UPDATED: April 2, 10am: Friends and fans of Dixie Landers are organizing a fundraiser to help cover the costs of an outstanding civil suit against her. Details are pending, but in the meantime, queers are joining a Facebook protest page to share their anger.
How the gay card was played at the Dixie Landers trial
What a spectacle.
After being sequestered overnight, the jury found Andrew Ronald Lefebvre, 28, not guilty of assault causing bodily harm and simple assault.
The verdict concludes a week of insinuations and gentle badgering by defence lawyer John Hale, in which the reputation of the gay community took a public thrashing.
As we reported back in 2007, Michael Marcil suffered multiple fractures to the face, direct trauma to the head and hemorrhaging as a result of an altercation at Centretown Pub. He spent weeks in a coma and months learning how to walk and talk again. Marcil, known as his drag alter ego Dixie Landers – is a familiar face in Ottawa’s gay community.
Hale argued that Lefebvre was involved with the altercation, but that he had acted instinctively to protect his then-girlfriend, Sheri Rand, who was engaged in a “tussle” with Marcil.
Hale stressed that Marcil had started the fight by insulting Lefebvre as he left the Centretown pub in the early hours of May 26, 2007. He alleged that Rand, upon hearing the insult, stepped in to “diffuse” the situation and ended up being beaten by Marcil. Rand suffered minor injuries – two broken teeth, trauma to her bottom teeth and a few bruises on her feet and knees.
During the trial, Hale’s defence was that both Rand and Lefebvre were the “scapegoats” of an angry gay community.
Charges were laid because police were under pressure to satisfy the gay community, Hale said. According to Hale, if the assault had occurred in a straight bar, the police would not have laid charges.
Hale referenced a meeting at the Jack Purcell Community Centre – a meeting that was held to appease the gay community because it threatened to protest, he said.
With Lefebvre on the stand, Hale made a point of asking him if, while dating Rand, he had any gay friends.
Lefebvre testified that he had “protected” Steven Fairbairn, a gay friend, by telling him to tone down his flamboyant mannerisms at a straight bar. In the same statement, Lefebvre referred to Nadeau, as an old gay guy who “weirded” him out.
Hale continued with this line when Rand came to the stand.
Rand declined to say where she lived (the question is usually asked of all witnesses) out of fear for her life. She said she was afraid of the gay community, who had cast her as a gaybasher.
She also said that she has friends who are gay, attended one of the first gay weddings in Canada and even liked Centretown Pub enough to celebrate her birthday there.
Rand testified that she was angry at the justice system and distraught that her attacker had not been charged. Rand has an civil suit outstanding against Marcil and Centretown Pub for $250,000.
Hale portrayed Rand as the real victim – a victim who was not treated properly, who was refused treatment by a family doctor as she had charges against her, a woman with posttraumatic stress syndrome, ignored by the police and in search of justice.
She was the damsel in distress – who swore on the bible and came to court with rosary beads – a girlfriend who Lefebvre protected by brutally assaulting Marcil. In the end, so much of the case depended on how the jury perceived Rand.
During the trial, the Crown was not simply pursuing a case that had been investigated with thoroughness by the investigating officer. It was forced to counter attempts by the defence to use the gay community as a bogeyman.
Hale insisted, at every opportunity, on bringing up the anger of the gay community, pushing the case to be seen as a hate crime – against straight people – with Rand and Lefebvre as the victims.
Unwittingly, Hale was aided by the reporting of the Ottawa Citizen and the Ottawa Sun, which seized on the fact that a drag queen was in the centre of the case. Theirs was yellow journalism at its worst – tabloid headlines, biased and selective reporting.
Even in his closing arguments, Tallim was forced to point out to the jury – once again – that this was not a case that the Crown was prosecuting as a hate crime, as Hale suggested, but as an altercation with serious and tragic consequences.
It appears that Hale’s line of reasoning – and the spectre of an angry gay mob forcing the hand of the police – was persuasive. In a short period of time, the 12 members of the jury sifted through piles of evidence that should have taken hours upon hours to get through. In less than half a day they examined three years of evidence to come up with a verdict.
For the last week, the gay community has been bashed by a defence counsel, conservative newspapers and today, a jury.