2,000 called for jury duty in bikers' trial

Feb 23, 2009 01:22 PM
Peter Edwards
Staff Reporter

LONDON About 2,000 school teachers, custodians, homemakers, salespeople, bus drivers and others showed up in court today on the opening day of jury selection for the first-degree murder trial of six men accused of killing eight bikers belonging to the Toronto chapter of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club.

It's the largest jury pool in memory for the biggest mass murder in modern Ontario history and the biggest known biker mass murder in the world.

"Trial by jury is one of the pillars of our justice system," Mr. Justice Thomas Heeney of the Superior Court of Justice told a room-full of prospective jurors.

He's presiding over more than a dozen defence lawyers and a half-dozen prosecutors in the trial of Winnipeggers Brett (Beau) Gardiner, 24, Michael (Taz) Sandham, 39, Marcello Aravena, 32, and Dwight (Big D) Mushey; Wayne (Weiner) Kellestine, 59, of tiny Iona Station, outside London and Frank (Frankie), Mather, 35, of no fixed address.

So many prospective jurors were called for the trial that lawyers for the Crown and defense teams won't even begin questioning them until next week.

This week is expected to be spent organizing the jurors into groups and scheduling their return dates and times to court.

The trial comes almost three years after the bodies of eight Toronto-area men were found shot to death in vehicles abandoned in a muddy farmer's field and on a side road near the hamlet of Shedden, a half-hour's drive from London, on the morning of April 8, 2006.

Among the defense team are Tony Bryant, former lawyer for sex killer Paul Bernardo, who's representing Aravena, and Clay Powell, who successfully prosecuted former Toronto Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard for fraud in the early 1970s. Powell, who also defended Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards on heroin charges, is representing Kellestine.

Eight first degree-murder charges were laid against each of the six accused after the discovery of the bodies of George (Pony) Jessome, 52; George (Crash) Kriarakis, 28; Luis Manny (Chopper, Porkchop) Raposo, 41; Frank (Bam Bam, Bammer) Salerno, 43, all of Toronto; John (Boxer) Muscedere, 48, of Chatham; Paul (Big Paul) Sinopoli, 30, of Sutton; Jamie (Goldberg) Flanz, 37, of Keswick; and Michael (Little Mikey) Trotta, 31, of Mississauga, all of whom were all connected to the Bandidos club.

The trial was earlier scheduled to begin last September, but was postponed. There is a publication ban on the reasons why it was postponed.