In 2006, a jury in Edmonton, Alberta found a former soldier guilty of murdering his pregnant wife.
Here was a terrific true crime story, if there ever was one, with more twists and turns than the Monaco Grand Prix.
People across North America were drawn to every development, starting with the mysterious disappearance of a pregnant mother, the discovery of her lifeless body, death of her unborn son — and to cap things off — a well-attended trial with a jury making the final call.
The victim’s husband — a heavy-equipment mechanic — was soon charged with murder and put behind bars. But not for long … a Calgary-based judge examined the evidence and granted him bail — only to have his freedom yanked because of a petition organized by an upset neighbour.
The wording of the petition was that the accused actually committed the crime [instead of being accused of it]. Huge difference.
In spite of the document being flawed, tens of thousands still put their names to it. These people weren’t stupid. It’s not that they didn’t know the difference between ‘accused’ and ‘guilty’ … it’s just that they were totally convinced the man did it.
It didn’t matter the accused had fully abided by his strict bail conditions. What mattered is that people were upset at him being free, and they had to be appeased. In the trash can went the bail release.
There you have it. A judicial system brought to its knees by a goofy petition and negative public opinion. So much for that bedrock of our criminal justice system, presumption of innocence.
Yet another reason why Canadians roll their eyes and smile when ‘rule of law’ is discussed.
We can lay that fiasco squarely at the feet of the media. Accepting the police version of events at face value, reporters felt the accused was not only stupid but guilty as well.
When it comes to Announcements from Authority, the media generally falls into line. Reporters and editors know their place … and it’s always a smart career move to buy into what police say.
This principle doesn’t just apply to journalists, but to lawyers who hope to become judges one day.
From the get-go, things didn’t look good for hubby — especially after homicide detectives announced he’d ‘led searchers to the body.’
“How stupid was that?” reporters whispered, “he’s gotta be guilty!!”
Turns out, a police suggestion that Mr. Suspect had led searchers to the body was deceitful. And because people tend to take police evidence at face value, a suggestion soon moped into a fact in the public’s mind … and unscrupulous officers got away with it.
Fact: an officer with Edmonton Police officer directed the search team to the spot where the body would be found.
Was that officer a psychic … or was it all a set up? [more on this coming up]
A year and a half after the murder, the husband was eating prison food after a dozen of his peers concluded he was a heartless wife-killer [and baby-killer]. Yet, according to those who knew him, he was helpful and kind. A ‘big teddy bear.’
And apparently a very clever one … like a world-class magician, he’d made several litres of blood vanish without a trace. Poof. Gone.
The missing blood wouldn’t be the only dichotomy in this bizarre case. There were more.
After the man was sentenced, some important questions surfaced: did police get all the evidence? Was that evidence rock solid? … and did the accused get a fair trial? …
#1 — Someone has fessed up to the murder — and it’s not the fellow doing time. By revealing confidential information in a child welfare file, a lawyer claims a woman has confessed to the killing.
This information never came out at trial. In any case, no one seems to know if the confession is ‘legally’ valid. I mean, what if the person who made the confession is nuts?
#2 — One of Canada’s top private investigators questions the validity of the police evidence.
#3 — There’s plenty of game-changing information the jury never got to hear.
#4 — On February 12, 2020, the Parole Board of Canada granted the convicted killer a limited number of unescorted leaves. It means the man can now leave prison without a guard in tow — for two reasons: to visit with his parents … and to prepare for possible full-time parole, staying initially at a half-way house in Barrie, Ontario.
1: August 2017 … after more than half a year of ‘communication by silence,’ the convicted killer dumped his Edmonton lawyer of six years — in spite of her pledge she “loved him like her own son” … vowing she’d have him out in 2018.
The plan was that the prisoner would have his name cleared … then freedom. A hefty compensation package would follow.
Didn’t happen in 2018, 2019 … and it likely won’t happen in 2020, 2021 …
With the help of law students at the University of Alberta, Edmonton criminal defence lawyer Brian Beresh took over the file.
The case is now being examined by Innocence Canada, a Toronto-based non-profit organization “dedicated to identifying, advocating for, and exonerating individuals convicted of a crime that they did not commit.”
2: The Law Society of Alberta claims it has investigated allegations that an Edmonton lawyer shared confidential information from a child welfare file. Look for the chapter called ‘Not Our Problem,’ about a third of the way down this post.
3: Some unescorted leaves coming up for the prisoner. See ‘A Sniff of Freedom,’ near the end of this post. The chapter includes a comprehensive, written decision by the Parole Board of Canada. [PDF file]
Michael James White was 28 at the time of his wife’s murder in July 2005. Liana White was 29.
About a week after the hospital clerk vanished, her body was found on Edmonton’s western boundary, near the top of a shallow ditch, just off a busy dirt road.
The medical examiner [coroner] couldn’t say for sure how Liana died, putting it down to ‘homicidal violence.’ He did indicate the victim lost a lot of blood after being repeatedly slashed and stabbed with a kitchen knife.
The couple’s unborn son also perished in the attack.
Liana’s slashed finger-tips indicate she tried in vain to fend off her assailant[s].
The day after Liana’s body was located — by White family members, no less — Edmonton Police snapped a pair of handcuffs on the burly husband, charged him with murder and escorted him to the Main Police Station downtown. He was then taken right next door, to the Remand Centre.
The Remand is often a noisy, violent place where those facing serious charges are ‘remanded’ until their trial is over.
In an exclusive jailhouse interview from the Remand, Michael White shared he was shocked that anyone would think he murdered his wife. He maintained he loved Liana and that he’d never harm her.
I did the interview for 630 CHED, an Edmonton radio news and information powerhouse. I didn’t meet with Michael White to buy into his version of events, nor to debate him. I was there to hear him out.
A lot of questions were ping-ponging in my head as a guard opened a steel door leading to a room at the far end of a cinderblock-lined hallway. It was there where White and I would talk for about 30 minutes.
The prisoner was escorted by two guards. That usually happens in the case of high-profiled inmates [Jeffrey Epstien being the exception].
Did White murder his wife? … Did he want to attend her funeral? … How would he plead? … Would there be a ‘tell-all’ revealing salacious details?
I had no idea what to expect. White and I were strangers and I was on a fishing trip.
In the beginning, no one believed Michael White — and that included his own mother in Ontario. She doesn’t feel that way any more.
There was good reason White was alone: the evidence against him was powerful.
Or so it seemed …
The mainstream media was also powerful — and influential. Reporters, trusting souls they are when dealing with those in power, bought into whatever Edmonton Police told them.
It was at a news conference where detectives revealed a damning nugget about the accused: he had led searchers to his wife’s body.
Wow! How could any reasonable person not think Michael White was guilty?
There was also a grainy black and white video recorded overnight by a security camera attached to the roof of a neighbourhood pub. The video further incriminated the accused.
Even if the recording was a set-up — as one private investigator believes — it was still damning. That’s because everyone’s mind was made up. No doubt about it, Michael James White was guilty of murdering his wife and unborn child. To suggest otherwise was heresy.
Not only are journalists and wannabe judges trusting of the police, so’s the general pubic.
And it wasn’t just police evidence that swayed public opinion. The behaviour of the accused did as well. White did some pretty dumb things that further convinced Albertans he was a killer trying to cover his tracks.
People also noted that White looked guilty in an interview broadcast on CFRN, the CTV affiliate. More on that coming up.
Police concluded that Liana White was murdered in the master bedroom of her sprawling, four-level split in North-Central Edmonton.
A heated argument over finances, perhaps? Once that rumour started making the rounds, reporters then speculated the couple had severe financial troubles.
Just to put this in perspective … given the poor wages paid by media outlets, some journalists are in terrible financial binds as well — but they’re sure not murdering their partners.
To make things worse for Michael White, Global reported he had been kicked out of the military for taking tools and not returning them. Theft. More incriminating stuff. It wasn’t true about White being kicked out of the military [in fact, he was granted an honourable discharge], but the damage was done and it wasn’t getting un-done.
It was a spectacle that had no place in journalism. And herein lies the danger of rushing to judgement.
Now people in Edmonton were really pissed. In the minds of so many, White was not only a wife-killer and a baby-killer but a thief who’d been ‘kicked out’ of the military.
It was essentially game over for Michael White, a jury trial merely a formality — not to mention a waste of time and taxpayers’ money.
Nobody was surprised when the jury foreman announced, “Guilty of 2nd-degree murder!”
White was sent packing to a federal prison with no chance of full parole for 17 years. Albertans celebrated; the dumbass-killer was behind bars.
Turns out, some of what police claimed as evidence [and the media reported as fact] was beyond suspicious.
And now comes some blockbuster information that should raise eyebrows at the Department of Justice in Ottawa. According to Edmonton injury lawyer Marilyn Burns, a woman known to Liana and Michael White has fessed up to the murder.
Burns reveals the confession is on file in a shrink’s office in the Edmonton area. Owing to her direct involvement in a child welfare case, the lawyer claims she viewed the document herself.
She has shared this information with at least half a dozen people, including myself. Many times. Ask yourself, what are the chances of an officer of the court fabricating information as crucial as that? Small to none.
At the time, Burns was representing the interests of Ashley White, the pre-school daughter of the murder victim and the convicted killer.
Note: White family members also claim the woman has uttered the same confession to her doctor and to close friends — in addition to recently  uttering death threats to Ashley.
Buckle up! Here we go …
- A Search of the White Residence
- She’s Gone!
- Media Coverage
- Journalist Warren Henderson
- Well, He ‘Looked’ Guilty …
- … Guess He Was!
- My Time With The Accused
- An Old Acquaintance Appears
- A Cry For Help?
- Ain’t Our Job
- Is Michael White Guilty?
- Bad Everything
- White Assaulted in Prison
- A Message For The Dead
- Legal Malpractice?
- Suspicious Video Evidence
- What Happened to Camera #4?
- Reliable Evidence?
- A History of Violence
- Police Theory Versus Facts
- Questionable Interrogation Methods
- Cell Furnishings
- Does Something Smell Here?
- One Very Mystified PI Team
- A Vital Report Collects Dust
- “Now Be a Priority For Me”
- Private Effort Stalls & Fails
- Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda
- Michael White Today
- 20 Years Ago
- A Tough Road To Hoe
- Talks With White + Lawyer #6
- More Communication by Silence
- A Sniff of Freedom
- Where Are They Now?
- Know Something About the White Case?
The following is my account of what happened to a young Ontario man, Michael James White, who moved to Alberta’s capital in the 1990s …
It was in Edmonton where White served in the Canadian [Army] Tank Corps. And it’s where he met his future wife, Liana Kelly.
The couple met at a bar in the North end of the city, just off 127th Street. Michael and Liana hit it off. They went on dates, took in a few movies … then tied the knot and settled down to raise a family.Neither had drug, booze or tobacco addictions. All good stuff.
Before you knew it, ‘Mikey’ and Liana weren’t watching as many movies and along came a baby girl, Ashley.
The young couple got their own house, rescued a mutt from the pound and watched their pennies.
The Whites had a circle of close friends, went to parties, made trips to the Rocky Mountains, flew to Ontario to visit relatives … and gave friends and neighbours a helping hand.
Nothing really out of the ordinary.
After interviewing a number of people who knew the couple, I did not get the impression they were ‘me people’ — especially the husband, who was described as giving and thoughtful.
I didn’t go looking for dirt on Michael or Liana. What I got was what I got.
I poured through Liana’s bookkeeping records and found them to be thorough with every penny accounted for. Aside from a hefty mortgage, Mr. and Mrs. were pretty well debt-free.
Their four-level split was clean, orderly and pleasant. No trailer park trash living here … no stacks of empty liquor bottles, black mold or animal feces.
Michael and Liana White were functional, not dysfunctional. They weren’t yahoos or delusionary folk, boozers, dopeheads, welfare cheats or cons with criminal records.
You get the picture.
At a quick glance, Michael and Liana White struck me as not terribly different from most.
A SEARCH OF THE WHITE RESIDENCE
Michael and Liana White did not have a perfect marriage, then again who does? The impression I got was that they still loved each other and had a good thing going.
In the top drawer of a cabinet in the dining area of their home, I found a stack of greeting cards with handwritten, heartfelt messages. Bound by a thick rubber band, the love notes were from Mike to Liana and from Liana to Mike. I came across them while searching for evidence.
Because White’s bail was revoked, I had unlimited access to his residence. [White phoned and indicated where I could pick up his house keys.]
“Byron,” he said, “search my house as much as you want, tear up the floors, look everywhere — and if you find anything that shows I murdered my wife, please do a story on it!”
I took him up on his offer …Every weekend, I searched the now infamous residence at 27 Warwick Crescent from top to bottom — sometimes with a lawyer or another reporter present — although I was usually by myself.
My search ended late one Sunday evening in early 2006. I locked the front door and walked out into the darkness without a hint that anyone had been murdered in the house, let alone that the man in custody was the killer.
There was no blood splatter on the walls, no blood on the floor or on the baseboard, no blood-soaked clothes tucked away somewhere — and no murder weapon [such as a serrated kitchen knife] in a secret hiding spot.
I searched everywhere for a murder weapon, and I mean everywhere. At the end of a long day, my forearm itched from removing insulation from a tiled ceiling in an exercise room in the basement.
If Michael White had stabbed his wife to death in a frenzied attack in their house, he was an absolute genius at hiding all that blood. Where did it go? He had somehow managed to clean things up faster than 100 Molly Maid workers. How’d he do that?
Grant it, I’m no professional investigator but I came to the conclusion that Liana was not murdered in her home, certainly not in the couple’s bedroom. Didn’t happen.
And why wasn’t this a lingering issue at trial? Because there’s a big difference between a defence and a good defence.
All hell broke loose the morning Liana White vanished on that warm day in July 2005. The story led every newscast and it stayed that way for several days.
CTV did an interview with the husband who pleaded for his wife’s safe return. I didn’t see it, but according to those who did, hubby didn’t come across well. They said he didn’t look sincere.
A week later, Liana’s decomposing, semi-nude body was discovered near the top of a shallow ditch, just a few miles west of her home.
The very next day, her husband was taken away by Edmonton Police and charged with murder.
Fuelled largely by information from the police — including some misleading information — the news media went into frenzied overdrive.
Some reporters privately said the accused was guilty … and mind you, this was a full year before he went to trial. There was blood in the water and the scribes joined in.
So convinced reporters were of White’s guilt that the former soldier became a newsroom joke. One reporter shared that Michael White had to be one of the world’s dumbest criminals.
Michael White, who had no previous charges of violence or any criminal record, had already been found guilty in the Court of Public Opinion … from which there is no appeal.
The case drew attention across the United States because Liana’s murder was similar to a well-publicized 2002 homicide in California where a jury convicted Scott Lee Peterson of the murder of his pregnant wife, Laci.
In their stories about Michael White, reporters occasionally mentioned the Peterson case, pointing out similarities: missing wife … attractive wife … pregnant wife … husband a suspect … husband organizes search team … husband claims he loved his wife … wife found murdered … husband charged … husband says he didn’t do it …
It was like a checklist.
Peterson went down for first-degree murder and for second-degree murder in the death of his unborn son. If bullshitting had been a crime, he would’ve gone down for that too.
Scott Peterson remains on death row at the State Penitentiary in San Quentin, California.
Of course, there were differences in the Scott Peterson and Michael White cases, primarily with how police evidence was collected and how it was presented in court.
In the Peterson case, officers who collected evidence and information were never suspected of spoliation of evidence and selective prosecution.
Another thing, no one accused Michael White of having an affair.
Even so, because of the similarities with a high profile case in California, the murder of Liana White soon became one of the most-followed crime stories in Edmonton history.
A few months after the Greta Van Susteren interview [On The Record, FOX NEWS], I was on a different FOX News program, again with the White murder case. The highly-rated American TV network sent a small crew from Los Angeles to produce a more in-depth story on all the excitement coming down in Edmonton.
The producer shared that she found it odd anyone would seriously think Michael White was innocent. She too had been influenced by what she’d heard, seen and read … and keep in mind, this producer was no rookie.
The final Fox interview was conducted at the CHED building in South Edmonton, in the main studio upstairs where the walls were conveniently plastered with our station logo — a reminder to millions of FOX viewers across the world where the interview took place.
JOURNALIST WARREN HENDERSON
Thank you, Warren Henderson, Assistant News Director at CHED.
On 27 July 2005, the veteran journalist fired off an email to staff at CHED and our three sister stations after the jailhouse interview with Michael White had garnered us so much media attention.
All that publicity was positive … and FREE.
In his email, the broadcaster shared his thoughts about ‘hacks’ and ‘bagmen’ in our news business. Good for Warren. It’s refreshing to see journalists call a spade a spade when it comes to our industry.
Not long after writing this, Warren died from a heart attack. The man passed away in a movie theatre, of all places. The show ended and when the cleaners came in, they found Warren slumped over in his chair.
Check out his email …
WELL, HE ‘LOOKED’ GUILTY …
Unfortunately for Michael White, it came across in news reports as fact — not theory — that he’d led searchers to his wife’s body. Truth is, it was the Edmonton Police Search Coordinator that instructed White’s search team to stop looking in the North end of town and search instead a dirt road … miles away.
Searchers thought the request was odd because only days earlier they’d checked that same spot. In spite of the red flag, they listened to the police and off they went.
And what do you know? There was Liana’s body! … in full view at the top of a shallow ditch. The police search coordinator must have had psychic powers.
Here’s what people were now thinking: If hubby led searchers to his wife’s body, then — duh — he obviously knew where she was because he’d killed her and dumped her there. It wasn’t hard to connect the dots.
It helped explain the overwhelming public sentiment against Michael White.
Separate from that, White was indeed guilty of some bonehead moves … things that came back to bite him and weaken his credibility. More on that in this post.
… GUESS HE WAS!
When Michael White went to trial, his lawyers did not seriously scrutinize the police evidence — or, for that matter, criticize the behaviour of the police.
Jurors didn’t have to deliberate very long before finding White guilty.
Within minutes of the 12 men and women announcing ‘guilty,’ handcuffs went on the husband with a sound that reverberated throughout the hushed courtroom.
Off to prison the ‘killer’ went to serve at least 17 years — and if he continues to maintain his innocence — perhaps longer. Welcome to Canada’s criminal justice system.
At a quick glance, it looked as though Edmonton Police were nothing short of brilliant — and the bad guy was the Forrest Gump of killers.
But was that really the case?
Some, including a preacher, still maintain that things just don’t add up. They wonder if Michael White was a victim of malicious prosecution — especially now that there’s a report of a murder confession.
Here’s the problem: No country that calls itself a democracy can afford to have its citizens wondering if their judicial system is a roll of the dice.
The admission could add up to another ‘fail’ for the Canadian judicial system, and it can’t take that. It already has a huge credibility problem … about two dozen wrongful murder convictions [and those are just the proven ones]. Lord only knows the true number.
MY TIME WITH THE ACCUSED
I did a number of stories on the murder of Liana White which included interviews with her husband. For a while, I even hung out with him in the hope a confession might come my way.
But that never happened.
While I was trying to figure out Michael White, he was trying to figure me out. Go figure.
White suspected I was a ‘spy’ for Edmonton Police. If I was a snoop, it was for my audience at CHED. I have never been an informant for the police, nor have I accepted money from any law enforcement agency for speaking engagements, media training, etc.
Most of my time with White was when he was out briefly on bail [after his arrest and before trial]. Following his murder conviction, I saw him a few times at the maximum security Edmonton Institution — and at a medium security prison near Gravenhurst, Ontario.
Someone in administration at the Edmonton Max [whose name I will not reveal] once asked, “What is it with Michael White? He’s not like the other inmates …” I explained that White hadn’t been behind bars before, he had no prior history of violence and his murder trial was, well, a bit wonky …
AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE APPEARS
I also interviewed a lady who claimed to be an old acquaintance of Liana White. We chatted over dinner at a family restaurant just months after the murder.
The woman shared that she’d met Liana through work. “Did you take part in the search for her?” I asked. “No.” “Why not?” “Because I didn’t want anyone to think I killed her …”
“Well, did you kill Liana?” I asked. At that point, she whipped her head around and silently stared out the window into the night sky.” “No!” she finally retorted, looking back my way.
When we finished our meal, the woman wanted to know if I’d show her the spot where Liana’s body was found. It was dark, but I agreed to take her there.
We stood on the shoulder of the dirt road and I pointed to a white wooden cross in the ditch, made visible because of the moonlight.
“The killer slipped when they carried Liana’s body,” she offered. “How the hell do you know that?” I asked. “I have a vision …”
Christ. I was trying to be open-minded but I was reminded of a great Wayne Dyer quote: “There’s no bullshit like New Age bullshit …”
The woman then asked about a ‘strange light’ off in the woods, west of where we stood. “What’s that?” she asked, pointing towards the bright object. I figured it might be a light from a freight train. “Let’s check it out,” she offered and so off we went into the woods. Without a flashlight.
I also didn’t check her for a weapon. Kinda stupid, I know.
At this point, my feelings were that anyone who knew Liana could be a suspect. As we made our way through a wooded area, I wondered if she was the killer. Just a thought. No knife plunged into my back, so that was positive.
The woman said she felt the light might be a ‘sign’ from Above. But as I suspected, it was only the light from a slow-moving freight.
We walked a short distance and came to a clearing. I was later told it was a popular spot for prostitutes to bring their customers.
Nothing came of that ‘lead’ … just another interesting maybe that went nowhere. Because of that, there’s no need to identify this person.
A CRY FOR HELP?
Michael White usually phoned around ten pm, just before he went to bed. Our talks were never long. He’d recap his day, perhaps talk about some evidence he’d collected or share his thoughts about this and that.
White called one evening but it took me a few moments to realize it was actually him. That’s how down he was; when he spoke, there was zero energy in his voice.
It was a weird phone call. White thanked me for working on his case. I told him it was a good story and that I was one of many reporters working on it.
I thought nothing of White’s remark, nor his state of mind, until four or five hours later. At that point, it dawned on me that he might have done himself in and he had phoned to say good-bye.
Some have criticized me for not calling 911. Fair enough. I did not call simply because it was hours after the fact … and so I went back to sleep. Before I dozed off, I said a short prayer for him.
Next morning, I phoned White’s workplace in Southeast Edmonton. His supervisor explained that Michael wasn’t coming in because ‘something’ had happened overnight.
I was curious as to what that was, and so I dropped by the White residence on my way home from the courthouse. A subdued Michael opened the door. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days.
His right forearm was covered with large, ugly red welts as though it had been burned with a branding iron.”What the hell happened to you?” I asked. White’s response: “I’m not talking about it, dude …”
About a week later, I was back in the White house when I noticed an empty box on the kitchen floor. Michael had bought a new toaster. “Aha,” I said, “you tried to electrocute yourself with a toaster, right?”
White nodded yes, then explained that after he called that night, he filled Liana’s bathtub with water, connected the toaster to an extension cord … and rammed it into the water. Zap!
“It was very painful,” he said in a low voice.
“Why didn’t it kill you?” I asked.
“The breaker blew.”
“I just wanted to be with Liana.”
Carol Forbes, Michael’s mother, said about a week after the incident she received in the mail from her son a ‘last will and testament.’ I asked if she could show it to me. At first she agreed but then changed her mind. “You’ve seen enough,” she remarked.
Hate to disappoint those who thought this ‘dummy’ was guilty, but in addition to Michael White’s trial being a tad wonky, there’s new information that suggests Liana White was murdered by someone other than her husband.
Lawyer Marilyn Burns maintains that after White was sent to prison, an Edmonton-area woman confessed to her psychiatrist that she killed Liana. Burns revealed she saw the confession in a file from a shrink’s office.
At the time, Burns was working on a child welfare file for Ashley White.
The lawyer has shared this information with at least half a dozen people, including myself.
Edmonton Police don’t appear to be aware of the new evidence. Perhaps they don’t know about it because the information is ‘privileged’ — only known to very few who had access to the child welfare file. Or maybe they don’t really care since they already have their man and they’re not about to unravel the conviction and embarrass the Edmonton Police, not to mention the multi-million dollar tab associated with a wrongful conviction. You can draw your own conclusions.
Some have suggested the confession may not even exist. I haven’t seen it … but I trust Burns when she says it’s there. I mean, why would a lawyer fabricate stuff as critical as that?
Mind you, it’s supposedly against the rules for a lawyer to reveal what’s on a child welfare file. Good for Marilyn Burns for having the courage to share this valuable information with others. Give her full credit.
Confidential or not, the information is crucial because it could spring a man who might be wrongfully convicted of murder.
AIN’T OUR JOB
In February 2019 I formally requested the Law Society of Alberta to determine if Marilyn Burns violated its code of ethics by divulging confidential information from the child welfare file of Ashley White.
Child welfare files are deemed more private than most.
There were a number of such leaks from the same file. I learned of them firsthand while working on the Michael White story.
It was my understanding that attorneys could not reveal the contents of child welfare files. My source for this were two veteran lawyers: David Willson [criminal] and Marilyn Burns [injury] who shared their thoughts on the risks of being caught. Both were adamant the Law Society would severely reprimand members who committed that sin, perhaps even yank their licence to practice law.
The most vehement about a sanction was Marilyn Burns herself.
Willson’s take on abuse of confidentiality was that it was a no-brainer. Here’s how he put it: “What a lawyer sees on a child welfare file … stays in that room.” For further clarification [and in the spirit of calling a spade a shove], Willson added, “You shut the fuck up!”
Was Marilyn Burns aware of David Willson’s thoughts? She sure was; I told her so.
Burns did not comment on Willson’s ‘you-shut-the-fuck-up’ remark. However, after Willson phoned a shrink’s office to confirm confidential information Burns had shared with myself and others, Burns was hysterical about being caught.
In a May 2019 letter to the Law Society, Burns denied she leaked information from a child welfare file. That’s an “inoperative statement,” to use a buzz term from the Watergate scandal. The lawyer had revealed the same confidential information to good number of people, including myself. Many times.
Turns out, Ms. Burns didn’t have much to worry about …
In a letter dated February 27, 2019, an anonymous Law Society official — simply describing themselves as a “delegate” of the Executive Director — gave an insight into how the society deals with lawyers who leak confidential information.
Here’s the actual quote: “If you have concerns about disclosure of confidential information in relation to a child welfare matter, I recommend you contact Alberta Human Services or Child Protective Services with these concerns.” [the emphasis is mine]
Really? The organization that governs the behaviour of lawyers in Alberta is not worried members leak confidential information from files?
How is the release of confidential information from a child welfare file not a breach of the Law Society’s code of ethics?
There are two messages here: The Law Society of Alberta is diverting to another agency the problem of confidential leaks by lawyers. In other words, the Law Society is looking the other way when members divulge confidential informations.
If the Law Society cannot enforce its code of ethics, why even have a code? The answer: a code of ethics is great PR.
Check out the peculiar signature below. Notice how the unidentified Law Society official tried to hide their identity with an illegible scrawl.
The scrawl says everything one needs to know about a lack of transparency at the Law Society …
Why bother with a totally illegible scrawl if no name is printed? It looks like someone wanted it both ways — to officially sign off on a dirty document — yet keep their identity secret.
The investigator’s report was sloppy and incomplete, raising questions about how the Law Society really operates.
That kind of behaviour is hardly transparent. The irony is that the Law Society has sanctioned members for not being candid. But when the spotlight is on the governing body itself, a new set of rules kicks in.
The fact that whoever did the report is not properly identified is a massive red flag. It brings into question not only the credibility of the investigation but other issues such as public trust in lawyers.
When the safety and confidence of the public is at stake, trust is everything.
An in-house appeals process may reveal the truth — but let’s not hold our breath. Given what has happened so far, we’re looking at another smoke and mirrors show.
Credibility has always been an issue with organizations that investigate themselves and essentially become apologists.
IS MICHAEL WHITE GUILTY??
I don’t know. The purpose of this post is to point out a high number of inconsistencies with the Michael White file. Add to that, a mysterious murder confession …
Was Michael White wrongfully convicted? From the information in this article — and in other media stories you may have read about Michael White — you make the call. Think of yourself as an unpaid jury member.
Read on … what you’re about to discover differs greatly from the ‘official version of events.’
If you believe police and ‘officers of the court’ are always above board, the Michael White case will give you cause to rethink that.
Reporters took a police theory [“Michael White led searchers to his wife’s body”] and turned it into a fact. Just like magic. Gotta admit, that’s not terribly unusual in the news business. Journalists often publish or broadcast information from the police without verifying it. If it’s from the police, it’s gospel.
Once White chose to go with a jury, he had no hope in Hell of getting a fair trial. Especially in Alberta. Keep in mind that Albertans once elected to the highest position in the province — we’re talking Premier here — an alcoholic yahoo with a grade-9 education. His initials were Ralph Klein.
This should tell you all you need to know about the perils of jury trials in Alberta.
WHITE ASSAULTED IN PRISON
Soon after Michael White arrived at the Edmonton Max, in early 2007, he was attacked by about a dozen Native prisoners. The goons weren’t captured, but their blows were — by a security camera.
That’s right. NATIVE prisoners. Isn’t it refreshing to read an article that’s not politically correct?
White refused to press charges against his assailants, saying, “That’s the way it goes, Byron,” pausing to look up, “they believe what they read in the papers …”
White chose not to press charges because he didn’t want to rock the boat. The Max was now his home and he had to ‘get along.’
During a meeting I had with White in the prison’s visitor’s room, he pointed to one of his assailants who was sitting with a female in the corner. The con’s face was stitched up like an NHL goaltender before days of the mask. She was attractively-challenged as well.
I looked the con’s way, he returned my glance, then resumed holding hands with his visitor. “Well it doesn’t look like he’s gay,” I remarked, “… and between the two, they might have a full set of teeth.”
Sorry, don’t have a lot of time for bozos who gang up on someone when they’re out numbered.
A MESSAGE FOR THE DEAD
Over the past 10 years or so, I received a good number of phone calls and letters from Michael White. These have originated in the Edmonton Remand Centre, his home in Edmonton, the Remand Centre in Red Deer, Alberta, the Edmonton Institution … and finally, Fenbrook Institution, just outside Gravenhurst, Ontario.
It was in 2009, shortly after White transferred to the medium security prison in Fenbrook, that I was finally able to locate Liana’s grave. The grave was in a large, sprawling Catholic cemetery in St. Albert, just north of Edmonton.
I’d been looking for it for several years.
You’d think it wouldn’t be hard to find a grave. Go to reception, give a name, get a location, bingo, there it is. But no. At the request of Liana’s mother, Maureen Kelly, Liana was buried under ‘Kelly,’ not White. Maureen had also instructed the cemetery not to disclose the location of her daughter’s plot.
When White was out on parole, he spent a considerable number of hours in the cemetery searching for his wife’s grave. I went there one day and found White wandering about in the back-40, checking out headstones and fresh, unmarked graves.
He said if he saw them all, he’d been to his wife’s plot.
I accompanied him on one of his walks. “Do you think she’s here?” he asked, standing by a newly-dug grave. This went on for about an hour. I kept saying, “I don’t know.”
Months later, I mailed White a photograph of Liana’s grave marker. I then received a 3-page letter in the mail. The letter was addressed — not to me — but to his dead wife.
If you’re having trouble reading White’s letter, click on it to make it bigger.
Of all those who dropped the ball on the White file, lawyers were by far the worst.
Lawyers talked a big game, made big promises, gave reassuring smiles, spewed excuses that changed as fast as the weather — but at the end of the day, it was often nothing more than talk.
The lawyers collected their pay cheques and went home.
At first, Michael White was assured by his legal team that the murder charges against him likely wouldn’t stick, and he bought into the lie. When the trial was over and the dust had settled, the farm boy from Ontario realized he’d been duped.
Turns out, the talk wasn’t so cheap after all. The false assurances came at a tremendous personal and financial cost to both Michael White and his family.
When White’s mother concedes that lawyers had them by the ‘short and curlies,’ it’s a sad indictment of our legal community.
I’m not sure what to make of the Law Society of Alberta, the watchdog group the public trusts to keep an eye on attorneys. Are those in charge asleep at the switch? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, is its main concern collecting exorbitant membership fees?
The big question: does the Law Society do a better job of protecting lawyers than you and I?
SUSPICIOUS VIDEO EVIDENCE
A grainy pub video purportedly shot in the early morning hours of Liana’s disappearance shows a bald man resembling Michael White first driving by in a vehicle, then casually jogging on the sidewalk.
Richard’s Pub was in a strip mall about a mile from the White residence.
At a quick glance, the video seems legit. It now vibrates with ripples of fake.
The video has been debunked by one of Canada’s top private investigators, Bruce Dunne of Calgary.
Dunne looked at the video evidence critically. He was assisted by two experts: PI Shelly Nowell, also of Calgary — and forensics expert Doctor Mark Morris of Edmonton who got his training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT].
Their finding: the video was such poor quality it was impossible to determine who was jogging on the sidewalk that night.
That conclusion was supported by a second forensics expert, Eugene Liscio of A12-3D Forensics in Toronto who also examined the grainy tape. Liscio’s 16-page report was prepared in June 2011 for Edmonton criminal defence lawyer David Willson. More on Liscio’s report coming up.
Dunne, a former Calgary Police sergeant, believes the event could very well have been staged days after the murder. What it comes down to, he noted, is that there is no proof when the video was shot. That’s because the video did not have a digital date stamp. The tape was analog. Old technology.
We must take the word of the pub owners –and the police — that the recording was done when they said it was. End of story.
There were TWO cameras on the roof of the single-story pub. Both were fixed [did not move] and they shot black and white video.
One camera was pointed south, at the sidewalk; the other was pointed east, providing a view of the parking lot.
Video from the second camera revealed some interesting information — which didn’t come up at trial.
The parking lot was empty, not unusual considering the time of day — save for one sedan pointed in the direction of the sidewalk. Any occupants in the vehicle would have had a clear view of the jogger’s path.
The big question: Was someone in that sedan?
Liscio points out there could be at least one witness to the ‘jogger’ — perhaps someone sitting in that full-size sedan.
It’s as though they were overseeing everything, and perhaps they were. Given the time of day, it’s unlikely someone was sitting in a car for five or six hours, waiting for one of the small shops to open.
Bottom line: What was the vehicle doing in the parking lot at that hour?
I viewed that video tape as well. So did the Dunne-Nowell team … and Marilyn Burns, the Edmonton lawyer who was preparing a legal brief on Michael White’s behalf for the Federal Department of Justice.
At Burns’ request, the Dunne-Newell investigative team prepared a comprehensive report on trial transcripts and events leading up to Michael White’s trial. Completed in August 2012, their report highlights scores of inconsistencies with both the police investigation and White’s legal team’s performance at the trial. I’ll touch on some of this in the post.
Here’s something to think about: Is that mystery vehicle in the parking lot an unmarked police cruiser?
“I’d bet my life on it,” says Dunne.
In 2012, I went around to the pub and met with the owner, Richard. He shared that the camera pointing East had captured the same ‘jogger’ running diagonally across the parking lot just earlier. What?? If true, this was stunning. What he was saying was that the ‘jogger’ also ran in an entirely different direction than what was shown on the video tape played in court.
If that really was Michael White, for a guy on a very tight schedule he sure did a lot of unnecessary running around that morning. Perhaps he just couldn’t make up his mind about which route to take home.
If it was a staged event — as PI Dunne suggests — police had a choice of whichever tape was more convincing and the sidewalk clip won out.
When Liscio questioned the pub owner about the ‘jogger’s second run, he then denied any knowledge of it. The convenient memory loss didn’t surprise me at all.
I know what I was told. I have a clear memory of the owner standing alongside me at the front door of his pub, pointing out the route of the ‘jogger’ when he cut across the parking lot.
This conflicting information never got to the jurors.
WHAT HAPPENED TO CAMERA #4?
The pub had four video cameras: two outside, two inside.
The placement of the inside cameras: one was aimed at the main entry door; the other at the back door. The camera pointed at the front door was working that night … but as the Dunne-Nowell team noted, the camera pointed at the rear door had been turned OFF.
Why was it turned off?
Consider this: If the ‘jogger’ recording was a set-up, could it be that people going in and out the back door did not want to be video taped?? Or was it an accident that camera #4 was shut off? Again, it never came up at trial.
The video, recorded on an old-style VHS tape, automatically recorded on top of previous recordings. This would go on for several days, one recording on top of another, leaving a ‘ghost’ image. Dunne and Nowell claim that second, third and fourth recordings on the same tape leave evidence — known as ‘ghosting.’
According to the investigators, the VHS ‘jogger’ tape shown to the court was a fresh tape –with no sign of a previous recording. Yet the tape was supposedly put in the VCR several days earlier. Something doesn’t add up …
Michael White had short hair the morning his wife vanished. He was not bald — but the ‘jogger’ was. If this came up at the trial about White not being bald at the time his wife disappeared, no one paid any mind to it. Another magical trick by White?
According to a study by the Dunne-Nowell Team, it’s impossible to tell if Michael White is the ‘jogger.’ With the help of forensics expert Morris, the PI’s confirmed the grainy video showed someone to be 6-foot to 6-2. The three investigators came to the conclusion that the physical appearance of the ‘jogger’ does not fit the description of Michael White.
And what has all this to do with the defence lawyers, you ask? Simple. At trial, White’s attorneys did not question the validity of the video tape. The Crown presented the tape as bonafide evidence and the defence went along with it.
Doctor Morris and the Dunne-Nowell Team are not alone in saying no one can tell if the ‘jogger’ is Michael White. Eugene Liscio also couldn’t conclude one way or the other if the jogger was White.
Liscio’s conclusion essentially mirrors the opinion of Mark Morris and PIs Dunne and Nowell. Here’s a portion of Liscio’s report … [for squint-free reading, click to enlarge].The ‘jogger’ in the video ran with relative ease. Michael White couldn’t run worth a darn after he nearly sliced off a toe while serving in the military.
Story time: When Michael White was out on bail I challenged him to a foot race. We were on a back road not far from his home and the ‘finish line’ was the door handle of my 37 Olds, parked about a block away. White got a head start. Yet, I beat him. Quite easily. I am no runner — but neither was White.
The man ran with a distinct limp, as though one leg was shorter than the other. I was in better-than-average shape, at least I like to think so — but I’m also 30 years older than White.
I mentioned all this to his trial lawyer and she seemed keen — so interested that she had me down on the list of witnesses to be called by the defence. That meant I could not sit in on White’s trial and see what was going on.
I was never called to the stand. I can only assume they either didn’t want my information or didn’t want me to see what was happening [and not-happening] at the trial.
The same thing happened with Carol Forbes, Michael’s mother who first spotted Liana’s body near the top of a ditch.
There’s a possible explanation as to why Forbes was never called as a witness. She had legitimate questions that could put a huge hole in the police case … she wanted to know why Liana’s body was covered with branches after they left, and who put those branches there.
Having her utter stuff like that in court [and to reporters afterwards] would make a laughing stock of a police investigation — and deep-six any lawyer’s dream of becoming a judge.
The medical examiner ruled that Liana White bled to death after being stabbed a number of times. The most damaging blow was when a large knife plunged deep into her left shoulder.
The attack supposedly happened in the couple’s bedroom.
However, the amount of blood found in the bedroom and throughout the house was minimal,perhaps enough to fill a thimble.
A small amount of blood and human nasal mucus [‘snot’] was found on paper towels. Michael White claims that blood came from a nosebleed Liana had, just days earlier.
Police found zero traces of blood in any of the drains in the White residence.
No offense to Michael White, but he’s not smart enough to pull off such a phenomenal clean-up, especially in such a short time.
How can there be no trace of a bloodbath in a regular-size bedroom with laminate flooring? Where did all that blood go? Did it evaporate?
If Liana was bludgeoned to death in her bedroom, with her moving around and blood squirting everywhere, surely some blood would have found its way into the floor cracks … or seeped to the edge of the flooring, or under the baseboard. But no. There was no trace of it, just a relatively small area of the floor where luminol indicated where some blood — perhaps — had been cleaned up.
If anything, the luminol backed up Michael White’s story that his wife had a nosebleed.If there had been a bloodbath in the bedroom and it was all cleaned up, it would have been impossible for anyone to remove the furniture, tear up the flooring, clean every bloodied board [top and underneath], and put everything back together — in minutes. Can’t be done.
Superman, Batman and the A-Team on speed could not have done it.
Here’s a September 2012 note from PI Dunne to Marilyn Burns and myself essentially debunking the theory that Liana White was murdered in her bedroom.
Police did find a small amount of blood on the bed covering. Investigators cut off a corner of the material measuring several inches square. Conclusion: no bloodbath.
It’s interesting there was no request by defence counsel to have the floor boards taken up and examined.
How did the White family dog sleep through a vicious attack?? The dog slept on the floor, at the foot of the bed. Not a sound from the mutt, and you’d think it would have gone nuts if the owner it so loved was screaming for her life.
I saw that dog. It was one hyper mutt … over-vigilant and skittish.
An out-of-town visitor sleeping outdoors, next to the White residence, heard squat. The man should have heard something, one would think. He was staying in a tent-trailer parked right between the White residence and the neighbour’s house to the North.
However, he heard no blood-curdling screams and the White dog didn’t go nuts. All was quiet.
It was a warm July night and owing to the White’s not having air conditioning, some of their windows were wide open. Perhaps the gentleman in the tent trailer was a heavy sleeper, or perhaps he was from downtown Los Angeles where blood-curdling attacks may be the norm.
Nothing about the Michael and Liana’s dog being hyper was ever mentioned at the murder trial. Notta.
According to Edmonton injury lawyer Marilyn Burns, AN EDMONTON-AREA WOMAN HAS SINCE CONFESSED TO HER SHRINK THAT SHE KILLED LIANA WHITE.
Even without putting that in upper case and bold print, the statement should hit one between the eyes: A woman she’s the real killer, not Michael White.
The woman knew both Liana and Michael extremely well. If she isn’t a wing nut, that’s important because it means cops had the wrong guy.
Let’s call this person ‘Alternative Suspect.’ She has mental health issues, and I realize it’s unclear how much weight should be given to her confession.
Even so, how could this be ignored?
Stop right there. Kudos — huge kudos — to lawyer Marilyn Burns for releasing the information in spite of issues of confidentiality and child-welfare privacy laws.
I asked to see the alleged confession but was refused. However, Burns is adamant it’s in a file folder at a shrink’s office. She has seen it, she says.
The confession isn’t exactly a secret. Burns has not only shared this information with myself but with PIs Dunne and Newell, staff at Innocence Canada, Michael White and White’s family in Ontario.
And there’s more. The White family is now saying the ‘alternative suspect’ shared her dark secret with more than her shrink. These include her family doctor and some close friends.
And yes, I believe the confession is indeed on file. I can’t see a lawyer fabricating this. And good for Burns for revealing this critical bit of information; Michael White may owe his life to her.
HOW’S THAT CODE OF EHTICS WORKING OUT?
In February 2019, the Law Society of Alberta was asked to investigate if lawyer Marilyn Burns violated its code of ethics by secretly releasing private information from a child welfare file [on Ashley White].
The information was leaked to at least half a dozen people, including myself.
As criminal lawyer David Willson remarked in 2016, “When lawyers work on child welfare files, they ‘shut the fuck up.’ What a lawyer sees in that room,” he pointed out, “stays in that room.”
Willson [and Marilyn Burns herself] were adamant the Law Society would frown on that.
The Society’s code of ethics must have undergone some major changes since then because in a letter from an individual at the Law Society who described themselves as a “delegate of the Executive Director” … here’s a quote that makes one wonder if the group that oversees lawyers does a better job of protecting its members than children:
“If you have concerns about disclosure of confidential information in relation to a child welfare matter, I recommend you contact Alberta Human Services or Child Protective Services with these concerns.”
Why wouldn’t the Law Society of Alberta be concerned about the behaviour of a lawyer?And how could disclosing confidential information from a child welfare file not be a breach of any law society’s code of ethics?
Here’s how the letter from the Law Society was signed off … check out the illegible scrawl. One has to wonder why the individual tried to hide their identity.
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
Fact: The ‘alternative suspect’ once stabbed her husband in the hand with a large kitchen knife, the result of a domestic dispute. The victim got a divorce soon after. Good move. He was able to escape a crazy, violent relationship with his balls still attached.
The man’s account of the stabbing is that he came home from work and was surprised to find that his food had been dumped in the kitchen sink. And so he asked, “What’s going on?” That’s when things got ugly.
He says his wife suddenly lunged at him with a kitchen knife. He recalls that he defended himself with a chair but the plunging knife still got him, slicing open his hand. Bleeding, the man said he tried to get to a medical clinic but his repentant wife stopped him from doing that, sitting on the floor to stop him from opening the door. [“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry …”]
That always works.
The man bandaged himself up and kept his mouth shut about the attack — until I located him [out of Canada] and interviewed him in 2014 … and again in 2015.
Fearing for his life, the victim slept in a separate bedroom after that — with a chain on the door and a chair pushed up against the door.
The man believes Michael White did not kill Liana White — and that his ex could be the real killer. “I feel sorry for him [Michael White],” he says. “I was a victim … now he’s a victim.”
The alleged psycho also attacked others who were close to her, both prior to the knife assault on her husband — and after. The last known assault [in 2012] netted her some time in the slammer.
A 15-page affidavit was filed in Queen’s Bench of Alberta [in Edmonton] on 26 November 2014 by lawyer Marilyn A. Burns.
The applicant alleges that even as a teenager, his sister [‘Alternative Suspect’] was extremely violent. Her name has been redacted from the document.
Note the reference to knife attacks.
Liana was stabbed with a large kitchen knife — one with a serrated edge. That’s not the kind one normally finds out on the street.
Another thing: whoever murdered Liana obviously had the upper hand. The victim’s slashed fingertips indicate she tried in vain to fend off her attacker.
Neither the murder weapon nor the victim’s wedding ring has been found. The brother of the ‘Alternative Suspect’ says there’s no doubt in his mind who may be in possession of Liana’s ring.
If Michael and Liana were arguing upstairs in the bedroom — and Mr. Big Teddy Bear suddenly had an urge to murder his wife — why on earth would he run to the kitchen downstairs to grab a knife? Wouldn’t it make more sense just to strangle her? Hubby was built like a football lineman. Strangling would be quieter, quicker — and there’d be no bloody mess to clean up.
POLICE THEORY VERSUS FACTS
A police theory and media ‘fact’ was that Michael White led searchers to the body of his wife. Because the misinformation was broadcast and published far and wide, no one believed for a second that White could be innocent.
Even Michael White’s own mother [Carol Forbes] initially thought he might have done it. She, too, had trusted the police.
White was part of a family search team of about half a dozen people checking an area in the far north end of Edmonton when a city police officer suggested they look instead on certain dirt road — miles away — in the west-central part of town. And so they headed off to the new location. Well, I’ll be. There was Liana’s body — in full view, lying near the top of a shallow ditch.
How could that body have been missed when the road was searched just days earlier? Is it just me, or does this smell like a set-up? Was this choreographed?
According to those who found the body, they said they knew it was Liana right away because of a blue dolphin tattoo on her ankle.
It’s laughable to think that, over the span of a week, not one single driver or passenger had spotted the nude body of an adult woman. The corpse was a mere ten feet from the edge of a small dirt road, one with a fair amount of traffic as well.
I realize that some Alberta drivers aren’t paying full attention when they drive and that passengers might also be distracted … but this is beyond absurd.This is critical: searchers said when they found Liana’s body, it was NOT covered with branches, as police photographs had jurors believe.
If that’s verifiable, cops tampered with the evidence.
And that’s supposed to be a crime.
Carol Forbes, the person who first spotted the body, says she’s willing to take a lie detector test — and she’d like the police who were at the scene that day to do the same. Sounds reasonable. It will never happen, but it still sounds fair and reasonable.
The searchers immediately called 9-1-1. Police pulled up. But not before a jogger appeared on the scene. Guess what the jogger did for a living? He was a POLICE OFFICER! Man, what are the chances?
White search party members were taken to the main police station downtown to give statements, then released.
Next day, detectives slapped Michael White with a murder charge.
Getting back to this again — and you can file it under ‘a tad suspicious’ — when the Edmonton Police ID Unit snapped photos of the crime scene, Liana’s body was covered with leafy branches.
Conveniently protruding from the heap of branches were the dead woman’s feet and ankles — with a dolphin tattoo in full view.
What really happened here? …
a] Liana’s body was covered in branches when searchers found it.
b] Liana’s body was not covered in branches when searchers found it.
The conflicting information never came up at trial, although there was a mention that searchers had been directed to the dirt road by an Edmonton policeman, the search coordinator.
That should have been a red flag to the jurors, the media — and to White’s defence team. No one said a word. Awkward.
SLEAZY INTERROGATION METHODS
Homicide detectives continued to interrogate suspect White — sometimes at the strangest hours — removing him from his cell at two and three o’clock in the morning.
The strange time wasn’t an accident. Police deliberately chose that ungodly hour because they knew White would be half asleep — and vulnerable. Way to go, boys. Straight from the Guantanamo handbook.
White can be seen on a police video tape in a fetal position on a love seat in an interrogation room at the main police station, trying to get some shut-eye. There’s nothing unlawful about those interrogation tactics because sleaze is not illegal.
In media reports, the time of those interviews simply came off as ‘early morning.’ That’s known in the biz as sanitizing.
If that kind of mistreatment — sleep deprivation — happened to a Canadian arrested in Turkey, Canadians would be screaming blue murder. There was no mention at trial of questionable police tactics. The defence lawyers were quiet.
One defence lawyer, David Willson, felt that lawyers in Alberta never made it to the bench if they criticized the police. No one knows that better than Michael White.
That begs the question: did White’s lawyers have their eyes on an appointment to the bench? They sure did. White’s first lawyer [Larry Anderson] and his second lawyer [Laura Stevens] became provincial judges.
Police also put a ‘plant’ in White’s cell at the Remand Centre, hoping to weasel incriminating information from him.
“He’s a nice guy,” an obviously naive Michael White shared about his over-friendly cellmate when I first met him at the Remand, just days after he was arrested.
I could tell White was impressed with his cellmate … because he was a family man, sincere, etc. That’s the general idea, buddy.
“He showed me pictures of his wife and kids,” White shared. I looked at White and asked, “Do you have any furniture in your cell … any plants perhaps?” White froze. He said nothing, but his eyes shouted what his lips feared to say: Oh shit.
Next morning, I got a phone call from an excited prisoner at the Remand Centre who said that Edmonton Police had just been over … and they were “fucking pissed” that I’d gotten in and met with Michael White. “You can expect a visit from the cops, Mr. Christopher,” the con warned.
Sure enough. Within half an hour or so, a homicide detective called my cell phone. He wanted to know if we could ‘do lunch.’ I said sure. Hey, I was working in private radio for a few bucks over the minimum wage and someone else was buying …
There’s a saying in newsrooms that if we can eat freebie food in an hour, it ain’t graft. I was good to go.
The detective pulled up outside the Courthouse in an old cruiser — a ghost car — and we made our way to a pizza joint on 118th Avenue, near the stadium where the Edmonton Oilers played hockey.
We had barely ordered our meals when the officer leaned forward with a question: how did you get into the Remand Centre? It was easy, I told him. I got in — not through the main door — but through an unlocked, squeaky screen door at the back — and when I got inside — to my complete surprise, a lovely church service was underway. Hundreds of prisoners were singing hymns. It was great. Praise the Lord and all that.
The detective thought I was pulling his leg and of course I was.
“Such beautiful harmony,” I added, closing my eyes to savor the moment. “I approached a con, tapped him on his bulging biceps and inquired, ‘Excuse me, sir, but where is Mr. Michael White? … and the gentleman replied, ‘Hush! We’re praising the Lord!’”
“That’s fucking bullshit!” blurted the cop. “Yes,” I said, “… but you like bullshit.” Like I say, City of Edmonton taxpayers picked up the tab for the meal. I thank you.
Another thing: I had actually been banned from the Remand Centre at the time of the White interview. Why I was a forbidden to enter the place, I have no idea. Apparently, neither does anyone else know why I was banned.
Thank you Mr. Remand Guard for not playing the game.
DOES SOMETHING SMELL HERE?
Count the bullets [•] …
• Investigators chose not to have the branches on Liana’s body tested to help determine when they were cut … or to explain why leaves on the branches hadn’t shrivelled up after nearly a week in the summer heat.
The person who first spotted Liana’s body — Carol Forbes — is adamant that Liana’s body was not covered in branches when she found it. Is Forbes lying?
At the preliminary hearing, Forbes privately made an issue out of the fact that police had tampered with evidence, expressing her concerns directly to her son’s lawyer, Larry Anderson. She claims Anderson told her, “Hush!”
No surprise perhaps, but Mrs. Forbes was not called to testify at the murder trial. That’s unfortunate. The jury would have enjoyed hearing what she had to say.It struck me as unusual that Carol Forbes never testified. Whoever stumbles across the body of a murder victim is often the first to take the stand.
Here’s a possible clue as to why Carol Forbes was not called to testify: Just before the trial started, White’s first lawyer [Larry Anderson] became a judge. Another lawyer in his firm [Laura Stevens] then took over the file. She became a judge too.
And what did lawyer David Willson say about lawyers who criticize the police?
Meanwhile, Carol Forbes says she’s willing to take a lie detector to back up her claim there were NO branches on Liana’s body when they saw it. And she’s not stopping there. She’s challenging all police officers who were on hand that day to do the same.
Forbes predicts if police take the lie-detector and say no branches were planted on the body, they’ll blow every gasket in the machine.
Michael White’s lawyers made little or nothing of this at trial.
However, White’s only witness at his murder trial — the U.S. forensics expert — did point out that the branches were never tested. Doctor Jon Nordby felt that forensics experts at the University of Alberta [located in Edmonton], could have easily examined the branches to determine roughly when they were cut.
It’s too late for that now.
• Officers chose not to take soil or insect samples. Police said that’s because they already ‘knew’ Liana’s time of death. Where did these investigators come from? Columbia?
Taking samples would have helped determine how long Liana’s body had been at the top of the ditch. The grass under Liana’s body was untouched. Could it be that her body hadn’t been there long, perhaps only hours?
And if that’s the case, we know that Michael White didn’t put the body there — because White was under police surveillance — 24 HOURS A DAY. This important fact wasn’t brought up at trial.
• The man who jogged by right after Liana’s body was ‘discovered’ by searchers was an out-of-uniform officer based out of the RCMP Detachment in St. Albert, a community north of Edmonton. Think about that for a moment. Did the officer just ‘happen’ to be in the area — or was he on scene as part of a setup?
It would not have been difficult for a defence lawyer to determine that: get the officer’s timecard. Was he on-duty or off-duty at the time? If he was working, Edmonton police have a problem.
A reader of this blog, Tom Wright, notes that it should be determined if the jogger’s home was within a reasonable distance. Good point.
• More on Liana’s remains: Liana’s nude corpse was not devoured by wildlife scavengers. It doesn’t make sense that it wasn’t if it was there for nearly a week. Consider this: nearby, the remains of a full-grown deer that had been poached and gutted had been devoured in just days — bones and all.
Were the coyotes and other critters on a diet the week Liana’s remains lay in the ditch?
Several pounds of frozen meat, wrapped tightly in an old shirt and spiked in the ground near where Liana’s body was discovered, vanished in just two days. Hmmm … so over the course of a week, little or nothing happens to human remains? How does that happen?
[Full disclosure: the Author spiked the wrapped, frozen meat in the ground as an experiment. I talked about this in a live interview with CHED’s David Rutherford — but within minutes of the interview being broadcast was called back to the newsroom for an urgent meeting. News Director Bob Layton said they’d received a complaint [he wouldn’t say from where]. He ordered me not to do further experiments.
During his brief time out on bail, Michael White tried to determine the number of coyotes in the area at the time his wife’s body was found. In his notepad were names and phone numbers for wildlife officials. White said he had put in calls to them. I don’t know what became of his queries.
White’s defence team didn’t seem interested.
• According to Carol Forbes, Liana’s ponytail had been sliced off, left dangling on a branch nearby. How could a big clump of her hair still be resting on a branch for a week?? Was the air that still for so long?
Again, could it be that the body was only there for a few hours?
• Another point: why would a killer spend precious time cutting and collecting branches when they could have hidden the body in the forest, just a few feet away? No one’s that stupid. The issue was also not raised at trial.
• The footprint of whoever dumped Liana’s body in the ditch did not belong to Michael White. Different size. Was White dumb enough to waste half an hour cutting branches and placing them on the body [in full view of those in cars traveling the dirt road], yet brilliant enough to find and wear shoes a different size than his?
The different shoe size was mentioned at the trial, but no mention of how long it would have taken Michael White to collect the branches or where the shoes could have come from.
• Back to the volume of traffic on that dirt road … over the course of a week, several hundred cars traveled that small, dirt road — and owing to the poor condition of the road, they would not have been travelling fast.
One morning I sat in the ditch for two hours looking for Liana’s missing wedding ring [didn’t find it] — and collecting strands of her hair [found plenty of that]. While I was in the ditch wearing dark clothes that effectively camouflaged me, two vehicles — a pickup truck and a sedan — made a complete stop on the road. The drivers, both male, wanted to know what I was up to …
It’s hard to believe that hundreds of people spotted Liana’s body and decided ‘not to get involved’ and drove on. [“Hi Honey, how was your day at work?” “Same old … hey, you know, they haven’t removed the dead woman … she’s still lying at the top of the ditch!”] Sorry, can’t see that happening — even in war-torn counties like Syria and Afghanistan.
• Not one strand of Liana’s long hair had been pulled out by the root [by animals], giving credence to Mrs. Forbes’ claim her ponytail had been sliced off.
• Phoney blood stains in the back of Liana’s SUV: One ditty that made the news was that a Luminol chemical test indicated blood in the back of Liana’s SUV. Ooooo … pretty incriminating stuff.
The Crown held this up as proof that White had transported his wife’s bloodied body in the back of her SUV. Turns out, it wasn’t blood after all — only rust and copper flakes from Michael White’s tools and his work clothes. Rust and copper flakes react positively to Luminol.
Luminal also reacts positively to human urine and to animal urine, both of which would have been found in the Whites’ bedroom and hallway because the couple had both a small child and a dog.
At trial, the Crown tried to make the case that Luminol indicated a trail of blood drops leading from the bedroom to the front door.
• The supposed DNA blood samples were examined by someone with an MBA in Biology and Science, who said the ‘samples’ weren’t really blood. The Crown Prosecutor didn’t call the expert as a witness — nor did White’s lawyer, strange enough.
Instead, as PI Bruce Dunne points out, the only testimony in that regard was from an Edmonton Police Ident officer— who took the stand and told a jury it was blood. Good enough, I guess. White’s lawyer raised no challenge.
• A most peculiar thing about Michael White’s preliminary hearing is that his lawyer [the first one to become a judge] did not request the standard publication ban on evidence.
As a result, reporters had a field day filing stories about Crown evidence, whether the evidence was legit or not. And you wonder why people in Edmonton thought the man was guilty?
• According to Dunne, during White’s murder trial, the Crown prosecutor gave the judge a gift: a 600-page Military book. This was to help her deal with allegations of improper conduct by Michael White in the military. According to Dunne, at that point the defence should have called a mistrial — but said dick all.
Dunne says judges can’t accept gifts.
• There was a public uproar that Michael White had been released on bail. Again, such was the impact of media coverage of Liana’s death and the fact her husband had been charged with murder.
A woman who lived on the same street as Michael and Liana took up a petition to have Michael’s bail revoked.
The loaded wording on the petition wasn’t that White had been charged with murder — it was that he had actually killed Liana.
Thousands of Edmontonians signed the petition, which was then handed over to the local Tory MLA [member of the Alberta Legislative Assembly] who held a news conference at his constituency office. It was there where Thomas Lukaszuk showed reporters the signatures, which he promised to forward to Ottawa.
I pointed out to the MLA that the wording on the petition convicts Michael White. The politician’s response? “I’m sure Ottawa will work that out.” The MLA was turfed from office — as was his government — in the 2015 provincial election.
I share that story to illustrate the influence of the news media. CHED was the only media outlet to point out the peculiar wording of the petition.
• Michael White’s bail was revoked, even though he had abided by all the conditions of his release.
Police sometimes knocked on White’s door at two o’clock in the morning to make sure he was home. Dressed in PJ’s and scratching his head, White would say, “What’s up?” and the officer would say, “Just checking.”
The process would repeat itself every few days.
• After White was convicted and sent packing to a federal prison, his trial lawyer [Laura Stevens] phoned him to advise that his appeal period was up — that same day.
Call that ‘Eleventh-hour Due Diligence.’ That’s not only absurd and dim. It’s wrong.
Lucky for Michael White, he had hired a different lawyer who had done up his appeal submission papers, and she got things ready in time. Otherwise, White would have been screwed. Thank you, Marilyn Burns.
• Stevens also broke the sad news to White that the only defence witness at his trial [besides himself], Doctor Jon Nordby, had DIED. Nordby, a U.S. forensics expert who appeared by video link, had been battling cancer.
White was shocked. So was I. I called Nordby’s office in the United States. Nordby was shocked too! Turns out, he was alive … and still testifying at trials!
The BS about his death could have been an attempt to keep Michael White from pursuing the matter, who knows.
Doctor Nordby was adamant that White did not get a fair trial. He also says he did not get proper legal representation.
Nordby went on to say that he wasn’t given nearly enough time to properly prepare his case, pointing out that the defence waited until the trial started to get a court order to get evidence to him.I phoned Laura Stevens right after the trial wrapped up and left a message for her to call. More than 10 years later, she still hadn’t returned my call. Perhaps she thinks I’m dead too.
• White offered to take a polygraph, but his lawyers told him it wasn’t necessary. And so no “truth-verifier” — as police sometimes call it — was given.
This did not come up at trial, but a number of people have suggested that if Michael White was truly innocent, why didn’t he take a lie detector? There’s your answer.
For that matter, I suppose that White could still take a lie detector in prison. Perhaps now he will.
• When Michael White was interviewed by Edmonton’s CTV outlet, just days after his wife vanished, he did not come across as sincere.
Some said he looked “guilty.” I didn’t see the clip, but a number of people — including a defence lawyer who was not connected to the file — told me that Michael White looked as though he was hiding something.
I questioned White about that. His explanation was that he wondered if Liana had left him and returned to her home in Kelowna, British Columbia.
To White, it didn’t make sense his wife would do something like that. And it didn’t make sense that Liana would abandon their young daughter, Ashley. Nothing like this was brought up at trial.
• Were Edmonton Police wrong to suspect Michael White? No. Spouses of missing people are always suspects, and so they should be because a high percentage of spouses are indeed involved.
Police had good reason to suspect White was Liana’s killer. Just days after Liana disappeared, he tossed garbage bags in a field — bags containing paper towels with blood on them.
How could any reasonable person not suspect White could be the killer when he behaved like that — and with evidence so incriminating? One would have to be brain-dead not to think he should be a suspect.
Where a line is crossed is when police are so convinced of someone’s guilt that tampering with evidence justifies an end. Did that happen? It’s worth looking into.
As the PI Dunne-Nowell team puts it, White was a liar and a thief — but he was no killer.
• There’s something odd about the outside surveillance tape from the YMCA, located next to a field where Liana’s Ford SUV was abandoned. The video shows Liana’s vehicle parked in a large sports field, but it doesn’t show anyone leaving it.
I don’t know if the tape was rolling or not when the vehicle pulled up.
Wouldn’t a viewing of the entire tape, or the preceding tape possibly determine if Michael White walked away from the SUV? Wouldn’t the tape reveal if the driver was male or female?
Why wouldn’t something like this have been produced as evidence? Are police that incompetent? Dunne says maybe.
If there was a tape recording of Liana’s vehicle arriving and someone exiting the vehicle and walking away — who in their right mind would ignore this evidence? Again, this wasn’t brought up at trial.
“For whatever strange reason, the police purportedly only reviewed the video tape beginning at 6:00 am when the building opened for business. Surely, you would expect them to view the whole thing because it was on all night. There should have been a video of the vehicle arriving in the parking lot and someone getting out of it. The driver’s door was left open and items from the vehicle were strewn about the parking lot beside the vehicle.” — PI Dunne-Nowell Team
• It’s worth noting that the ‘Alternative Suspect′ lived only a short distance away — as in walking distance — from where Liana’s SUV was found.
She lived in a nearly straight line from where the vehicle was abandoned.
• A pack of smokes was left behind in Liana’s abandoned SUV.
Neither Michael nor Liana smoked, but the ‘Alternative Suspect’ did. It’s too bad police didn’t know about ‘Alternative Suspect.’ Could police not have determined the brand of cigarettes the woman smoked? What if they matched those left behind in the vehicle?
• Michael White was, at times, his own worst enemy. The military had disciplined Michael White for taking home tools to work on his vehicle. [Global TV News reported that White had been kicked out of the military for this, but that wasn’t true.]
• After his wife disappeared, White retrieved garbage bags containing her blood, then placed the bags on his own driveway for pickup.
It’s fair to say that most people would say that’s how a guilty person would behave.
On that point, PI Dunne says police grabbing those bags without a warrant was an “illegal seizure.”
• Michael White initially told police he thought Liana left the house between 6 and 6-thirty in the morning.
That’s likely not true, as Liana’s vehicle was reportedly spotted in a field near the YMCA as early as 5:45 am. Then again, it’s possible that White could have been sleeping or half-asleep when Liana rolled out of bed.
• White collected money from neighbours to dispose of their garbage in the dump, but threw the bags in a field and kept the money. Dishonest.
• Edmonton Police went after me with a search warrant because of my work on the White case.
The warrant was signed by Judge Peter Caffaro. In a brief meeting at the courthouse, I asked Caffaro, “Did you sign that?” He replied, “Oh, was that what it was?” [Click to enlarge].
In many cases, judges don’t actually read search warrants. I’ve seen them in court signing off on them without reading them.
• After his conviction for 2nd Degree Murder, Michael White came close to dying in his cell at the Edmonton Remand Centre. His throat was slashed, leaving a gaping wound that required a good number of stitches.
White was the only inmate in the cell.
There are two theories as to what happened that night: a] White tried to take his own life … or b] someone tried to knock him off.
White’s recollection is that someone — somehow — got into his locked cell in the middle of the night, sat on his chest, pinning him down while he was sleeping and slit his throat. White says he passed out and woke up with everything around him soaked in blood.
The official version is that White tried to take his own life. What’s interesting is that no weapon was found.
How could that happen? It’s not like White magically recovered from his wound, tossed the weapon out the window … or he flushed it down the toilet.
The only thing that makes sense is that White was attacked in his cell and the perpetrator walked out with the weapon.
On that point, prisoners maintain that not all ‘suicides’ in prison — especially hangings — are suicides. We never hear a dead victim’s version of events.
• Michael White would likely be a free man if he’d accepted the Crown’s offer of manslaughter in early 2006.
However, White was adamant then — as he is today — that he did not kill his wife.
Put another way, if White had ‘played the game’ he would’ve been riding a tractor at his parent’s farm years ago.
ONE VERY MYSTIFIED PI TEAM …
A lot was made by Edmonton Police [and subsequently by the news media] that when Liana’s SUV was located, the driver’s seat was back further than she would have had it … and that some items were strewn about, as though the driver went through the trouble of making it look as though Liana’s car had been stolen.
In an email, the PI Dunne-Nowell team commented on that — plus the spoliation of evidence by Edmonton Police …
“It was the Ident officer who got into the vehicle, moved the seat back and drove the vehicle onto the deck of the tow truck BEFORE it had been examined for fingerprints and DNA samples. Once the vehicle was in the Ident garage, they had a young female officer get into the driver’s seat and they took a photo to show that she couldn’t reach the brake pedal etc., so it must have been a larger person driving the thing into the parking lot. The young female officer was smaller, slim and not pregnant. Liana was four months pregnant, taller and heavier than the female officer. That photo was shown to the jury and not challenged by the defence counsel.
“In addition, the Ident officer never told anyone he had moved the seat back and had started the vehicle, then drove it onto the tow truck deck, thus destroying any potential fingerprints, or DNA, on the ignition key or the steering wheel.
“In fact, the Ident officer did find some fingerprints on the passenger side window and the top of the driver’s side window, but they were never identified. They didn’t belong to Michael White, Lianna White, or their daughter.”
“Liana’s cell phone was found on the ground beside the vehicle. The Ident officer picked it up and turned it on. Thus once again destroying any fingerprints and/or DNA. In addition, the police never “dumped” the contents of her cell phone to see who might have called or who had been called, from the phone.”
“In addition, this was originally phoned into the police as a ‘suspicious auto’ complaint. Yet, the major crimes unit was involved as early as 10:00 am the very same day and had their mobile command bus set up in the parking lot. How bloody often have the police ever acted that quickly on a ‘missing persons’ complaint.
In fact, the original car crew who were sent to the parking lot viewed it as a potential stolen vehicle. They got the registered owner’s address, took the keys out of the ignition and went to the White residence and used the key to open the front door and search the house. No warrant.
No signs of struggle, and no blood. They then returned to the parking lot and put the keys back into the ignition where they were found by the Ident officer. Later that same afternoon two Detectives actually took a missing persons report from Michael. On every other missing person, they always wait for 48 hours before even doing any cursory inquiries.”
“I was told from a source that it was shortly after the original car crew had been to the White residence and had called several places — including Liana’s mother and Liana’s place of work — that the police got an anonymous call saying that Liana had been murdered.”
“Just total fucking incompetence.” [Bruce Dunne’s reaction]
The PI would soon discover that the incompetence wasn’t restricted to police.
A VITAL REPORT COLLECTS DUST
Only a small portion of the findings of the Dunne-Nowell PI Report has been included in this post.
Clearly, a LOT of work went into the 2012 report … and it’s crazy and shameful to think it has been collecting dust for five-plus years.
In August 2012, copies of PI Dunne-Nowell’s reports [comprising three separate binders] were presented to Edmonton lawyer Marilyn Burns. I also received one complete set and Michael White’s family in Ontario received two of the three binders, including the large one.
PI Dunne pointed out that it took him and PI Nowell 325 hours to complete the report.
The private venture has been stalled for five years with dust literally collecting on the binders — causing PI Dunne to rightly ask: Why the delay?
I have asked Burns the same question, numerous times. The explanations change, but so far none has made any sense to me.
I don’t understand it — and I’m not alone. White’s family, PIs Dunne and Nowell also wondered why nothing was done.
When I last spoke with Burns on this matter — in late 2015 — I said I would respond to an email she’d sent a year earlier. Her response was that she would delete my email without reading it. I countered that I’d then bring a hard copy around to her office. Her response was that she would rip it up and throw it in the garbage.
Way to go Law Society of Alberta.
PI Dunne feels that Michael White could be a free man today if his family and Marilyn Burns had acted on the recommendations in his report.
A frustrated Dunne asks, “Did they even read my report …?” Good question.
The comprehensive report speaks well of those who took hundreds of hours to put it together. The fact it has collected dust for so long also speaks of Michael White’s immediate future.
After the extensive report, the meetings, many phone calls … and the time and money expended — and we’re talking more than half a decade now — I don’t believe for a moment that Michael White is one step closer to getting out since the day he was convicted.
As of March 2017, Bruce Dunne was semi-retired and temporarily living in British Columbia. He has asked that I not disclose his location.
“NOW BE A PRIORITY FOR ME …”
Here’s an email from Marilyn Burns regarding Dunne’s investigative report. Note the date — August 24, 2012.
MORE TESTS? NOPE!
In the spring of 2015, lawyer Marilyn Burns contacted forensics expert Eugene Liscio in Toronto [see above] to fly to Edmonton to do additional camera testing and measuring at Richard’s Pub, the place where the surveillance cameras gave Michael White so much trouble.
According to Liscio, Burns wanted him to redo his report. The plan was also to have Michael White’s family pick up his $5,000 tab.
However, the manager of Richard’s Pub said no one would be welcomed on the premises for testing. She vowed to call the police if anyone showed up.
It’s a moot point since the cameras and equipment at the pub have all been changed — which is exactly what an exasperated Bruce Dunne pointed out when he heard that Liscio was on his way out to Edmonton to essentially redo his work from three years earlier. I can’t blame the veteran PI for blowing his stack.
According to lawyer David Willson, any change by Liscio of his original report would likely result in Liscio’s credibility being attacked in court. Willson’s words were more along the lines of “What are they thinking …???”
In the end, Liscio decided against flying to Edmonton to conduct further forensics testing on the White file. He told me he didn’t need the money.
PRIVATE EFFORT STALLS & FAILS
Michael White shared with me on the phone in January 2015 — and again when I met him at the prison five months later — that he was deeply disappointed and frustrated with the private effort underway to get him out.
As explained earlier in this post, a small group was gathering material for a brief to be presented to the Federal Department of Justice — step one for White if he’s to be exonerated and compensated. I was part of that team.
The project mysteriously stalled for five years.
According to White, lawyer Marilyn Burns — who planned to present the submission to Ottawa — assured White that she would get him out by 2018. White appeared hopeful, yet cautious. At least he has hope — and not everyone professing their innocence has that.
White then sounded discouraged and confused after calling his lawyer to get a timeline — a set time — when things would be done. “I’m going to have to write out my questions before I call,” he said.
On 14 April 2016, I received a surprise email from Carol Forbes, mother of Michael White, who had previously said she had faith that lawyer Marilyn Burns could do the job — even if it took seven years to do it. I said at the time, “Get yourself another lawyer. How many broken promises do you need?” The message to Mrs. Forbes may have gotten through. Her email simply read, “You might have been right!!!!! sorry pal.”
On 20 April 2016, I forwarded to lawyer Marilyn Burns Carol Forbes’ comments. There was no response.
Burns appears to be giving the silent treatment to her clients as well. Forbes says in late 2016 she phoned Burns, left a message … then fired off an email — but as of July 2017, did not hear back.
Ditto for a letter Michael White wrote Burns in late 2016.
Both mother and son are wondering why the complete silence after hearing that Ms. Burns loved Michael “like her own son.”
Michael White does not criticize Burns, saying her heart was in the right place. But he felt she was in “over her head” and didn’t want to admit it.
In an interview with CTV broadcast on 22 July 2017, Marilyn Burns announced she was forming a new provincial political party, using an old Ralph Klein slogan, The Alberta Advantage Party.
I share this to also illustrate why people in White’s position have serious doubts about our criminal justice system and those who work with it. At the best of times, the wheels of justice move slowly but when a conviction is suspicious, it seems those wheels can get pretty rusty as well.
Could it be the ‘powers-to-be’ want fewer proven wrongful convictions? The more wrongful convictions, the more people who don’t believe in The System. It’s not good PR when citizens suspect our judicial system is a crap shoot.
Win Wahrer, head of Innocence Canada — who has met with Michael White a number of times — said she’d gladly take on White’s file … but that a review must first be done.
‘SHOULDA, WOULDA, COULDA …’
Should Michael White have gone with a jury? Or a judge alone?
Hindsight is always 20/20, I know. White should have gone with a judge alone. Here’s why:
The public had been inundated with reports that Michael White was obviously ‘guilty.’ Much of this damaging information was released at his preliminary hearing — with the approval of White’s lawyer, Larry Anderson. [A prelim is when the crown essentially presents its case.]
In all my years of covering preliminary hearings, I can only recall one case where the defence did not object to ‘evidence’ at these hearings being made public — and that was at the White prelim.
Even if all the information in this post — heck, even if only half of it — had been given to the jury, it’s difficult to fathom that any juror would have said Michael White was 100 percent guilty. Mind you, these people have to live in the community. They’d have to face the wrath of the public that firmly believed Michael White was guilty.
A gentle reminder here of the petition to have White’s bail revoked … the document was worded incorrectly, yet tens of thousands had no problems signing it. Those who put their names to the petition either didn’t know the law or simply didn’t care.
What started off as a legitimate petition turned out to be a moron test.
Should Michael White have taken a lie detector, also known as a truth verifier? Yes. To be fair to White, he claims he wanted to do this before his trial started but that his lawyer [Laura Stevens] said no to the idea.
However, now that White is behind bars and is appealing his conviction to Federal Justice, what about taking a lie detector now? What does he have to lose?
MICHAEL WHITE TODAY
Until Michael White’s file is reviewed by the Federal Department of Justice, he may be stuck in the Beaver Creek Institution [minimum security] near the town of Gravenhurst … about two hours’ drive north of Toronto.
Canada has far too many wrongful murder convictions — and mind you, those are just the proven screw-ups, those formally acknowledged by the government.
The government is never quick to admit the system messed up. Is it just me, or is the government more interested in protecting the image of the system over helping those who have been wrongfully convicted?
Lord only knows how many innocent people have died behind bars — or how many languish there today.
On Saturday, 20th of June 2015, I spent more than four hours with inmate Michael White at the Beaver Creek prison. He’d lost so much weight that I didn’t recognize him when a guard escorted him to the visitor’s room. White looked great, actually.
Since I’ve known White [we’re going back to the summer of 2005, within days of his wife’s body being discovered], he’d always been pudgy.
White also seemed more relaxed.
An ‘executive summary’ of my meeting with Michael White was that White still maintained his innocence; he held his own in the joint; he appeared to be accepted and respected by both cons and staff in the visitor’s room; the man was grateful I made the effort to see him; when White shook my hand he looked me in the eye; he answered my questions [and by that I mean, no obstructionist responses or any ‘ducking’ and ‘diving.’]; he missed Liana … and he talked a lot about his daughter, Ashley.
He also asked that I work on finding a certain someone [the ‘Alternative Suspect’] … and to pass on his regards to certain people.
Other than that, the only thing unusual with the visit was that it was the first time I had to stand at attention while a police dog checked me out, including sniffing my legs and … well, never mind. I burst out laughing because, hell, it was funny.
“No laughing please,” said the dog-handler.
20 YEARS AGO …
Here’s a 1996 photo of Michael White when he lived at his parents’ farm near Wiarton, Ontario. The youngster is ready for his high school prom and he’s dressed to the nine’s.
The farm boy now wears a prisoner’s uniform, but the question is: for how long?
Carol Forbes fears that by the time a report is submitted her son might be eligible for parole.
Michael White’s guest at the prom was supposed to be Andrea [Overbeek] Mays, but Andrea had a boyfriend. White thought that being seen together might hurt her relationship with her boyfriend, so he bowed out, telling his escort he didn’t want to make any trouble for her.
Mays said the Michael White she knew was thoughtful and that he had class as well.
Mays contacted me by email after reading my story on White on another website, Last Link on The Left.
The national marketing manager of Mackie Research Capital Corporation in Toronto shared that she was shocked to hear that White went down for murder. Mays said she never believed — “not for a second” — that the young man she knew had taken someone’s life.
According to Mays, White was raised with “good country values,” adding, “his brothers were the exact same way. Everyone liked them.”
“Mike was very polite,” she says, “he held the car door open, ‘yes sir, no ma’am’.” He was very much a gentleman, never pushing anyone to take a certain point of view. He was the kind of guy every girl wanted to have as a friend because he was never threatening. And he never swore.”
Mays also described Michael White as a “bit naive.” “He took things at face value,” she says, ” … and he trusted people.”
In the summer of 2015, Mays said she’d be writing White … but several months later, that hadn’t happened.
The last four or five phone messages to Mays have not been answered, in spite of a recorded message that assured callers messages would be returned.
A TOUGH ROW TO HOE
It appears that those fighting for Michael White’s freedom have their work cut out for them. David Willson, the late criminal defence lawyer, called it a “tough standard.”
He described the White file as a “Mt. Everest of shit.”
In Willson’s opinion, two key things must be done [with a caution about a third].
- thoroughly debunk existing evidence …
- build a solid case against the ‘Alternative Suspect’ …
- if it’s alleged that police tampered or played with the evidence, Federal Justice may be ‘really hesitant’ to grant a new hearing.
I’m not trained in legal matters, but it’s my read that preparing a proper clemency is neither easy — nor quick.
TALKS WITH WHITE + LAWYER #6
My recent talks with Michael White have been on the telephone. White must phone me as I cannot put in calls to him. Things might be different if I was his lawyer.
We spoke on Saturday afternoon, November 14th, 2016. He said his mother didn’t know what was going on with his case, and neither did he.
White called again on August 1, 2017. We talked for more than half an hour. He advised that Marilyn Burns was being pulled off the file and that she would be replaced by Brian Beresh, an Edmonton lawyer.
White was unaware that Beresh is a respected criminal defence lawyer.
Brian Beresh is also — let’s get the counter out here — #1, Larry Anderson quits to become a judge … lawyers #2 Laura Stevens and #3 Rob Shaigec, handle the murder case [but lose] … #4, Hersh Wolch of Calgary handles the appeal but tells lawyer Marilyn Burns he thinks White is guilty; the appeal is tossed … #5 Marilyn Burns puts in 6 years but — for some reason — fails to submit Detective Dunne’s report.
Brian Beresh is lawyer #6.
In the beginning, Beresh won’t be working directly on the file. According to Innocence Canada, he will direct his law students at the University of Alberta to go through the material so he can assess it.
I put in a phone call to Beresh at 4:46 pm on Friday, 4 August 2017. The call was taken by ‘Gordon.’ So far, haven’t heard back … I’ll update the post when that phone call is returned.
Update: September 11, 2019 … still haven’t heard from them.
MORE COMMUNICATION BY SILENCE
It’s a sad state of affairs when people willingly choose to ‘communicate by silence,’ a practice that seems to be acceptable nowadays. While legal [perhaps], the behaviour it’s underhanded and therefore unfair. Here’s a better descriptor: sleazy.
I’m going to share a story of communication by silence at the Beaver Creek Institution, the medium/minimum federal prison near Gravenhurst. As of September, 2019, that’s where Michael White was being held.
In the summer of 2019, I began to make arrangements for another face-to-face meeting with inmate White — my third with him at this particular institution. I filled out the necessary forms and triple-checked them to make sure everything was in order. The required mug shots were taken. I also photocopied my driver’s licence, as requested. Mailed all the information and supporting documents straight to the prison, at the address given on the website of the Correctional Service of Canada.
A month later, White — quoting his case worker — said my papers never arrived. That was hard to believe since the envelope was not returned — and, no, there hadn’t been a postal strike. Where do you suppose the documents ended up? Could someone at Canada Post have stolen them? Hardly.
There is a pattern here. According to inmate White, a letter addressed to him was dropped off at the prison gate. Two weeks later, he still hadn’t seen it.
It gets worse. A phone message left with the Beaver Creek staff who handle prison visitation still hasn’t been returned [the call was made on August 15, 2019]. It shouldn’t take more than a month to return a phone call. My guess is that the call will never be returned.
Hmmm. Something’s not right at Beaver Creek. So much for the institution fulfilling its responsibilities to the Canadian public. No respectable corporation would condone rudeness and incompetence.
What’s the problem? No staff? Incompetent or lazy workers? Unqualified management? Given there’s communication by silence, could the issue simply be arrogance? As in, fuck you-arrogance. One can’t help but wonder …
Keep in mind, these are public servants. This isn’t the private sector where lazy or incompetent workers are given five minutes to clean out their desks.
There’s more to the horror story. On September 10, 2019, Michael White and I were on the telephone discussing the disappearance of my security papers when … click! The line suddenly went dead. Hello? Hello? It’s my guess that a guard monitoring our conversation decided, without justification, to terminate our call.
Thank you, civil servant. And how’s that Public Tit Pension Plan looking?
My gut is, it’s petty people on a power trip deciding to exercise whatever authority they can — but if it’s systemic, it could also be baked into the culture or ordered from the top down. What’s your guess?
White’s second-last phone call, in August 2019, was also cut off. Click. One minute I was talking to the prisoner, next minute I was chatting away to myself. Strange. We weren’t discussing other inmates, a bust-out plan, security issues or sharing naughty jokes. Could this be the work of the same faceless Corrections employee? We may never know.
I have been reporting on crime for more than 30 years, so I’m not surprised when inmates behave without class. That pretty well goes with the territory. But it always makes me wonder how the Correctional Services of Canada is really run when I see its staff behaving with the flagrant arrogance of drug dealers.
The guards, especially the more senior ones, should know better. Shame on them.
What a poor example being set for inmates — the very people they’re supposed to rehabilitate so they can work their way back into society and become productive citizens. Good luck with that.
Correctional Services Canada recently did a much needed cleanup of unethical and law-breaking staff at its maximum security prison in Edmonton. Memo to the Commissioner: The Edmonton max isn’t the only pen in need of a shake-up.
One prisoner [who didn’t want his name used] says the problem at Beaver Creek is money — in particular, money that ends up in the pocket of a senior bureaucrat there who gets a hefty BONUS for money he ‘saves’ the institution.
Here’s how that scam works: the more programs and corners that are cut, the bigger the bonus. To heck with important papers and mail that takes several weeks to deliver.
If that’s true [or even half-true], therein lies the problem. Only certified morons would ever approve such a scheme. Hundreds of people — staff, inmates and members of the public — have to put up with poor service … all because some dildo is drooling over that bonus.
One would think that Correctional Services Canada would pay its senior workers a proper salary. What’s next? A gofundme account? They’re free to buy lottery tickets if they want someone else’s money.
[Prison brass in Ottawa have been shown this new chapter and asked to comment. If they have anything to say, I’ll either add it to the comments section or to the chapter itself.]
A SNIFF OF FREEDOM
It’s not freedom, but it ain’t time in the joint either.
On 12 February 2020, the Parole Board of Canada granted Michael White a few unescorted leaves, which meant he could leave the minimum security prison for several days without a guard tagging along.
These are 72 hour visits, not counting travel time.
The man had already been outside prison walls numerous times doing community work — but a guard was always present.
It means that White can visit Barrie, Ontario, in preparation for the day [if and when] he’s granted full-parole. It is in Barrie where he will stay at halfway house.
It also means he’ll be able to visit with his parents, at least once.
On Tuesday, 18 February 2020 the Parole Board provided the Author with written, detailed reasons for its decision. Click on the PDF file below [#10 UTAE] to see what they had to say … [BTW, UTA stands for ‘unescorted temporary absences’ … and BTW stands for ‘by the way.’]
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Michael White’s first lawyer, Larry Anderson, bailed out of the White case to become a provincial judge.
In September 2014, Laura Stevens also became … you guessed it: a provincial judge.
Hersh Wolch died on 17 July 2017 at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary.
Marilyn Burns announced has started a new provincial political party called The Alberta Advantage. The party made its debut in the April 2019 Alberta election — but bombed, collecting fewer than a third of one percent of the popular vote.
Burns herself got fewer than 180 votes in her riding of Edmonton South-West.
It’s worth noting that NO politician in Alberta would want to go on record as saying Michael White is innocent.
And it’s this: When dealing with the Canadian criminal justice system — police, lawyers and the court system —you’re rolling the dice.
Forget what you’ve learned in school or what police, the media or lawyers have told you about our judicial system, how fair it is and all that. Bottom line, it’s a crap shoot.
Perhaps you’ll find justice. But maybe you won’t.
Beware of lawyers who talk a big game, police officers who don’t value integrity and stenographers disguised as reporters. They can be toxic.
For a sensational, real-life drama of an ugly wrongful conviction case in the United States, go to this story by Jethro Nededog of Tech Insider. It’s an excellent overview of the key elements of the STEVEN AVERY case as documented by the popular Netflix series, Making a Murderer.
KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT THE WHITE CASE?
If you have evidence or information on the Liana White homicide you feel the public should know, call the author of this blog at 780.716.4693 … or email: click here