Walsh's lawyer admits talking to key witness

Rob Antle
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Trial on break until early September

The lawyer for Jim Walsh acknowledged Friday that he spoke with key Crown witness Bill Murray about a comment Walsh made in a 2007 police interview.

In that videotaped interview, Walsh told RNC investigators that Murray "didn't move in my social class."

Defence lawyer Vernon French conceded to the court Friday he raised the "class" comment with Murray before Murray began his testimony earlier in the week.

The lawyer for Jim Walsh acknowledged Friday that he spoke with key Crown witness Bill Murray about a comment Walsh made in a 2007 police interview.

In that videotaped interview, Walsh told RNC investigators that Murray "didn't move in my social class."

Defence lawyer Vernon French conceded to the court Friday he raised the "class" comment with Murray before Murray began his testimony earlier in the week.

French said he told Murray that Walsh had made the comment late in the day, and didn't mean it the way it was said.

"I did it without malice," French told the court as proceedings wrapped up on Friday.

"I didn't do it with any intention of influencing or anything of that nature."

Walsh is subject to a police undertaking not to have any communication with Murray.

But French stressed he was not acting on behalf of his client.

"The words were mine (to) Mr. Murray, not Mr. Walsh's," French said.

Crown prosecutor Frances Knickle raised the issue after the final witness of the day had concluded her testimony.

Knickle said Murray informed her about the exchange.

"I'm concerned about the appearance of it," Knickle told provincial court Judge David Orr.

Orr said that if Walsh is on an undertaking, "that changes the colour of the interaction."

The judge said the matter is something he will have to take into account.

Walsh - a former Liberal MHA and cabinet minister - is on trial for fraud over $5,000, breach of trust by a public officer and frauds on the government. The charges relate to excess claims totalling $159,316 made from his taxpayer-funded constituency allowance between 1998 and 2004.

Murray is also facing a raft of charges in conjunction with the spending scandal.

Murray testified this week he accepted cash from Walsh to process excess constituency allowance claims for him.

He disagreed the cash payments were kickbacks, instead calling them "a token of appreciation."

Murray told the court he filled out each of Walsh's last 46 claim forms during the MHA's final year and a half in politics.

The bulk of Walsh's excess claims occurred during that time period.

The defence attacked Murray's credibility, highlighting differences in his statements to court and police.

French accused Murray of lying to the court.

Murray admitted putting through improper claims for third-party companies in Walsh's name, without the MHA's knowledge. He said he accepted payments to feed a video lottery gambling habit that reached $500 a day.

During his 2007 police interview, Walsh reacted angrily to allegations he asked Murray for financial help.

"There was nothing Bill Murray could do for me," Walsh told police two years ago. "Not - nothing. Anything he would have to do for me would have to be illegal."

Meanwhile, two of Walsh's former constituency assistants testified on Friday about how his claim forms were completed, and who filled them out.

The trial is now on a break for five weeks. Proceedings will resume in early September.

rantle@thetelegram.com

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Recent comments

  • John
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    If Mr. Walsh is under a ban from communicating withe Murray, shoulkdn't that also include his lawyer unless there is somebody from the prosecution present for the chit chat. According to French, he made one statement to Murray but that is just his side of the story and we the public have no way of knowing for certain that this was all that was discussed as there was apparently nobody from the prosecution present. Haven't people learned yet that there are rules laid down by the judges for a reason???

  • Bones II
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    A seasoned lawyer with the experience and credentials this man has believed this was an acceptable gesture? Can somebody explain how? It looks like French is up to something, he must certainly realize that he can't win this case. Does that have something to do with it?

  • g-man
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    i think the lawyer for walsh should be charged..and now mr walsh hopefully will get to meet his new class of people in jail.he better end up in jail.i find this guy(walsh)the worst of the lot of theses political crooks.

  • don
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    It appears that Bill Murray will be the scapegoat in this spending scandal. In his reference to Mr. Murray,the words of Mr. Walsh speak for themselves: Anything he would have to do for me would have to be illegal. It appears, based on the sworn testimony at trial, that Mr. Walsh, by his own admission, agreed that anything that Mr. Murray did for him would have to be illegal! I have heard rumors of another possible spending scandal that apparently involves politicians, bureaucrats and well connected cronies. Apparently, another unsuspecting scapegoat has been identified to take the fall should things go public. The Courts and the Crown prosecution need to send a serious message to wayward politicians, enabling bureaucrats and their greedy cronies, defraud the taxpayer and you will pay a hefty price. Considering the less than stellar history of the justice system in Newfoundland and Labrador, I am naive to think that justice will ever be served here.

  • Terry
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Sounds like Mr. French must have gotten a few dollars stuffed into an envelope by Mr. Walsh to make Murray go away. That seems to be his modis opporendi. Better start stuffing envelopes for the big bad prison boys Jimmy. Use lots of the government $$$ you stole. These bad boys won't go away easy. Can't wait to see you on the receving end of their brand of justice.

  • Truth
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    Vern French is obviously in Jim Walsh's class -- hasn't got any.

  • Garrisongetar
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    Walsh's lawyer, Vernon French, communicated Walsh's apology to Murray PRIOR to cross examining Murray, for one reason, and one reason only. His intent was to influence the testimony of Bill Murray during his cross examination. French said he did it without malice and was not acting on behalf of his client. In law, 'malice' means 'evil intent'. French's actions may or may not have been evil, but their intent is clear. French said he wasn't acting on behalf of his client. Is anyone naive enough to believe that Walsh is not aware of French's little tete-a tete with Murray ?
    French said his words to Murray were his , ie., French's, and not his client's words. That's laughable. French told Murray that Walsh made the'class' comments late in the day and didn't mean it the way it was said. French told Murray exactly what Walsh said. What is that if it's not lawyer French conveying his client's comments directly to Murray ?
    French's actions are a breach of Walsh's undertaking not to have any communication with Murray and, coincidentally, French's comments to Murray were made prior to, not after, his cross examination of Murray.

  • David
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Wow...I wondered how this would all be made to just go away. A mistrial! Well played, everyone.

  • John
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    If Mr. Walsh is under a ban from communicating withe Murray, shoulkdn't that also include his lawyer unless there is somebody from the prosecution present for the chit chat. According to French, he made one statement to Murray but that is just his side of the story and we the public have no way of knowing for certain that this was all that was discussed as there was apparently nobody from the prosecution present. Haven't people learned yet that there are rules laid down by the judges for a reason???

  • Bones II
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    A seasoned lawyer with the experience and credentials this man has believed this was an acceptable gesture? Can somebody explain how? It looks like French is up to something, he must certainly realize that he can't win this case. Does that have something to do with it?

  • g-man
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    i think the lawyer for walsh should be charged..and now mr walsh hopefully will get to meet his new class of people in jail.he better end up in jail.i find this guy(walsh)the worst of the lot of theses political crooks.

  • don
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    It appears that Bill Murray will be the scapegoat in this spending scandal. In his reference to Mr. Murray,the words of Mr. Walsh speak for themselves: Anything he would have to do for me would have to be illegal. It appears, based on the sworn testimony at trial, that Mr. Walsh, by his own admission, agreed that anything that Mr. Murray did for him would have to be illegal! I have heard rumors of another possible spending scandal that apparently involves politicians, bureaucrats and well connected cronies. Apparently, another unsuspecting scapegoat has been identified to take the fall should things go public. The Courts and the Crown prosecution need to send a serious message to wayward politicians, enabling bureaucrats and their greedy cronies, defraud the taxpayer and you will pay a hefty price. Considering the less than stellar history of the justice system in Newfoundland and Labrador, I am naive to think that justice will ever be served here.

  • Terry
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    Sounds like Mr. French must have gotten a few dollars stuffed into an envelope by Mr. Walsh to make Murray go away. That seems to be his modis opporendi. Better start stuffing envelopes for the big bad prison boys Jimmy. Use lots of the government $$$ you stole. These bad boys won't go away easy. Can't wait to see you on the receving end of their brand of justice.

  • Truth
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    Vern French is obviously in Jim Walsh's class -- hasn't got any.

  • Garrisongetar
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    Walsh's lawyer, Vernon French, communicated Walsh's apology to Murray PRIOR to cross examining Murray, for one reason, and one reason only. His intent was to influence the testimony of Bill Murray during his cross examination. French said he did it without malice and was not acting on behalf of his client. In law, 'malice' means 'evil intent'. French's actions may or may not have been evil, but their intent is clear. French said he wasn't acting on behalf of his client. Is anyone naive enough to believe that Walsh is not aware of French's little tete-a tete with Murray ?
    French said his words to Murray were his , ie., French's, and not his client's words. That's laughable. French told Murray that Walsh made the'class' comments late in the day and didn't mean it the way it was said. French told Murray exactly what Walsh said. What is that if it's not lawyer French conveying his client's comments directly to Murray ?
    French's actions are a breach of Walsh's undertaking not to have any communication with Murray and, coincidentally, French's comments to Murray were made prior to, not after, his cross examination of Murray.

  • David
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    Wow...I wondered how this would all be made to just go away. A mistrial! Well played, everyone.