Basil Borutski remains silent as triple-murder trial begins jury selection in Ottawa court
Sketch by Greg Banning: The triple murder trial of Basil Borutski began in Ottawa Oct. 2. The trial was expected to continue into the New Year, but wrapped up much quicker than initially anticipated. The judge will instruct the jury Wednesday.
OTTAWA – Basil Borutski remained silent as a plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf Monday at the opening of his trial on three counts of first-degree murder.
The 59-year-old, who stands accused in the September 2015 killings of Anastasia Kuzyk, 36, Nathalie Warmerdam, 48, and Carol Culleton, 66, said nothing as he was arraigned on the charges, and repeatedly declined to respond when called upon.
"His silence deems we are ready to proceed," said Justice Robert Maranger, noting the court's obligation to enter a plea of not guilty in cases where the accused does not co-operate.
Justice Maranger consulted on several occasions with Ottawa lawyer James Foord, appointed as amicus curiae, or friend of the court, responsible for ensuring Borutski's right to a fair trial.
"In exceptional circumstances where the accused is unable or refuses to participate, the role of amicus curiae may take on a broader role," Foord explained in an interview.
"The amicus is there to raise issues that must be raised in order for there to be a fair trial, and to avoid miscarriages of justice. But it's a very limited role. They are not to be weighing in as defence counsel, making tactical decisions, trying to do what is best, or being paternalistic in that regard ... It's entirely different from defence counsel."
Borutski, dressed in a baggy white T-shirt with shoulder-length, unkempt grey hair and goatee, seemed disengaged throughout the proceedings, staring ahead blankly or grimacing, eyes clenched shut, with his head bowed or resting on the wall.
Two bailiffs, both women, kept guard outside the prisoner's box.
Borutski did not respond when Justice Maranger asked if he understood the charges, and did not respond as prospective members of the jury were selected.
As his own defence counsel, Borutski has the right to contest individual juror selections. He did not exercise that right Monday.
He remained expressionless as Justice Maranger read details of the killings to prospective jurors.
Culleton was the first of the three victims to die in a rampage that began overnight on Sept. 21, 2015, or in the early hours of Sept. 22, Justice Maranger said.
Her assailant broke into her cottage at 670 Kamaniskeg Lake Rd., near Combermere, where she was later found beaten and strangled to death.
Kuzyk was then shot to death with a 12-gauge shotgun at her home at 37 Szczipior Rd. in Wilno at 8:50 a.m. Warmerdam was killed with a 12-gauge shotgun at her home at 594 Foymont Rd. near Cormac at 9:20 a.m.
Justice Maranger told each of the 75 prospective jurors to keep an open mind. He instructed those selected for jury duty to decide the case based solely on the evidence presented in court, along with the judge's instructions.
After nine of the 14 jurors were selected Monday, Justice Maranger gave each juror strict instructions to avoid seeking out any information about the case.
"Completely ignore any media attention on this case," he said. "And it does have a lot of attention ... The idea is to have an open mind and be impartial."
Lawyer Patrick McCann is appointed to the defence and will be responsible for cross-examining witnesses who do not want to undergo questioning from Borutski.
Pembroke Crown attorney Jeffery Richardson and assistant Crown Julie Scott read a list of more than 100 names of potential witnesses, including family members of the victims, community members, police and forensic experts.
The trial continues with jury selection Tuesday.