The Globe and Mail
By TIMOTHY APPLEBY
Tuesday, January 17, 2006 Page A15
Five-year-old Jeffrey Baldwin was killed by his grandparents because they hated him, the accused couple's first-degree murder trial was told yesterday as the prosecution and defence launched their final arguments in Superior Court.
"Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman disliked Jeffrey and [his older sister] to the extreme," Crown attorney Bev Richards told Mr. Justice David Watt, who is hearing the case without a jury. That "animus," she said, resulted in "severe child abuse over an extended period of time."
Jeffrey perished of septic shock in November of 2002, after spending most of his final months locked with that sister in a bedroom at the east-end Toronto Bottineau-Kidman home.
"Ms. Bottineau and Mr. Kidman knew that was going to happen," said Ms. Richards."This was a continuous downward spiral."
Lawyers for the accused presented an altogether different picture, with both defence camps contending that Jeffrey fell victim to extreme neglect rather than murder, which implies intent to kill.
But in one key regard, lawyers for the two accused diverged.
Anil Kapoor and Nick Xynnis, who jointly represent Ms. Bottineau, want their client acquitted not only of first- and second-degree murder but also of manslaughter, which generally means killing somebody by accident.
That's because her "mental impoverishment" is so extreme -- placing her within just 2 per cent of the population -- that she is incapable of realizing the consequences of her actions, Mr. Kapoor said.
That borderline mental retardation was documented as far back as 1970, when she faced criminal charges in connection with the death of one of her children, he said.
Then, as now, "she did not seem to have any real appreciation of the risks she took for others," Mr. Kapoor said, urging she be acquitted.
But Bob Richardson, Mr. Kidman's lead counsel, said his client bears some responsibility for Jeffrey's death and that the proper verdict should be manslaughter.
Taking a swipe at the Catholic Children's Aid Society, which approved the placement of Jeffrey and his three siblings in the couple's home after complaints of abuse, Mr. Richardson conceded that "out of a general state of indifference" Mr. Kidman had failed in his duty to protect Jeffrey.
But within the dysfunctional household, "it was Elva Bottineau's rules" that applied, Mr. Richardson said.
Mr. Kapoor argued that in examining "the appalling facts" of the tragedy, glaringly absent from the Crown's case against Ms. Bottineau is any proof of her intent to kill.
Not only did she call 911 on the day Jeffrey died, he said, but she wanted the boy alive rather than dead because of the welfare money he and his three siblings generated.
"She was abusive, and she wanted to abuse him, but she didn't want to kill him." Jeffrey died because Ms. Bottineau "doesn't see what we see," Mr. Kapoor contended.
The prosecutor rejected that thesis. When paramedics arrived at the house on Nov. 30, 2002, they found a near-skeletal five-year-old who was bruised, dehydrated and covered with sores and bacteria, she said, describing "a child who . . . was probably on the cusp of death."
As for intent, the fact Jeffrey and his sister spent long months locked up in their unheated bedroom offers proof that Jeffrey's death was not only intended, but also planned, Ms. Richards said.
Ms. Bottineau, 54, showed no emotion as defence and prosecution tussled. Mr. Kidman, 53, spent most of the day staring at the floor of the prisoner's box.