Where Should Legal Aid Stop?

According to the Canadian Press, Ontario’s top court has denied a convicted murderer who ran up a $1.2 million legal aid bill more taxpayer funding for an appeal.

Richard Wills, a former Toronto police officer was convicted in 2002 of the first-degree murder of his mistress Linda Mariani.  While usually this would be the type of case that would suggest legal aid would be a necessity, Ontario’s Appeal Court has dismissed Wills’ application to the court for funding to provide legal assistance. 

The reason?  In a judgment released Wednesday, the court writes that Wills is a "well-educated man" with long experience in the justice system and is capable of presenting his appeal without a lawyer.  Wills apparently once described himself as a millionaire and the court has heard reports that Wills systematically divested himself of his assets before applying for legal aid.

So it seems a no brainer in this case, that someone who is “well educated,” potentially a “millionaire,” and has already ran up a $1.2 million legal aid bill, shouldn’t be getting access to more legal aid money, especially when it is becoming so scarce across the country these days. 

On the other hand, however, the guy is charged with MURDER.  It seems wild to think that he would be able to successfully handle his own appeal without a lawyer.  Wills has raised 35 possible grounds of appeal in this case, but the Ontario Appeal Court still thinks that, "the court should have little difficulty understanding and resolving the various issues."

What do you think?  Will Wills be able to receive justice in his appeal, or is he doomed by the financial realities of legal aid?  Do you think he deserves a better chance or has he already received all of the legal aid that someone in his position should reasonably expect?

Read the original story: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2010/02/17/wills-appeal.html#ixzz0gO0ZzpN8


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