The Hamilton Spectator
Fundraiser for killer on Facebook raises ire
Donations sought for Millard’s defence
More than 1,200 people have signed a petition demanding Facebook shut down a page raising a defence fund for killer Dellen Millard’s next murder trial.
“He has hurt people,” wrote Rebecca Belforte, who signed. “This has been proven in a court of law and this bogus page is an insult to victims and the families of the victims. Grow a moral backbone and take this down.”
The Facebook page was created anonymously under the name “Help raise money for Dellen Millard’s defence.”
This attempt to fundraise for Millard is reprehensible to many. But legally, there is nothing wrong with it.
In fact, it might even be the legally ethical thing to do, as repugnant as that may seem.
Millard was convicted of first-degree murder for killing Tim Bosma of Ancaster and Laura Babcock of Toronto.
In each case, the victims were incinerated and in each case Millard’s pal Mark Smich was also convicted of first-degree murder.
For Millard’s first trial, he hired a pricey Toronto defence team. For his second, he applied to legal aid, telling
the court he was broke, but was turned down. In the end, he represented himself
He hopes to have lawyer Ravin Pillay, who was half of his defence team at the Bosma trial, represent him at his Babcock sentencing hearing Feb. 12. The judge will decide if his parole eligibility period of 25 years will be served concurrently or consecutively for the two life sentences he has automatically received.
Millard also has said he wants to retain Pillay to represent him next month when he goes on trial — alone this time — for the first-degree murder of his own father, Wayne Millard. If convicted, Millard would be classified as a serial killer.
Millard inherited his dad’s fortune, yet claims to be broke from paying for lawyers.
Someone who says they are a childhood friend of Millard’s began a Facebook page Jan. 26 to raise cash for his legal defence fund.
“My dear friend Dellen Millard is being unjustly persecuted for the murder of his father, whom he loved dearly. I have grown up with Dellen and could not name a sweeter, more gentle person. There’s no way he could have done this.”
The post goes on to say Millard “has bravely withstood two unjust persecutions, one of which he had to endure alone” and now “his funds have run out.”
The backlash on Facebook was immediate. People condemned the friend for trying to aid a convicted murderer (“You’re going to go to hell right along with this monster!”) and called for Facebook to shut the page down.
In response, the friend posted: “Some of the greatest men in history were greatly reviled and persecuted, until time showed otherwise. Like Jesus of Nazareth and all the other saints and martyrs, Dellen’s time will come.”
The day after the page was created, the person behind it claimed to have raised $20 and said a GoFundMe account was being set up. No such account appears to exist.
Meanwhile, on Jan. 29 a woman from Stratford started a petition at change.org to shut the Facebook page down.
“No criminal should be allowed to raise funds for his own defence,” says one petition supporter.
“The idea of people supporting a killer is disgusting,” says another.
Professor Trevor Farrow of Osgoode Hall Law School, who focuses on legal ethics, understands the anger.
The Facebook page creates “a confluence of interests,” he says.
On one hand, there is “the outrage over the revictimization of the families” of Bosma and Babcock. On the other, is every person’s right to counsel and the presumption of innocence — even if they have already been found guilty of two murders and are facing trial for a third.
There is also the issue of our costly justice system which makes retaining counsel too expensive for many people, says Farrow.
Millard is not the first accused to use crowd sourcing to fund his legal defence, but the circumstances of his crimes, his convictions and his inheritance make it “particularly egregious” in his case.
The controversy around Millard may put “further pressure on Facebook” to develop rules around crowd funding for legal fees, says Farrow.
Should it clamp down on legal postings that are unsavoury?
Or should users just exercise their ability to ignore what they don’t like?
“As much as we may not like the content of this page,” says Farrow, “we should be proud of living in a country where everyone has a right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence.”
Susan Clairmont’s commentary appears regularly in The Spectator. firstname.lastname@example.org 905-526-3539 | @susanclairmont