Mark Leonard's defense already planning appeal

Mark Leonard

Sentencing begins Wednesday for convicted Richmond Hill explosion suspect Mark Leonard, but his defense is already planning their next step.

Minutes after the verdict: "We are definitely going to appeal."

Leonard's lawyers would not say on what grounds, but the prosecution's use of graphic evidence at the trial and testimony about the victims may be part of that appeal.

"When you see a picture of a neighborhood that's blown apart that's a pretty damning piece of evidence," defense lawyer David Shircliff said.

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But Wednesday's court hearing is not about that. It's about determining if the judge can legally impose a sentence of life in prison without parole.

Leonard's lawyers say his case does not qualify and, even if it did, Shircliff says "If you look at what they just convicted him, upwards of 300 years is what he can get, the effect of what they convicted him of, life without parole, is going to be basically life in prison."

Prosecutor Terry Curry agrees with Leonard's lawyers on the numbers.

"With a guilty verdict on murder and all the other counts, I think whatever sentence Mr. Leonard is going to receive is going to be for the rest of his life," he said.

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From the start, Leonard's lawyers were upfront with the jury. Leonard was plotting insurance fraud, they said, and a fire, but never wanted to kill two people.

The defense was not publicly rethinking that strategy Wednesday. Still, Shircliff said, "hearing 53 counts of guilty after all the work we put in and after the two-and-a-half years and six weeks of trial, just kind of numb."

"Obviously, it's a great feeling to have this case finally determined by a jury," said Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson.

Robinson says Monserrate Shirley, Leonard's ex-girlfriend and the owner of the home he is now convicted of intentionally blowing up, was another critical factor in the case.

"You know, Ms. Shirley brought a human perspective, an insider's knowledge of this case that the jury could evaluate. But the physical evidence...the defense could not respond to and could not escape," she said.