- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2000

TORONTO The lawyer who defended Canada's most notorious sex killer is now on trial himself for withholding video tapes showing his client and his client's wife taking gleeful pleasure in the sex-saturated torture that led to the deaths of two teen-age girls.

The wife, Karla Homolka, 30, is serving a 12-year prison term for manslaughter, the result of a plea bargain agreement for her part in the kidnap, sexual torture and murder of two teen-age girls, Leslie Mahaffy, 14, and Kristen French, 15.

The agreement, in exchange for testimony at the murder trial of her now ex-husband, Paul Bernardo, has been vilified in the Canadian media as the "deal with the devil."

Until the tapes came to light, Homolka portrayed herself as an abused woman, forced into murderous complicity by Bernardo's abuse.

But the tapes, which had been kept hidden from authorities for more than a year by the husband's lawyer, Ken Murray, showed Homolka gleefully participating in the abuse of the captive girls.

In 1993, as Mr. Murray kept the videos under wraps, Homolka was busy cutting her plea bargain with prosecutors.

Homolka agreed to testify against Bernardo. In return, she pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was given a 12-year sentence for her role in the kidnap, torture, rape and murder of the two girls.

Now, those tapes, which prosecutors say would have killed Homolka's deal, are at the center of an obstruction of justice charge against Mr. Murray.

"I didn't look at [the films] as evidence of crime," Mr. Murray, 51, said last week during his ongoing trial at Superior Court in St. Catharines, Ontario. "I looked at it as evidence for his defense."

At issue in the lawyer's trial, which is about to enter its sixth week, is whether Mr. Murray was justified in holding back videotapes of the sex crimes for 17 months. Mr. Murray claims he did so, believing the tapes would help him defend his client by destroying the credibility of Homolka, the prosecution's key witness.

The six videotapes, eventually played for the jury at Bernardo's 1995 trial, show him and his then-wife, Homolka, assaulting several teen-age girls.

Two years before the 1995 murder trial, Bernardo ordered his then-lawyer, Mr. Murray, to recover the tapes, which were hidden in the ceiling of the Bernardos' home.

Mr. Murray said Bernardo told him not to look at the tapes. But when Mr. Murray finally viewed the horrific recordings in June, 1993, Bernardo ordered they be kept hidden from authorities.

Public outrage against Homolka's plea bargain grew when, during Bernardo's trial, she admitted her role in the sexual assault of a young woman known as Jane Doe, and her participation in the drugging, sexual assault and death of her younger sister, Tammy.

Prosecutors now say the deal that permitted Homolka to escape murder charges is at the heart of the case against Mr. Murray.

Homolka's plea bargain was inked about one month after Mr. Murray viewed the tapes, prosecutor Ian Scott told the Superior Court.

At that time, Mr. Murray was aware "that an egregious miscarriage of justice was taking place," Mr. Scott said. "Those tapes had the potential to bust the deal," and yet Mr. Murray did nothing.

In reply, Mr. Murray said Homolka's plea agreement "was perhaps a miscarriage of morality but not of justice."

The tapes were central to the prosecutors' case against Bernardo, because they had little evidence against him before then except for Homolka's testimony.

But as Mr. Murray told the court during his trial, the tapes were useful to Bernardo's defense. While Bernardo admitted to kidnapping and sexually torturing the two girls, he denied murdering the teen-agers.

Mr. Murray said he planned to let Homolka testify that she was forced into the assaults and murders during a preliminary hearing. Then he planned to use the tapes showing her "feral" glee as she tormented the girls at the Bernardo home to destroy her credibility during the trial.

However, Mr. Murray's plan was scuttled by prosecutors who, after months of delay, skipped the preliminary hearing and went directly to trial.

Under pressure from Bernardo to keep the tapes hidden, Mr. Murray sought advice from the Ontario Law Society. A week later, in September 1994, he handed over the videos to Bernardo's trial judge.

When asked during the current trial if he ever thought of keeping the tapes to himself, Mr. Murray replied, "No, sir."

Mr. Murray faces a maximum 10 years in prison if convicted.

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