A Toronto police officer who ran up a $1.2-million legal aid bill while on trial for his mistress’s murder is now seeking taxpayer funding to appeal his conviction.
Richard Wills is scheduled to appear Tuesday at an inmate court in Kingston Penitentiary, where he will make the application for funded counsel.
Wills was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2002 death of Linda Mariani, 40. Her remains were found in a garbage bin behind a wall in the basement of his Richmond Hill home.
In February 2008, provincial ombud Andre Marin slammed Ontario’s legal aid agency for making "catastrophic” mistakes that allowed Wills to bill taxpayers for $1.2 million in legal costs.
Marin’s report came shortly before the province announced a civil lawsuit against the convicted killer, alleging he intentionally sold off his assets so Legal Aid Ontario would pay for his defence.
"It was a shameful episode that never should have happened,” Marin told a news conference at the time. "It should never be repeated, but make no mistake: it could happen again if nothing is done.”
Wills is serving a life sentence without parole eligibility for 25 years.
After Mariani’s death, Wills systematically divested himself of his assets, which included several properties, then pleaded poverty in persuading a judge to order legal aid to fund his defence.
By the time he was convicted, taxpayers had spent $1.2 million on seven lawyers for Wills, one of whom billed the government for more than $750,000.
"A culture had developed within Legal Aid Ontario that essentially said, ‘If it’s not our money, it’s not our problem,"’ Marin said.
"That culture, combined with catastrophic errors in judgment on Legal Aid Ontario’s part, created this mess.”