Just Desserts killer abruptly ends appeal

Ms. Leimonis was shot during a bungled robbery as she chatted with a friend in a trendy Just Desserts café in downtown Toronto.

The Globe and Mail
November 3, 2006

Just Desserts killer abruptly ends appeal
'I really don't want to participate,' Lawrence Brown tells panel of judges
Kirk Makin

After waiting seven years for his day before the Ontario Court of Appeal, a man convicted of first-degree murder in the infamous Just Desserts slaying uttered just two sentences yesterday before sitting down.

"I really don't want to participate," Lawrence Brown said, bringing an abrupt end to his appeal for the April 5, 1994, murder of Georgina (Vivi) Leimonis. "I refuse to participate in this sort of criminal conversation and unlawfulness assembly."

After taking a moment to absorb Mr. Brown's statement, Mr. Justice Dennis O'Connor, Mr. Justice Marc Rosenberg and Madam Justice Eleanore Cronk ended the appeal and reserved their decision.

Ms. Leimonis was shot during a bungled robbery as she chatted with a friend in a trendy Just Desserts café in downtown Toronto. When three men were accused of her murder, the issue of race became a constant subtext of the case.

On Wednesday, Mr. Brown had given every indication that he intended to embark on a lengthy — and, very likely, disjointed — submission.

He complained that he had not been permitted to bring a bag of case materials with him from Toronto's Don Jail, and asked for an adjournment.

The appeal panel instead elected to first hear submissions from Gregory Lafontaine — a lawyer appointed as a "friend of the court" — from Crown prosecutors Brian McNeely and Kimberley Crosbie, and then from Mr. Brown.

The extraordinarily long delay between the 1999 trial and Mr. Brown's appeal was caused mainly by delays in obtaining transcripts from the seven-month trial. The appeal hearing rapidly narrowed down to one overriding issue — an unorthodox jury selection technique devised by Ontario Superior Court Judge Brian Trafford in an effort to include more blacks on the jury.

Judge Trafford divided a massive, 1,000-person jury pool into 40 lots each composed of 22 individuals — and then showed preference to those lots containing black people. A total of 489 were ultimately considered by the trial lawyers before they managed to round out the 12-person jury.

In a written analysis provided to the court by Mr. McNeely and Ms. Crosbie, they concluded that Judge Trafford's strategy resulted in a group that was highly representative of Toronto's black community. They said that 7.9 per cent of the potential jurors who were considered by the trial lawyers were black; precisely the same proportion of Toronto residents who were black at the time.

However, Mr. Lafontaine maintained in his own analysis that there is more than one way to break down the numbers, and that "the potential jurors of the 'race' of the victim skyrocketed at the expense of the category of 'all others,' which was grossly underrepresented in this group… ."

He said that while Judge Trafford's move was a clearly well-intentioned attempt to quell suspicions in some sectors of the black community about fairness of the justice system, it had seriously distorted time-honoured rules of jury selection.

In response, Mr. McNeely insisted that the glitch was insignificant, justified under the law, and helped counteract a racially volatile situation.


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