The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

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Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL: black_rod_usher@yahoo.com

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dissecting the Taman Inquiry witchhunt

It’s an ugly thing to see a lynch mob rejoicing at its work.

The cause for the morbid glee is the final report of the Taman Inquiry, one of the greatest travesties of the judicial process ever witnessed in Manitoba.

In years to come historians will recoil at the transparent bias of Commissioner Roger Salhany whose disregard for truth in favour of mob sentiment is a blot on honest jurists everywhere.

The Inquiry had one purpose---to show that a conspiracy of police from Winnipeg and East St. Paul thwarted justice by undermining the investigation of a drunk driver, a fellow police officer, who killed a woman when he rear-ended her car at a stop signal.

The officer, Derek Zenk (the Inquiry stopped calling him Harvey-Zenk with no explanation) pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death and was sentenced to two years house arrest. But the mob, driven by the press, was convinced he got off easy because he was a policeman. They wanted blood, and so Salhany, like a modern day witch hunter, was hired to give it to them by pillorying the people who allegedly let Zenk get away with murder.

The result is Salhany’s final report, which is so chillingly flawed it should have been rejected by any Attorney General with integrity. But Salhany knew he could get away with it because the press had joined the lynch mob and wasn’t about to critize anything he wrote. He didn’t count on The Black Rod.

Every mystery eventually leads to a smoking gun. Instead of waiting to the end of the story, we’ve decided to present it at the beginning because it changes the story entirely.

Commission counsel David Pacicco made a rookie lawyer’s mistake. He asked a question he didn’t know the answer to. (Yes, we know you’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition.)

He was taking the evidence of Ted Rosser, the Selkirk paramedic who spent 15 minutes with Zenk in the back seat of a police car at the scene of the crash that killed Crystal Taman.

Rosser was called to support the basic proposition that Zenk was “impaired”, to use the legal terminology. The paramedic testified he smelled alcohol on Zenk’s breath and that he saw no signs of shock or head trauma that could cause a later loss of memory, something Paccioco wanted to get on the record to discredit Zenk later in the proceedings.

Rosser recorded the information he took from Zenk on a release form that paramedics must have filled out whenever a patient doesn’t want to be driven to hospital to be checked out.

Pacicco saw Rosser had in his hands something he brought with him to court.

Q You don't happen to have that document with you, sir?
A I don't think I have that part of it. No, I don't have that part. It is the inside part.
Q Sir, what do you have with you?
A Just my call report.

Smell the gunpowder.

Paciocco compounded his mistake.

Q Do you mind if I take a look at that, sir?
A Sure.
Q. Could you take the Commissioner through the contents and tell him what the document contains?
A Well, it has our times. We have Mr. Zenk's name, address, his wife, that he didn't
want to be transported, patient refusal, treatment release, where the accident happened, where his injuries were.

It sounded so innocent. But lawyers representing the other parties at the Inquiry knew enough to look at the document for themselves.

MR. WEINSTEIN: Mr. Commissioner, I have questions, but I request a brief recess to review that sheet that we haven't seen before that he filled out, the run sheet, before I commence my examination.

When the Inquiry resumed, lawyer Hymie Weinstein, representing East St. Paul police chief Harry Bakema, unloaded what will eventually be seen as the defining moment of the Inquiry. Not one reporter at the Inquiry reported the news. You are reading it here first.

Rosser, the inquiry had heard, had been a paramedic for 12 years at the time of the the Taman accident. He said he attended 500-600 calls a year, meaning he had been to thousands of cases.

Weinstein: And many of those would be to accident scenes? Some where there isn't an impaired driver, some that there are obviously impaired drivers; correct?
A Yes.
Q In this particular case -- or let me just ask you this. If you are dealing with a person -- and based on your experience, you've had much -- who is obviously impaired, is it not something that you would put down on your sheet?
A Yes.


Q A person that's obviously impaired to you, based on your observations, you come to the opinion he is obviously impaired, you would put that down on your sheet; correct?
A Yes.
Q That's not on this sheet; correct?
A That's right.

That’s right. Derek Zenk was NOT IMPAIRED.

The medical personnel who saw him first, who spoke to him longer than anyone, who is trained to detect signs of impairment testified that Derek Zenk was NOT IMPAIRED.

Salhany knew in the third week of the 9 week Inquiry that Zenk was NOT IMPAIRED.

Yet his vital information was never reported by the mainstream media.

It is not mentioned in the final report.

In fact, the report says the exact opposite, that Zenk was impaired and there was a conspiracy to cover it up, a conspiracy led by East St. Paul police chief Harry Bakema.

But, but, but…if the police thought Zenk was impaired and they still decided to cover it up, isn’t that just as bad?

Bakema, knowing that many traffic accident are caused by drunk drivers, advised a junior officer to look for signs of impairment even after Bakema detected none himself. The junior only suspected Zenk was drunk after a paramedic told him he could smell alcohol on Zenk’s breath. There was no roadside breathalyzer available, so Zenk was taken to the East St. Paul police station for a formal breathalyzer test. On his lawyer’s instructions, Zenk refused a breath test and was charged automatically with impaired driving offences.

It was the refusal that led police to believe Zenk was driving drunk but by that time Zenk was charged and facing trial. It was too late for a coverup.

The Winnipeg police, who were particularly vilified by Salhany and the press, have at all times said they had no reason to believe Zenk was impaired, not at Branigans where they were having drinks after work, or at an officer’s home where they continued to party after the bar closed.

They obviously told the truth because we now know Zenk was NOT IMPAIRED--- by alcohol.

There’s nothing that destroys a good conspiracy theory faster than the facts, so Salhany disregarded the facts and went with the conspiracy.

And a conspiracy has to have a ringleader. In this case, Salhany names Harry Bakema. Zenk cannot be prosecuted again, so Salhany wants Bakema to be the scapegoat, to suffer for letting Zenk get away.

“In spite of the challenges posed by the state of evidence, it is clear that when the officers arrived, no one took propery charge of the acciident investigation. Basic tasks such as identifying witnesses, securing eviidence from the scene, and investigating the possibility of criminal conduct were either not undertaken or done ineffectively. Bakema should have taken charge as the rnaking officer on site, but failed to do so.”

Nothing could be further from the truth as demonstrated in The Black Rod

http://blackrod.blogspot.com/2008/08/black-rods-final-submission-to-taman.html

"Wednesday, August 13, 2008
The Black Rod's final submission to the Taman Inquiry
The Taman Inquiry is the latest Manitoba show trial to stain the halls of justice in the province."

Salhany continued his barrage of allegations.

“What, then, was his motive in acting as he did at the accident scene? Was it to leave Zenk in Woychuk’s vehicle inorder to sober up? Was his intention to obstruct the investigation? Paragraph 3 of the Order in Council prevents me from expressing an opinion on this.” Writes Salhany.

Salhany thinks he’s being clever by then proceeding to blame Bakema for a litany of sins.

“It is clear that Bakema’s conduct, indeed his misconduct, had a devastating effect on the ability of a prosecutor to proceed with alcohol related charges against Zenk.”

“Observations of his condition should have been noted by Bakema but wre not, opening the door for any future defence counsel to ask “If Zenk was impaired, then why did Bakema not notice anything? And if he was impaired, why was Zenk not processed at the scene by Woychuk?”

“I am also satisfied that Bakema gave false evidence about what happened when he brought Zenk to Woychuk’s vehicle.”

“Bakema fabricated this account…”

“I am satisfied that Bakema not only falsified his own notes and reports…he also prompted Woychuk to falsify his notes.”

To test the validity of this ranting, you need only to examine Salhany’s very own contribution to the conspiracy theory.

Like the poor man’s Gus Grissom, Salhany had determined the very moment the conspiracy began.

He deduced it from Harry Bakema’s account of approaching Derek Zenk and learning Zenk was a Winnipeg police officer.

"Yet the testimony of accident eye witnesses Garth Shaw and Kathleen Beattie both contradict the claim that theirs was a fleeting encounter. Shaw and Beattie witnessed a protracted conversation between Bakema and Zenk at the truck. Moreover, Bakema’s notes, describing the two-minute window, have been falsified. Bakema did not wait until 7:40 a.m. to go over to the truck. By that time Bakema had already deposited Zenk in the truck. We know this because Selkirk Ambulance paramedics were attending to Zenk in Woychuk’s vehicle before 7:40 a.m. and in his testimony Bakema admitted to going over to Zenk within minutes of his arrival at the accident scene. I have no doubt that Bakema was with Zenk far longer than he says.”

But that’s not all.

Salhany says he suspects that former East St. Paul officer Ken Graham was with Bakema and joined in speaking with Zenk. This is behind Salhany’s recommendation that both men be investigation for obstruction of justice.

Unlike the reporters purporting to cover the Taman Inquiry, The Black Rod actually examined the raw material behind Salhany’s bizarre allegation.

We started with Kathleen Beattie. She was behind the wheel of a car stopped immediately ahead of Crystal Taman. When Zenk hit Taman’s car, it crashed into Beattie’s vehicle sending it spinning across the highway.

Here are some highlights of Beattie’s testimony culled from the Taman Inquiry:

- A. I don't recall that.

- But I don't remember that.

- Do you have a personal recollection of that?
A. I do not.

- I don't remember whether or not he stopped for any length of time.

- A .I don't recall.

- Do you recall when the gentleman who offered you the use of his cell phone came into the picture?
A No, I don't remember at what point I first saw him.

- Q. Okay. …do you recall at any point being in a group of more than two people? In other words, communicating with more than just the man from the truck?
A. No.

- I don't recall that kind of a conversation.

- No, I don't recall.

- A. I don't recall.

- Q. Do you recall how long you were in the front passenger seat of the ambulance?
A. No, I don't.

- Q. Do you recall where he might have been in terms of the proximity of the other officers?
A. No, I don't.

- I was in the admitting area for, I don't remember how long a period of time on the stretcher.

- Q. And can you tell us about that conversation?
A. I don't remember too much about that conversation.

- A I don't recall asking him that question, and I don't recall an answer from him either.

- How long were you at the hospital?
A. I don't recall.

- A. I don't recall if I heard from the police department that afternoon or if it was the following morning...

- A. I don't remember. I don't recall.

- A. I don't recall.

- A. I don't remember that at all...

Kathleen Beattie wasn’t mocked for her answers, nor did Roger Salhany demand a doctor’s report on her memory loss. Strange about that.

Maybe it was because she was too important a witness in Salhany’s personal conspiracy theory. And maybe it was because she only narrowly escaped being accused of being part of the conspiracy herself, as you’ll see.

Remember, she is being cited as a witness to Harry Bakema’s alleged lies about speaking with Derek Zenk, briefly and alone.

Here are some relevent snippets of her testimony before the Inquiry:

Q Okay. So the firefighters you noticed, are working on the Taman vehicle?
A Yes.
Q And there is the police officers, are at the truck where the male came from?

Q And what are they doing at the truck?
A All I can remember is seeing them standing by the truck with the gentleman.
Q And are you able to provide evidence as to how many police officers were present?
A No, I don't recall.
Q What were the police officers doing with the man beside the truck?
A It looked like they were standing talking, or just by him. I couldn't really, I couldn't hear what they were saying, but it looked like conversation was happening.

THE COMMISSIONER: The officers were talking to each other or to someone else?
THE WITNESS: I'm not sure, but it looked like they were standing around having a
conversation, but they were right by the truck where the gentleman was.

Q Did you see the man talking to the police officers?
A No, I didn't really pay too much attention to that. I was more watching the vehicle with the firefighters.
Q Okay. Do you know whether the man talked to the police officers or not?
A No, I do not.
Q But you do recall police officers being with the man?
A Yes.
Q And for how long were they with him?
A I don't recall.

Q Do you recall how long you were in the front passenger seat of the ambulance?
A No, I don't. I don't know the exact amount of time.
Q Do you know whether it seemed like a long time or a short time?
A It seemed like a very long time, but I don't know the exact.
Q But to provide Mr. Commissioner with, I guess, the best evidence that you can, and I understand your evidence is that you don't recall the amount of time, but in terms of delineating it from a short time or a long time, what would it be?
A I would say 15 to 20 minutes maybe, in my mind right now. It's a long time ago, so it's really hard to tell.
Q We can appreciate that. And in terms of the observations that you were making during that time that you were in the passenger seat of the ambulance, were the police officers there with the man for the entire time, or part of it?
A The entire time.

The only problem is that Kathleen Beattie remembered things entirely differently when being interviewed by the RCMP in May, 2006, when her memory, such as it is, was fresher and hadn’t yet been re-freshed. At that time she told the investigators:

A. Ahm, I think at that point I was in the ambulance. I think. I just don't
remember seeing a policeman actually.
Q. Okay. Did you see anyone in uniform, ah, in the very beginning?
Shortly after the accident, did you see anyone out there in uniform?
A. Hm. I've never been asked that question before so I've never really
thought about it. I don't know. I just remember the ambulance pulling
up.

Q. And were there, did you have any chance to observe what the gentleman at the, at the truck was doing kind of in between your first contact with him and after he walked away?
A. I saw the, ahm, well I know that they're the Fire Department because I know the men that are from the East St. Paul Fire Department and they were over at the truck just before I got into the other ambulance.
So the Fire Department must have been there somewhere. I never saw
a truck. Because the Fire, ah, fellow that got into the back of the, the
ambulance when I first got in, I knew him. And he is, ah, with the Fire
people out here. Doug ROBERTS.
Q. Oh, he was an ambulance attendant?
A. No.
Q. Oh.
A. He was with the Fire Department.

Q. Alright. And you said that, ah, the Fire Department went over, was speaking to the fellow at the truck?
A. Um-huh.
Q. The pick-up truck.
A. Um-huh.
Q. Do you remember how many, ah, firemen went over there? Could it have... Was it one, or two, or three or?
A. I don't remember.

In 2006 she said she distinctly remembered members of the fire department standing around Derek Zenk.

But in 2008 she remembered it was police officers.

What changed her mind?

Hymie Weinstein asked her that very question.

Q Ms. Beattie, I've gone through, as you have, your transcript of your RCMP interview. And nowhere in that transcript is there any reference at all, and this is your interview on May 31st, 2006, nowhere in there is any mention at all of police officers, or a group, as you subsequently said in your testimony, standing around. Nowhere in that interview on May 31st, 2006, is there any reference to police officers standing around that gentleman?
A It's possible. Perhaps, at that point, I wasn't led to think about that situation.
(Not so. Read her very first statement quoted above.)

Q Okay. Well, what led you to think about that situation on -- two years later on April 8th, 2008?
A Conversation.
Q With whom?
A With Mr. Clifford.

That would be Mr. Vincent Clifford, Associate Commission Counsel.


Smell the gunpowder.

A witness radically changes her testimony after a private, secret meeting with a lawyer acting on behalf of the Inquiry and the mainstream press says--- nothing. Strange, isn’t it.

Clifford did use a transcript of the meeting to “refresh” Kathleen Beattie’s memory when she wasn’t saying what he wanted her to say.

Q Do you recall where he might have been in terms of the proximity of the other officers?
A No, I don't.
Q I just wanted to raise with you a question and answer sequence from your interview with the purpose of perhaps refreshing your memory on that point. And Mr. Commissioner, I'm referring to the interview of April 8, 2008, that was conducted at the Taman Inquiry offices. And what I'll be doing, with your permission, sir, is referring Ms. Beattie to page 18 and 19.
Ms. Beattie, I'll read a question and answer to you to determine whether it might refresh your memory on the question I have just put to you. 2 looking at this picture.

The transcript, which wasn’t made an exhibit, did its magic.

Q. Does that refresh your memory in terms of how he was situated, or how the officers were situated around him?
A Yes, it does.
Q And could you respond to the question as posed?
A I recall a group of police officers standing in front of the truck, with the gentleman closer to the truck. So I guess you could say they were around the gentleman.

But wait. There’s another witness that Salhany says buttresses Mrs. Beattie. That’s Garth Shaw. He was driving along the highway when Zenk passed him at a great speed just before hitting Crystal Taman’s car.

Shaw said he, too, saw more than one policeman around Derek Zenk. And he said they spent a long time talking to him.

Q Okay. Sir, can you describe what you observed the police officers, who you did see, doing at the scene?
A I know they went -- one of the police officers went and talked to the gentleman in the blue truck.

Q. I know that people don't take out stopwatches to watch events like this, but is there any way that you can give us any indication to -- well, let me put it this way, did you observe the police officers doing anything other than going and talking to the gentleman at the truck?
A No.

(Note how subtly the police officer becomes officers, plural, in the questioning.)

Q And can you describe what happens when you see the officer going to the truck, sir?
A He just approached the gentleman in the truck, and then they seemed to be conversing in a conversation.

Q Sir, did you notice anything about the conversation that you can share with us? How long was the conversation?
A About five minutes.

Shaw, too, was interviewed by RCMP in 2006. At that time he helpfully put a time to what he saw happening around Derek Zenk’s truck.

The gist of what he told the RCMP was in their report to the Attorney General’s office, which is a Taman Inquiry exhibit.

“Approximately ten minutes later emergency vehicles started to arrive so he moved his van to a different position in the intersection. While he was sitting in his van, he was approached by a policeman who he believed was from ESPPD. After providing a brief description of the events he witnesses, the policeman asked him to remain at the scene until further details could be gotten from him. During this time he observed an ambulance arrive and tend to the woman in the yellow car.

He said the attendants put a heart monitor on her, and then she was extracted by a fire crew. She was then transported away from the scene. Shaw stated that he then observed a policeman walk over to the driver of the truck who was still standing outside. The two were in normal conversation distance from each other for about five minutes.”

The problem here is that the ambulance carrying the body of Crystal Taman left the scene at 7:43 a.m., roughly five minutes after paramedics began their interview with Derek Zenk in the back of a police car.

So, according to witness Shaw, Derek Zenk not only managed to be in two places at once, but he could travel through time to do it.

It was just this sort of allegation that would get you burned as a witch in seventeenth century Salem. It seems nothing has changed in 21st century Winnipeg.

What, then, is the lynch mob celebrating?

Roger Salhany has produced a report that exposes a conspiracy that never existed to prevent the prosecution for impaired driving of a police officer who wasn't impaired.

He then invented his very own conspiracy backed by one witness whose evidence is impossible according to the laws of physics and another witness whose memory is worse than Derek Zenk's and whose evidence changed 180 degrees after a private meeting with one of Salhany's henchmen.

The press finds this perfectly reasonable.

Stay tuned. There's more. Much, much more to come.

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