for victim's family, 10 years later
TORONTO — It's been more than 10 years since Linda Babcock's daughter was murdered, a decade's worth of milestones and memories she says were stolen by the men who killed her child.
When Dellen Millard and Mark Smich make their appeals before Ontario's highest court starting Monday, they will be entitled to reduced sentences for their multiple murder convictions – cutting 50 years and 25 years off their respective parole ineligibility periods.
Babcock says when that happens, she’ll feel like justice for her daughter, Laura Babcock, will have been stolen too.
"She gets no justice whatsoever," Linda Babcock said in an interview.
"My feeling is if you point a gun and shoot somebody then you do it to somebody else, those are two murders and they should be treated (as such)."
A panel of Ontario Appeal Court justices are scheduled this coming week to hear Millard's and Smich's appeals of their high-profile convictions for murdering Laura Babcock and Tim Bosma. Millard is also appealing his conviction of murdering his father, Wayne Millard, an aviation executive whose death was initially ruled a suicide.
Dellen Millard and his once-close friend Smich were handed life sentences and consecutive, rather than concurrent, 25-year periods of parole ineligibility for each first-degree murder conviction.
Smich was to be parole ineligible for 50 years, Millard for 75 years.
The Supreme Court then decided last year, in a case brought by Quebec City mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette, that those types of stacked terms amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
Millard and Smich now qualify for a shortened sentence of 25 years in prison with no parole.
With their appeals set to be heard over the course of five days, Babcock said she feels like all the horror of the past is being brought up again.
"It's devastating for us," she said. "Plus, once the 25 years are up, then we have to start going to parole hearings and giving a victim impact statement."
A jury in June 2016 first found Millard and Smich guilty of murdering Bosma, a 32-year-old man whose body was burned in an incinerator after he took the two men out for a test drive of his pickup truck in May 2013.
The Crown argued the same incinerator was used to get rid of the body of 23-year-old Laura Babcock, theorizing Millard was motivated to kill his one-time lover to settle a love triangle with his then-current girlfriend.
Babcock vanished in July 2012. Her last eight phone calls were to Millard and police tracked the movements of her phone to Millard's home. Babcock's phone stopped pinging cell towers shortly thereafter.
Her body has never been found.
Toronto police also reopened an investigation into Wayne Millard's death shortly after his son was charged with Bosma's murder. Dellen Millard said he found his father dead in his home with a bullet through his eye. A jury convicted Millard of first-degree murder in his father's death and a judge handed him his third consecutive sentence.
He was to serve 75 years before being able to apply for parole, the longest consecutive sentence in Canada shared by only a handful of other convicted multiple murderers.
The calls for harsher sentences are an understandable response from victims' families, says University of Ottawa professor Carissima Mathen, a criminal and constitutional law expert.
But decision makers, she says, should consider a legal system has to be at its strongest in the moments it's pressured to enact the most punishing forms of justice. A cornerstone of that is the possibility people can change.
It also doesn't take away from the reality a person serving a life sentence may never be released from prison, and even if they are, that release is limited, Mathen said. Parole is not guaranteed, and if granted comes with conditions.
A parole board will, for example, consider a person's conduct in prison. Last week, Millard was found guilty of assault for his role in the alleged stabbing of another inmate in December 2021.
"Many people will serve the rest of their life in prison," Mathen said.
Smich's written arguments on appeal in the Babcock and Bosma cases frame him as the victim of two allegedly prejudicial trials that failed to distinguish what he argues was the weak evidence against him and the strong case against his co-accused. He asks the court to toss out his convictions and order new trials.
In the Babcock case, for example, he argues the evidence against him was based in large part on his actions after the offence, arguing the judge failed to properly instruct the jury about how to determine his level of liability on a charge of planned and deliberate murder. Part of his appeal in the Bosma case will call into question the admissibility of rap lyrics he had penned that were used against him as evidence at trial.
The Crown argues the judges properly and carefully instructed the jury in what were lengthy and complex cases, while fairly balancing the interests of Smich and Millard.
Millard's appeal in the Babcock case, prepared by his lawyer, argues in part that the judge improperly denied him an adjournment to get a lawyer, undermining his right to a fair trial.
The Crown argues the judge was correct to deny the adjournment, pointing to a review that found Millard had been repeatedly helped by the court to get a lawyer, expressed desire to represent himself, had the money to get a lawyer, and still had enough time to get one after the adjournment was denied.
Millard is representing himself on the appeal of his convictions for murdering Bosma and his father. The court confirmed Friday it had not received written arguments for his Bosma and Millard appeals.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 12, 2023.
Jordan Omstead and Liam Casey, The Canadian Press