“Ashley Smith inquest becoming a bad joke”: Christie Blatchford

Globe and Mail columnnist Christie Blatchford is none too impressed with Bonnie Porter, the presiding coroner of the Ashley Smith Inquest.

In an article published in Saturday’s Globe and Mail, Blatchford writes that “Porter has three decisions to make, all of which in my view could be made in a few minutes by a chimpanzee.”

Those three decisions:

Do reporters need to continue filing forms every time they want a copy of an exhibit?

Should Porter rescind an order that threatens lawyers with contempt should they share filed exhibits with reporters (thus by-passing the form)?

And, most importantly, should Porter accept a joint submission for counsel to seize videos showing Smith being forcibly injected with drugs just a few months before she strangled herself inside her prison cell?

As Blatchford rightly notes, these issues affect the openess of the inquest and are crucial to the breadth of its scope. Porter has indicated she will take at least a week to figure out the answers; during that time, the proceedings will be put on hold.

“The delay seems massively excessive to me,” writes Blatchford, “But fair enough; she’s entitled. What’s telling is that even this minor decision — the delay and for how long — she has turned into a state secret.”

Blatchford is referring the fact that Porter didn’t publicly announce details of the delay. She didn’t tell reporters how long it would take; she didn’t tell either of the two lawyers hired by media outlets. What she did do was notify all other lawyers involved with the case via a “confidential memo”.

“Funny,” writes Blatchford, “but one day this week, I got a note from a Globe colleague who was reading about the difficulty we were having with exhibits at the inquest. He is plugged into the Rana terrorism trial going on in Chicago, and is receiving e-mails from the fellow in charge of posting exhibits online the same day.

“America, now there’s a country where freedom of expression actually means something.”