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.

Name:
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

Saturday, August 23, 2008

War in Afghanistan 2008 Week 35

An Afghan athlete is bringing home a medal from the Beijing Olympics to the amazement and delight of his countrymen.

You can bet that there wasn't a soul in Afghanistan who thought their Olympians had even a chance for a medal. They had no training facilities, no professional coaches, no funding…in short, no hope.

In July, the only female on the Afghan team disappeared from a training facility in Italy, amid fears she had been kidnapped. Nineteen-year old Mehboba Ahdyar surfaced a week later in a phone call to her parents. She was abandoning her dream of running the 800 and 1500 metre races in the Olympics, she said, and she was going to seek asylum in Norway. The fear of being murderd by Muslim fanatics when she returned home had grown too great.

But the team perservered, and when they get home, they'll have with them Afghanistan's first ever Olympic medal.

On Wednesday, 21-year-old Rohullah Nikpai captured the bronze medal in the 58-kg Taekwondo competition by defeating his Spanish opponent.

The moment his match was over, he fell to his knees and burst into tears.

"I hope this medal can be a message of peace in Afghanistan," he said after hugging his coaches. Nikpai, from Wardak province, will get a house for his victory. Even the rest of the team, made up of another Taekwondo fighter and two runners (including sprinter Robina Muqimyar who replaced Ahdyar as the lone female athlete) will benefit; a mobile phone tycoon promised them $50,000 if they came back with a medal.

Olympic bronze was a welcome interlude from an otherwise brutal month in Afghanistan.

* August is shaping up to be the worst month of coalition fatalities this year. To date 37 NATO and U.S. soldiers have been killed this month, a shade under the 41 killed in June. IED's have claimed 20 soldiers and enemy fire killed 15, including 10 French troops in the single worst combat toll in 2008. One soldier was killed by a suicide bomber and one by a land mine.

The French recently took over control of the Kabul regional command which includes Sarobi. (30 miles east of Kabul.)

But while the war raged in Afghanistan, the real story was next door in Pakistan where Al Qaeda forces have repeated the mistakes that cost them the war in Iraq.

* Driven from Iraq, they've been trying to rebuild in Pakistan's lawless tribal regions, setting up 100 terrorist camps and expanding their fanatic brand of Islam even to settled regions and encroaching onto the city of Peshwar.

The Muslim terrorists have worked to destroy "an education system that was once the pride of Pakistan" in the words of one reporter. 87 girls' schools have been destroyed in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and another 62 closed by fearful administrators.

Maulana Fazlullah, chief of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in the Swat Valley, called female education "a source of obscenity". He ordered girls to go home and wear th+e burka.

A year long campaign of suicide bombings in Pakistan following a crackdown on militants in July, 2007, killed about 4,300 people, including 740 security personnel, according to the Pakistan Daily, The News.

The tribal regions are still living in the medieval ages, where power is determined by brute force, not law. Al Qaeda and their allies simply set out to kill anyone who disagreed with them. 250 tribal elders have been killed by different militant groups in FATA.

In June, forces of Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban, killed 28 members of a government-sponsored peace committee

"The targeting of the peace committee sent a particularly chilling message because it was a brutal tactic by Mehsud's forces to quash pro-government groups in the region, tribal elders said. The killings appeared to directly challenge the policy of the new Pakistani government to negotiate with militants rather than use military force. Some of the men had been shot; others had their throats slit." wrote New York Times reporter Jane Perlez (28 Pakistani peace committee members executed by Taliban, New York Times, June 25, 2008).

Then, in July, Mehsud's men killed 15 members of a rival tribe. But that resulted in a split in the Pakistani Taliban, with four commanders setting up their own group. As you'll see, that wasn't such a good thing for Mehsud.

* Meanwhile, there's a huge backlash growing against the Al Qaeda supporting Mehsud, similar to the tribal revolt against Al Qaeda in Iraq. 500 elders of the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe met in July in Wana, the capital of South Waziristan, and vowed to expel Uzbek fighters allied to Mehsud.

Zee News reported that Ahmadzai Wazir tribesmen vowed to "resist all people from Mehsud-inhabited areas and neighbouring north Waziristan who attack government installations and supporters of Maulvi Nazir". Nazir is a pro-government militant commander who belongs to the Wazir tribe.

A senior commander of the Maulvi Nazir group told Zee News that around 4,000 armed tribesmen had assured his group of their support. The anti-Taliban revolt is spreading.

Pakistani tribesmen vow not to shelter Taliban, extremist groups
Posted: 2008/07/28
From: MNN
Eight tribes in a northwestern Pakistani town have decided not to shelter local Taliban and any other extremist and armed group in their areas, a tribal elder has said.

The tribesmen gathered at the town of Hangu also vowed to help authorities in expelling Taliban and members of other fundamentalist armed factions, said Malik Jalil-ur Rehman, who attended the jirga or council.


Over 100 members from tribes Darsamandar, Karbogha Sharif, Zargeri, Shnawarey, Naryab, Doaba, Chery Naryab, Kahi and Saruzi attended the jirga.


Hangu, located at the edge of Orakzai tribal region, has seen violence in recent months and the worst was this month when Taliban shot dead 17 soldiers who were heading to a fort in the protection of tribal elders.

The forces then launched a major operation against the Taliban and killed 20 of them, according to the army's spokesman. Up to 60 other Taliban were arrested, the spokesman said. INRA

And this month, the newly elected government of Pakistan dropped its gloves and came out fighting. In a speech to the National Assembly, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani declared he would re-establish control in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. "We will establish the writ of the Government at all costs (as) a parallel government cannot be tolerated," he said.

The government has attacked militant strongholds with helicopter gunships, fixed-wing strike aircraft, tanks and heavy artillery. More than 500 Taliban fighters have been killed in the past 10 days. That's FIVE HUNDRED. As in 500 terrorists who won't be crossing the border to fight in Afghanistan.

And Pakistan's new leaders are treating with benign neglect reports of cross-border missile strikes. A week ago at least 10 militants were killed when four missiles from Afghanistan blasted their hideouts in a terrorist training camp in South Waziristan. In July, a missile attack by a pilotless drone killed another group of terrorists in South Waziristan, including Abu Khabab al-Masri, Al Qaeda's chemical terrorism expert, the latest to fall in the coalition's decapitation campaign.

This past week, eight were killed in Wana when two missiles hit a house owned by a local tribesaman known to give Al Qaeda fighters shelter.

And unconfirmed reports from Pakistan say that Mustafa Abu Yazid, al Qaeda's commander in Afghanistan, has been killed during the heavy fighting in Pakistan's tribal agency of Bajaur. If Yazid's death is confirmed, he would be the fourth senior al Qaeda leader killed in Pakistan's tribal areas this year. Don't you wonder where the tips are coming from that lead government forces to their targets? Fraternal splits can be so messy.

* Back in Afghanistan, the Taliban launched an attack that can only be seen as a metaphor for their summer offensive.

An estimated 30 Taliban insurgents spearheaded by suicide bombers tried to overrun Camp Salerno, the biggest US military base in eastern Afghanistan located 19 miles from the border with Pakistan. Isaf confirmed the base Camp had been attacked by rockets or mortars, and that a number of suicide bombers had tried to storm the base on foot. News reports said six blew themselves up, in some cases killing insurgents beside them. Another six were shot down. One report says the attackers were spotted more than half a mile from the base, then met with artillery and rocket fire until helicopter gunships could arrive.

The attack came a day after a suicide bomber in a car blew himself up outside the base, killing 10 Afghan labourers waiting to go in.

* The attacks on Camp Salerno may have been a pre-emptive strike. For weeks the Internet has been full of stories from Pakistan predicting an imminent tank-led ground incursion into North Waziristan from Khost and two other southern Afghan provinces.

But we said the attack on Camp Salerno serves as a metaphor for the entire Taliban summer.

- A hopeless attack on a heavily protected American military base.
- The attackers managing only to kill themselves and any companions near them.
- The murder of innocent civilians the day before to no end.

Complete failure.

* Taliban suicide bombs have killed more than 250 civilians and wounded nearly 500 already this year.

In 2007, according to Pajhwok News, there were 137 suicide attacks which killed 300 civilians and wounded 757. The attacks killed 171 policemen, 37 Afghan National Army and 12 foreign soldiers.

While the Taliban is managing to slaughter hundreds of innocents, the majority of their suicide bombers end up like this:

"A suicide bomber, meanwhile, blew himself up while being chased by police in the southwestern town of Zaranj in Nimroz province… said the provincial governor Ghulam Dastagir Azad. The attack killed three people, including two young girls, and wounded five other civilians. The police wounded the man before he blew himself up, Azad said."

Authorities are thwarting many other planned attacks, particularly in Kandahar province which saw the largest number of suicide bombers last year.

During an Aug. 4 operation, Afghan commandos and coalition forces on a patrol in the Maywand district of Kandahar province discovered multiple weapons caches which contained sixty 5-gallon plastic containers of ammonium nitrate primed with detonation cords. They also discovered a stolen tour bus.

* With the summer winding down, the Taliban is thrashing around for something, anything, to call a success.

They've scored some propaganda victories---a big jailbreak, the killing of 10 French soldiers in a single attack and 9 Americans in another-but for a resilient, resurgent insurgency, that's small potatoes.

In return, they've been driven out of the Garmsir area of Helmand province; they've conceded they can't defeat the coalition forces in their heartland, the southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar and Uruzgan, resulting in a shift of attacks to the east; they're being crushed in the Pakistani tribal region; their leaders are being systematically hunted down and killed; and television and education of girls is weakening their whole medieval culture.

While they still command the attention of the Western press which oohs and ahhs every attack on NATO troops, they know there's been a subtle change in the conditions in the country.

Chris Alexander, a United Nations envoy to Afghanistan, was recently interviewed by the Globe and Mail. Past the obligatory references to "more insurgents roaming the countryside, more bombings, more violence of all kinds" was this little nugget of news.

"Mr. Alexander cites an unpublished UN study that suggests public servants, such as doctors and teachers, now enjoy greater access to rural districts than they did a year ago, despite increasing Taliban activity. That may indicate signs of détente between government and insurgent figures at the lowest levels."
"In some cases, the survey found, Afghan government officials can drive without armed escorts into districts where a visit by Canadian troops routinely provokes a firefight."
"The fact that government employees are ranging farther into districts heavily influenced by the Taliban shows that some Afghans are finding pragmatic ways to live alongside the insurgents, he says. But it's also a sign that government institutions are growing stronger and gaining support from villagers who want services."

(An upbeat view beyond the battlefields, Graeme Smith, Globe and Mail July 28, 2008)

A similar story is found in some of the most embattled zones of Afghanistan.

Strangely calm in 'Dutch' Uruzgan
by RNW Security and Defence specialist Hans de Vreij*
02-07-2008

Uruzgan
There have recently been many positive have recently been many positive changes in the Afghan province of Uruzgan. There is peace in areas, which recently witnessed heavy fighting. Many places, which were controlled by the Taliban and other rebel groups, are now in the hands of Dutch troops and the Afghan army.

The situation is also peaceful in Chora, which just a year ago was the scene of heavy fighting. The same applies to the district Deh Rawod, previously known as 'the Taliban's home base'.

New hustle and bustle
Colonel Richard van Harskamp is commander of the Dutch/Australian Task Force Uruzgan. He agrees that much has changed:

"Two years ago Tarin Kowt would have looked like a large black stain from where we are now standing. Now lights are burning and there is an enormous hustle and bustle of people engaged in commerce and many kinds of activities - all sorts of things are going on."

The same can be seen in Deh Rawod Bazar; a village to the south of the town Deh Rawod that was captured by the Taliban last Autumn. Earlier this year the militias were routed again and now there are lights glowing in the evening and the place is bustling with life.

Patrol posts
Local residents and small businessmen believe that it's safe enough to travel through the province. Richard van Harskamp says:

"People can move around fairly freely here, through the Baluchi Valley to Chora. Last year this was impossible. They can travel to Deh Rawod unhindered. We are on the other side of the Helmand River. If I compare it with where we stood two years ago an unbelievable amount has changed."


The Taliban is worried, with reason. Maybe they read past the headline to what most Americans and Canadians didn't…

Blasts Kill 5 NATO Soldiers In Afghanistan
Roadside Bombs Explode As Aid Groups Warn Of Spreading Violence

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 1, 2008

(CBS)
Related
(CBS/ AP) Roadside bombs killed five NATO troops in eastern Afghanistan on Friday, as 100 aid groups warned that violence in the country was spreading to once-stable regions and hindering humanitarian efforts.

Separately, a suicide bomber in southwestern Afghanistan killed three people, including two young girls, a provincial governor said.

The soldiers' deaths marked a bloody start to the month in what's already been a deadly year for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, where a Taliban-led insurgency is raging nearly seven years after their fundamentalist Muslim regime was ousted in a U.S.-led invasion.

In response to the insurgency, the U.S. has started to divert reinforcements from Iraq to Afghanistan, though they currently comprise mostly of several helicopters and some combat engineers, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin. The overall Afghanistan troop surge could eventually total 10,000 soldiers.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Taman Inquiry Commissioner has his mind made up

Taman Inquiry Commissioner Roger Salhany took time out from his rush to judgement to get into an argument with the lawyer representing one of the tribunal's main targets -- where he tipped his hand to how he's going to write a part of the final report.

You didn't see that in the mainstream media, nor did you read how Salhany shared a joke with Gene Zazalenchuk, the lawyer for Crystal Taman's family, about her death. So read on.

Salhany was supposed to be listening to final submissions to the Inquiry on Wednesday, but he had other things on his mind; he wanted to get home to Ontario. So after hearing from Commission counsel David Pacicco and Taman representative Zazalenchuk, Salhany started speeding up the process with the remaining lawyers.

Don't read passages of evidence, just give me the reference and I assure you I'll read them later, he told them. "I don't want to continue in the parking lot on Friday", he quipped to the lawyer for East. St. Paul. In fact, he liked his own banter so much he repeated it to Hymie Weinstein, the lawyer for Harry Bakema.

But he tore a strip out of Shannon Hanlin, representing the Winnipeg Police Association, when she wasn't proceeding fast enough for his liking. Pick on a girl, eh.

However, he had plenty of time to debate Keith Labossiere, the lawyer representing the Winnipeg Police Association members who were out at the shifter with Derek Harvey-Zenk that fateful night.

Mr. LABOSSIERE:
We heard a lot about the officers' inability to place any alcohol, level of alcohol impairment with Derek Harvey-Zenk. And I'm going to ask you to review all of the evidence and consider whether that's a fair statement in the circumstances. Because it is quite clear, as I've just pointed out, that there is no suggestion whatsoever from anybody, including Chelsea O'Halloran, Darcey Gerardy, or any of the witnesses who weren't police officers that night, that Derek Harvey-Zenk did stand out in any way.

And that is why I say it is quite reasonable to presume that they would not have been in a position to give any evidence of assistance, or of not assistance to the prosecution.

Salhany responded with a jaw-dropping statement of his own opinion of the evidence.

THE COMMISSIONER:
There is another reason, they may have all been drinking too heavily that night, as the evidence of alcohol consumption seems to show. And, therefore, they may not have been in a position to assess the alcohol consumption of others because of their own drinking.

Salhany continued to reveal how he's already made up his mind.

MR. LABOSSIERE:

My learned friend also spent a lot of time on the issue of what he calls an intentional understating of alcohol consumption, and he points, and I'm not going to take you to it, but at page 170 of his aids to his argument, the reproduction of the chart of Derek Harvey-Zenk's alcohol consumption and the personal consumption, and I know what you are going to do is you are going to consider all of the evidence, and when you do, you are going to find, number one, the bottle of rye that we are talking about at Sean Black's house, Sean Black says was almost full, we don't know if that's 24 ounces, 25 ounces, 20 ounces, it is almost full.

THE COMMISSIONER:

There were two bottles.
MR. LABOSSIERE:
There was a second bottle that was a heel and Sean Black was very clear that he had one drink out of it.

THE COMMISSIONER:

He told the adjuster shortly after he was asked to come and give evidence or give a statement, that there were two bottles.
MR. LABOSSIERE:

And he explained that.

THE COMMISSIONER:

And then it changed, so don't tell me there is just one bottle. There is evidence that it goes from two bottles to a single bottle as the matter developed.
MR. LABOSSIERE:

And of the two bottles, you heard the evidence and the only evidence --
THE COMMISSIONER:

And they were all gone the next morning.
MR. LABOSSIERE:

One bottle had one drink in it, the heel.

THE COMMISSIONER:
No, he said there were two bottles. He didn't say there was a bottle -- one bottle, to the adjuster, a bottle and a heel, he said there were two bottles, I put out two bottles. So assuming they are 26 ounces and then it ends up a bottle with a heel and then it ends up with a bottle, so it gets less and less as he gives his evidence.
MR. LABOSSIERE:

Again, I recognize there are suspicions, there are suggestions, there are suppositions, but the only evidence you have is when Sean Black is asked about the two bottles that he described for the insurance adjuster, he explained it. And he explained that he had two bottles; one he poured a drink for him, the other he put out that was almost full. That's the evidence that was before you.

Poor Keith Labossiere. Either he doesn't know it, or he does and can't say it, but evidence doesn't matter in show trials like Manitoba's public inquiries where the conclusions are pre-determined.

The real significance of this exchange is how desperately the Commissioner is looking for booze.

Not for himself, silly.

No, if he can show that Derek Harvey-Zenk was drunk the morning drove into Crystal Taman's car and killed her (and he can do that by showing all the police were drunk that night), he can "prove" that the Gang-of-40 obstructed justice, which, after all, is the purpose of the Inquiry. So Salhany needs to put more liquor on Sean Black's table.

Black testified he put out a bottle of rye whiskey and a bottle of Bailey's for his guests. But he told an insurance adjuster he put out two bottles of whiskey.

One, he explained before the Inquiry, was a "heel", a term we've never heard before, but which obviously means a bottle with "what's left". He emptied that bottle by pouring himself a drink, he said, and let his guests share the rest of the liquor.
But a 26'er for at least 10 grown men over three or four hours doesn't give Salhany enough alcohol.

Hence the second bottle becomes a certainty, testimony be damned.

The Commissioner knows he's going to have a hard time manipulating the evidence of after-work drinking by police officers at Branigan's to prove Harvey-Zenk was sloshed.

He was counting on the testimony of waitress Chelsea O'Halloran who, after having her memory refreshed by Inquiry counsel, suddenly recollected lying to police investigators. Today she remembers that most of the police at the bar the night before Taman was killed were drunk.

One, in particular, she remembered from Super Bowl and she said he had eight or nine pints of beer. Sure, she couldn't identify Constable X, but she dropped enough clues for the Commish to deduce it was Derek Harvey-Zenk. She did remember he had blonde hair.

Next time you see Harvey-Zenk on TV, pay attention to his hair.

But those pesky police lawyers did a number on Chelsea's re-memory.

Q You also, in the course of your testimony with Mr. Clifford, indicated that you thought there might be about 15 or so people who were impaired at that event?
A Yes.
Q And you described how you thought they might have had eight or nine bottles of beer each. Am I properly interpreting your testimony to Mr. Clifford?
A They weren't bottles, they were pints.

Q Okay. And on my count, if we had 15 people drinking eight beer each, that would be 120 beer in total?
A Yes.
Q And there were only shown 130 beer being consumed throughout the course of that entire day. Do you have any comments to make on whether --
A It was a guess that I made. I wasn't exactly sure, and it was just a guess that I made.

Q Does it shake your confidence that the Super Bowl wing eater would have had eight beer or so?
A No. He possibly could have. I made a guess, but I know when someone is drunk.

Gene Zazalenchuk did his best to rehabilitate Chelsea in his final submission.

"...when Chelsea is interviewed, it's Exhibit 154, she tells the police officers very simply that she was serving them 35-cent wings and $2.75 pints, $2.75 pints, and that the average bill was $30. Simple math, very basic simple math will tell you that if you had 20 wings at $7.00, if the bill was $25, that leaves $18. If the pints are $2.75, we're talking about six pints."

Get it? He's saying that on average each police officer at Branigan's drank six pints of beer in under 3 hours. Wow.

Except for...the lawyer for the Winnipeg police association who did his own math based on the lounge's sales sheets.

Q "... $2.75 pints; do you see that?
A Yes.

Q I also see a count of 68, you would agree with me?
A Yes.
Q And this is, in fact, the total for the entire restaurant; correct?
A Yes
.
Q However, would it be your understanding that the people ordering the $2.75 pints on this date would have been police officers?
A Only police officers.
Q And so those would have been officers all being served by you, essentially?
A Yes.
Q And you note the count there of 68; correct?
A Yes.
Q So that would be your understanding that that is how many pints of beer you served to the group of officers?

Given that Chelsea remembered at least 20 and as many as 35 police partying that night, that's hardly enough beer to wet a whistle, never mind get a buzz on over a 3 1/2 hour span (11:00 to 2:30). On average, of course.

That's why the Inquiry counsel had to introduce--ta da--the invisible mystery pitchers of beer.

Yes, though there's no record of a single pitcher sold or given away for free, Pacicco got poor Chelsea to say she now remembers carrying pitchers of beer to the rowdy policemen (and a couple of policewomen). Instant evidence.

And nobody was happier than Commissioner Salhany.

THE COMMISSIONER:
I need a bit of assistance. I didn't get all of your testimony down. Can you explain again why you believe that the pitchers of beer are not on the sheet that you've been looking at?

THE WITNESS: They possibly could have not been on there because they weren't rang through, therefore, that means I didn't ring them through, but Darcey could have just poured them and not put them -- not rang them through on his tab either. Therefore, it would just be free flowing beer, it wouldn't be marked, it wouldn't be counted for.

THE COMMISSIONER:
It wouldn't be. All right. Thank you, thank you very much. But you are satisfied that there were pitchers of beer?
THE WITNESS:
I'm pretty sure, yes.

THE COMMISSIONER:
Do you know how many?
THE WITNESS:
No, I don't have an idea.

THE COMMISSIONER: Would you have served them, would you have brought the pitchers out to the table?
THE WITNESS: Yes.
THE COMMISSIONER: Yes.

Did we say nobody was happier than Salhany? We didn't count on Winnipeg Free Press reporter Aldo Santin. Yes, folks, it's time for----

Professional Reporters At Work.

Aldo Santin, Aug. 13, 2008, Taman lawyer alleges deliberate botch http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/story/4212166p-4804891c.html


"Zazelenchuk also was critical of the drinking-and-driving attitudes held by Winnipeg police officers. He said two officers drinking with Harvey-Zenk admitted to drinking four pitchers of beer during a two-hour period and the evidence showed that on average all the officers at the lounge had an average of eight pitchers of beer in a two- to three-hour period."

Gene Zazalenchuk, Taman Inquiry, Aug. 13, 2008
"... the average bill was $30. Simple math, very basic simple math will tell you that if you had 20 wings at $7.00, if the bill was $25, that leaves $18. If the pints are $2.75, we're talking about six pints."

Pints. Pitchers.
Six. Eight.
Petty details. To a big-city reporter.

It would be funny if it wasn't so tragic.

But, as we've seen, Inquiry Commissioner Roger Salhany likes a good joke. And he understands that the essence of comedy is timing. So what better time to make a joke than an inquiry into Crystal Taman's death.

Taman family lawyer Gene Zazalenchuk was questioning witness Richard Peck when...

Q And as a prosecutor in a case involving the loss of a human life, particularly a younger person, which is always more tragic than, you know, somebody who has lived a full and long life, although they are both tragic, we will agree.
THE COMMISSIONER: Speak for yourself. We elderly people have to be protected.
MR. ZAZELENCHUK: My 87 year old mother would agree with you 100 per cent, Mr. Commissioner.

BY MR. ZAZELENCHUK:
Q But in a case involving a sudden tragic death of a human life, that you were given the brief to prosecute, do I understand correctly that you would want to try and meet with the family, the victims, at an early stage of the proceeding, within a month or two or something like that?

Har har hardy har har.

Now imagine if the press learned that a police officer made the same joke. Where would that play in the daily news?

Labels:

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.

They come with all the trappings of a court--a judge, a prosecutor, and evidence. But the verdict has been decided well in advance and the witnesses are cherry-picked to "prove" the verdict. And since the proceedings are non-adversarial, the accused don't get to present a defence.

A conniving body of reporters, columnists and editorialists legitimizes the dog-and-pony show by pretending the inquiry is a legitimate and honest search for truth and not the fraud that it is.

The verdict in the Taman Inquiry was written before a single witness took the oath to tell the truth.

The commissioner was going to decide that if the East St. Paul police, and particularly then-chief Harry Bakema, the Winnipeg police, and special prosecutor Marty Minuk had done their jobs properly, Derek Harvey-Zenk would have been convicted of drunk driving causing death and would have gone to jail. He'll say that because Harvey-Zenk was a police officer, they all backed off and treated him with kid gloves, botching the drunk driving investigation, covering up his drinking before the accident, and failing to unravel the cover-up. The trial judge wasn't even allowed to decide for himself if the weak evidence of alcohol consumpition warranted a stronger sentence than house arrest.

As we become more experienced in these show trials, we begin to see the wrinkles under the make-up and the cracks in the foundation that are overlooked at first glance. And we can see where the truth inevitably shines through.

Richard Peck, a B.C. criminal lawyer who has served as a special prosecutor, sang the Inquiry's tune on the "botched" invesigation.

"My comment is that the investigation was inadequate. In my view, there was a failure to gather meaningful evidence with respect to this matter. That includes the failure of the attending police to apparently do any initial assessment as to the condition of Mr. Harvey-Zenk in any meaningful way." said Peck.

Consider, then, Peck's expert opinion on what the priorities of the East St. Paul police should have been the morning Crystal Taman was killed in February, 2005:

"A
When these police attended the scene, it seems to me they had three primary immediate responsibilities:

* First of all, to see to the injured;

* secondly, to secure the scene for safety and investigational purposes, safeties of the other members of the travelling public, and investigational purposes, particularly in terms of accident reconstruction;

* and thirdly, to carry out an immediate investigation as to how and why this occurred, who caused the accident, and what was that person's condition. And that was not done. And this goes back to what we started with, completely inadequate investigation."

Now look at what the evidence shows...

1) At about 7 in the morning on Feb. 25, 2005, Derek Harvey-Zenk drove his pickup truck into the back of Crystal Taman's small sportscar which was stopped at a red light at Highway 59 and the Perimeter Highway. Taman's car was rammed into the rear of another car at the light. She was killed in the crash.
2) Bakema and East St. Paul officer Ken Graham were the first of the police, paramedics and first responders to arrive, at 7:16. The first thing Bakema did was a scene survey, which is official lingo for checking the cars involved in the accident for anyone needing immediate help.

3) The traffic situation was pressing. Hundreds of vehicles pass that intersection at rush hour. The two policemen had to control the traffic while making a path for emergency vehicles.

4) East St. Paul Fire Department first responders and the first Winnipeg ambulance, Unit 24, arrived at 7:22. They did a scene survey of their own, then went to work at the Taman car. A paramedic called the East St. Paul extraction team.

5) East St.Paul Const.Glenda Pederson pulled up and was directed to set up on Highway 59 to divert traffic onto the Perimeter Highway. As she pulled away, East St. Paul Const. Jason Woychuk drove up. He was assigned traffic duties as well and began setting up traffic cones. In the short time he was there he saw 10 cars lock their brakes when they came up unexpectedly to the crash site, he said.

6) Bakema, having closed down the intersection, called for the RCMP traffic analyst and arranged for the Highways Department to set up blockades and re-route traffic. He and Graham worked to preserve the accident scene. He notified Dr. Hook to (eventually) remove the vehicles in the crash.

7) At 7:25 the second Winnipeg ambulance arrived. One paramedic went to the Taman car, the other examined the driver of the car that had been rear-ended by Taman's vehicle.

8) Also at 7:25, one of Crystal Taman's daughters arrived on scene. Graham took her into his police car to keep her occupied while her mother's body was being removed from her car. For the time he was tied up with the daughter, he was out of the mix and Bakema was alone with the emergency personnel.

9) Bakema called Norm Carter, a senior officer in the East St. Paul force, at home to come in as soon as possible because of a major accident.

He spotted Harvey-Zenk standing beside his truck. He spoke with the man briefly, then escorted him to Woychuk's police car. He put Harvey-Zenk into the car to warm up (it was 20 below that morning). Bakema told Woychuk Harvey-Zenk might be impaired. The implication was clear: watch him closely.

10) Bakema testified that Harvey-Zenk told him "I'm a cop" as he was led to the police car. He recognized Harvey-Zenk as someone he once worked with on the Winnipeg police force and for that reason he decided to separate himself from the investigation. Hence the instruction to Woychuk.

*************

If Bakema had conducted a swift test for intoxication and found no sign, he would have been accused of a cover-up.

Now, the fact he did no test is taken as proof of a cover-up.

Bakema testified that the cold and wind would have muted the smell of alcohol, which is why he wanted Harvey-Zenk in a warm place for Woychuk to make his own assessment.

Remember that the commission's own "expert" said that the first priorities of any policeman at an accident scene are to first see to the injured and second, " to secure the scene for safety and investigational purposes, safeties of the other members of the travelling public, and investigational purposes, particularly in terms of accident reconstruction."

This is exactly what Harry Bakema had been doing for the first 10 or 12 minutes he was at the scene.

Up to that time, Harvey-Zenk had not been seen by any medical personnel and his injuries had not been assessed. Bakema had had no time to reach priority #3 ("to carry out an immediate investigation as to how and why this occurred, who caused the accident, and what was that person's condition") yet.

At 7:38 a Selkirk Ambulance arrived. They were directed by East St. Paul firemen to Woychuk's police car. The Selkirk paramedics got into the back seat with Harvey-Zenk. They took his personal information and past medical history and examined him for injuries. The paramedic leading the examination made notes.

The patient's pupils were normal. His grip was normal. His skin was unremarkable (i.e. not flushed or clammy). He noted Harvey-Zenk's eyes as "spont.", which we take as spontaneous, meaning he was not semi-conscious. He was described as oriented and alert, co-operative and able to obey instructions to demonstrate his motor skills.

Both paramedics noticed the smell of liquor from Harvey-Zenk and said they suspected it was a factor in the accident. The one taking the notes later told the RCMP it was a "stale" smell. Asked if he had anything to drink that morning, the patient didn't answer.

Even as the examination of Harvey-Zenk was taking place, the other emergency vehicles were leaving. The body of Crystal Taman was removed at 7:43 a.m. The second ambulance with the other driver left the scene at 7:45.

Jason Woychuk was getting antsy. He asked Bakema what he was supposed to do. He was told to wait for Carter. At 8 a.m. Carter arrived at the East St. Paul police station and Woychuk was told to take Harvey-Zenk to the station. Four minutes after arriving, Carter formally arrested Harvey-Zenk and charged him with drunk driving, largely on the strength of Woychuk's own detection of the smell of alcohol coming from the back seat where Harvey-Zenk sat, just as Bakema intended.

By all accounts, Harry Bakema acted professionally at all times. He looked after the safety of the surviving drivers; he acted to prevent other accidents; he preserved the scene and called in experienced accident investigators; he removed himself from the investigation to prevent allegations of conflict-of-interest; and he arranged for another officer to take over the investigation as soon as possible.

The Taman Inquiry didn't call a single witness in accident investigations to explain where the East St. Paul police did anything wrong.

Not one witness could point to the moment when Harry Bakema should have abandoned traffic control to ask Harvey-Zenk to recite the alphabet backwards. Or to explain how questioning the suspect would serve to avoid a charge of conflict-of-interest.

The Inquiry set out to crucify and slander Bakema, and succeeded with the full co-operation of the press. Not a single reporter tried to find a professional accident investigator to ask what Bakema did wrong. They simply parroted the official line.

**************

Cst. Jason Woychuk has a lot to answer for. As the rookie on the force, he was still consumed by the book learning from the police training. He couldn't stop chattering about his worries that Harvey-Zenk's Charter rights had been violated by the time he waited in the police car. Never mind that as a police officer himself, Harvey-Zenk knew his rights forward and backward and could recite them in his sleep from years of reading them to other suspects.

Woychuk was convinced he was going to be made the fall guy if charges were dropped. So he tried to pin the blame on Bakema, crying to his superiors that Bakema made him rewrite his notes to queer the case against a fellow cop.

And what was he told to do? Take out the hearsay. Stick with what he saw and what he did, and leave the observations of others to their own notes.

The Inquiry didn't call a single witness to explain the do's and don'ts of note writing, and whether Bakema was right in his advice to the rookie. We're allowed to draw our own conclusions from the Inquiry's dereliction.

***********

And what of Norm Carter, who replaced Bakema as Chief of the East St. Paul police force? Carter blew the only real slam dunk charge against Harvey-Zenk, refusing a breathalyzer, when he wrote in his notes that he asked the suspect for a BLOOD sample instead of a breath sample.

He would have been one of the Inquiry's heroes, though, for bringing Woychuk's allegations to the prosecutor, if only he hadn't refused to break the law on behalf of the inquisition. Carter refused to ask for a search warrant which the Inquiry contends would have proved that Harvey-Zenk was knocking back drinks at Brannigans pub the night before the accident. Carter said he didn't have the reasonable and probable ground needed to ask a magistrate for a search warrant, and he wasn't going to lie to go on a fishing expedition for the prosecution.
For his integrity, Inquiry Counsel David Paciocco has consigned him to the list of conspirators.

And that's a loooooong list.

At last count,
the list has at least 40 names on it---26 Winnipeg police officers, four East St. Paul police officers, special prosecutor Marty Minuk, defence lawyer Richard Wolson, four investigators for the Winnipeg police Professional Standards Unit, at least two RCMP investigators, the owner of Brannigan's, and Harvey-Zenk himself.

***************

East St. Paul may have "botched" the investigation, but in the eyes of the Inquiry, the cover-up is centred on Brannigan's where a group of Winnipeg officers met after work to socialize with beer and chicken wings.

None of the police who attended could say how much Harvey-Zenk had to drink, something painted as suspicious from "trained observers."

The Inquiry brought out their "surprise witness" to counter the police evidence and to prove to the press that the police were lying. Enter beer slinger Chelsea O'Halloran.

She confessed that she lied to investigators in 2005 when she said none of the police were drunk that night. She especially remembered serving one of them, a champion wing-man, eight or nine pints of beer. Guess who loves his wings?

There were only a few problems with her evidence, problems that were conveniently sloughed over by the professional reporters.

She failed to identify Harvey-Zenk as the prodigious eater of wings, although she was given two tries to get it right. And she admitted she was just guessing that she served him eight or nine beers, albeit it was an "educated guess."

In a real court, a witness like that would be considered useless. But in a kangaroo court, a confessed liar willing to give the judge exactly what he wants to hear is solid gold.

But just in case, the Inquiry introduced the idea that the police at Brannigans were quaffing phantom pitchers of beer.

One officer told investigators he planned on buying a pitcher but the bartender told him that pints were on special and buyring individual pints was cheaper than a pitcher. There is no record of free pitchers of beer being handed out (they do keep records of comp'ed drinks). But the ever-helpful Chelsea said she "remembered" carrying pitchers to beer to the police.

So there you have it.
The liar remembers. It must be true.

*************

The Taman Inquiry castigated special prosecutor Minuk and the Winnipeg Police Professional Standards Unit for failing to expose the police cover-up. If only they had pressed the policemen and women harder, they could have cracked the cover-up wide open.

Harvey-Zenk took the stand, but he said he couldn't help the Inquiry because he suffered memory loss as a result of the accident. There was no record of head trauma, sneered Inquiry counsel Paciocco.

However alert readers of the Black Rod contacted us to point out that the Inquiry was ignoring some obvious facts.

At the moment of impact, the airbag on Harvey-Zenk's truck deployed. A small explosive drives the airbag open in milliseconds, pushing the front of the bag toward the driver at 200 miles per hour (that's MILES per hour, 300 kph). That's enough to kill small children and to injure anyone sitting closer than 10 inches from the bag.

A quick search of the Internet turned up a number of first-hand accounts of drivers in accidents saved by airbags. Here's just two: (emphasis ours, spelling theirs)

"I am 48 years old. I was stunned and dazed. I was having extreme diffucilty breathing. I can only describe getting hit by the air bag as being hit by a base ball bat full force in the chest. I was taken to the hospital and 3 days later developed simple whiplash to the neck. I still have neck pain to this day."

and...

"I fell asleep also at the wheel about 2 years ago and destroyed my car, hit a divider from an exit right of the Lincoln, cops said being tired like that is same as being heavily drunk, waking up to an airbag in your face is not cool, luckily I only came out wit a scratch on my chin, this was the second time I got hit with an airbag, shit
feels like a 300 football player just tackled you"

Then there's the basic laws of science. Start with momentum.

A witness said Harvey-Zenk's truck passed his car on the highway. "He was going twice the rate of speed I was," Shaw said. "I was going about 40 to 50 kilometers per hour."

An airbag works by cushioning a driver's body so that he doesn't hit the steering wheel, the dashboard or the front windshield. But it doesn't cushion the brain.
The brain of motorist driving 80 to 100 kph continues moving forward at 80-100 kph even after the body is restrained---until it hits the skull.

Parents worried their children will hit their heads by falling off bicycles equip their offspirng with helmets. Here's how one child safety website writes of the danger:

"Young cyclists ride at speeds averaging 11 to 16 kilometres an hour. If a crash happens, a correctly worn helmet cuts the risk of injury by as much as 88 per cent.

Even mild head injuries can cause long-term problems. Children with mild head injuries usually have trouble with their memory, concentration, and paying attention. This makes learning difficult. They may also have headaches, dizzy spells, and fatigue.

For one in ten children, these difficulties may last a lifetime."


It's not head trauma that causes problems like memory loss, it's brain trauma. Again, from the Internet:

Traumatic Brain Injury Questions
What is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused by an unexpected force to the head, either by the head hitting an object, or an object splitting the skull and coming into contact with the brain.
A TBI can also be caused when the head suddenly stops, causes the brain to strike the skull, without the skull ever striking any object.
Suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI) usually changes the victim's life forever. There are many serious consequences that result from a brain injury, which may include:
· Speech impairment
· Paralysis
· Perception difficulties
· Communication difficulties
· Mood changes
· Seizures
· Depression
· Memory problems
· Difficulty concentrating
· Spastic muscles

How Can the Brain be Injured?
Concussion Injury - A person suffering a concussion may be unable to concentrate or may be confused for a few seconds, or they may completely lose consciousness and fall to the ground. The brain is able to recover from a concussion, but it is unclear how much force is needed to cause permanent brain damage.
- snip -
A concussion can happen to anyone, at any time. The most common causes of concussion include a blow to the head from a motor vehicle crash, fall or assault.
Direct Impact Injury - Any force that breaks through or fractures the skull may cause a severe brain injury, and is know as a direct impact injury. Direct impact does necessarily have to penetrate the skull. The force of the impact to the brain can cause the brain to hit the inside of the skull.


Direct impact can happen when the skull strikes an object, such as the sidewalk. When a moving head comes to a quick stop, the brain continues in its movement, striking the interior of the skull. This can cause bruising of the brain and bleeding.

Not a single reporter bothered to consult a medical expert, a sports physician, a nurse, or anyone familiar with brain injuries.

They were too busy mocking Harvey-Zenk

Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck went so far as to cite a paramedic's testimony as proof that Harvey-Zenk suffered no brain injury in the accident. The paramedic said Harvey-Zenk signed a waiver saying he didn't want to be taken to hospital. Ah ha, declared Brodbeck. He was sharp enough to make medical decisions at the time, and now he claims he can't remember a thing.

But Tom, those waivers have nothing to do with health, mental or physical. At least not the health of the patient. They exist for the health of the medical system.

They're tools to get the ambulance personnel off the hook if the patient develops symptoms an hour later, a day later, a week later. You can't sue us; look, you signed off here saying you didn't want medical attention. Want, not need. Everyone knows what a waiver is except, it appears, a columnist with a closed mind.

The most shocking testimony of the Inquiry came on the last day when another expert on special prosecutions, Brian Gover disclosed how carefully he was coached by the Inquiry counsel before being called to the stand.

The Inquiry had alread heard from one expert, a sometimes special prosecutor himself. But they didn't like what he had to say. He supported Manitoba special prosecutor Marty Minuk's legal decisions in the Harvey-Zenk case.

The Inquiry couldn't have that. Their conclusions were the exact opposite. So they had to find another "expert" to contradict Minuk and to say what they wanted said. Otherwise how could they claim their final conclusion was based on 'evidence' if there was no evidence to base it on.

Gover revealed how carefully he was prepped by the Inquiry counsel. He was shown all sorts of internal research prepared by Inquiry staff to get him to agree that Minuk was wrong in accepting a sentence of house arrest. And wouldn't you know it, that's exactly what Gover decided his own opinion was.

What a farce.

**************

The Taman Inquiry took weeks yet had one glaring omission.
There was no attempt to explore an obvious cause of the accident---Derek Harvey-Zenk fell asleep at the wheel.

The accident analyst said that was a possibility. Harvey-Zenk had been up all night after working a short shift the day after working an overtime shift. He had been drinking the night before and early morning of the accident, there's no dispute of that.

Yet even the most ardent critics concede the prosecution could never prove that his driving was impaired by alcohol the morning he killed Crystal Taman. They argue that any evidence of alcohol consumption at any time before the accident should have been enough to send him to jail.

If the Taman Inquiry had been a true search for the truth, it would have explored sleep deprivation as a cause of the accident. It's not less reprehensible. As one of the Internet posters above stated, "cops said being tired like that is same as being heavily drunk."

That's the proof that the Taman Inquiry was a show trial.

It wasn't interested in looking for what really might have caused Crystal Taman's death.
It was interested only in perpetuating a myth, that authorities acted in concert to cover-up for a drunk cop.

The other most shocking aspect of the Taman Inquiry is the extent the news media acted like a lynch mob. It was an example of pack journalism at its worst. It will serve as a case study for sociologists for years to come.

The press mob raised the double standard to a high art.

Collusion

The reporters, columnists, and editorialists competed to outdo each other in expressing their contempt for the police who they accused of collusion for failing to reveal how much Derek Harvey-Zenk had to drink the night before the fatal accident.

Yet when the Winnipeg Free Press fabricated a quote in a blazing front page headline to slander a witness at the Driskell Inquiry, the entire Winnipeg press corps was silent.

http://blackrod.blogspot.com/2006/09/true-but-false-driskell-inquiry-like.html

Not one reporter had the guts to call the Free Press on the most egregious violation of journalistic ethics---making up the facts.

The evidence was undeniable. The alleged quote does not exist in the transcript of the Driskell Inquiry. Yet the Winnipeg press corps colluded to keep that fact from the public. The Black Rod exposed the lie.

Altered Notes

The Taman Inquiry got lots of press regarding the alleged alteration of notes by East St. Paul police. But when the Winnipeg Free Press had the audacity to publish two very different, mutually exclusive, versions of the same interview of Lloyd Axworthy by then-Ottawa reporter Paul Samyn, not a single columnist in the city demanded an explanation.

http://blackrod.blogspot.com/2006/07/free-press-publisher-has-some.html

And when the FP admitted they had a tape recording of the interview which would clarify which version of the story was true and which was false, none of the so-called journalists in the city demanded to hear the tape. The Black Rod did.

Blatant falsehoods, anyone?

Re-read The Black Rod's coverage of the Taman Inquiry for Professional Reporters At Work to see how they can't get the most basic facts straight.

Arbiter of truth

The press peppered every story with the opinion of Crystal Taman's husband, Robert, on who was telling the truth and who was lying.

During the Driskell Inquiry, the press didn't go running to the family of Perry Dean Harder to judge whether James Driskell was telling the truth when he testified.

Nobody demanded Driskell answer under oath where he was the night Harder was murdered, whether he killed or had Harder killed, or why his account differed so radically from the witnesses who testified at his trial that he confided to them that he had Harder murdered.

It seems that the press just didn't care about the truth of the murder of Perry Dean Harder. They were more interested in the legal loophole that Driskell was using to duck the charge of murder.

And, of course, the Driskell Inquiry show trial wasn't interested in who killed Perry Dean Harder either.
Not when they could slander the police and prosecutors in the case.

What about the Sophonow Inquiry? When the Inquiry turned up stronger evidence against Thomas Sophonow in the murder of Barbara Stoppel than was available at his murder trials, did anyone in the press go running to find someone to comment about Sophonow's credibility on the stand? C'mon, you know the answer.

*************

Manitoba judicial inquiries are show trials, but the role of the press has gone from ignorance (Sophonow) to partial collusion (Driskell) to full fledged lynch mob (Taman re: Harvey-Zenk).

The Winnipeg Free Press published an editorial Aug. 8 headlined "Shattering public trust". They meant it as an attack on the police serving in Winnipeg and East St. Paul.

They should have looked in a mirror first.

Labels:

Friday, August 08, 2008

Coaxed witness, amnesiatic reporters enable Paciocco's show trial theatrics

They came for their pound of flesh, scales and carving knives in their fists.

And when Derek Harvey-Zenk refused to give it to them, they left howling for blood.

Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck thundered:
"Harvey-Zenk could have at least shown some remorse yesterday
When asked by commission counsel if he'd like to say a few words about any aspect of the tragic event -- you know like "I'm sorry," or "I feel so badly for Crystal's family" -- he said: "No."
No?
What do you mean, no?
You killed someone's wife, mother, daughter, sister, cousin and all you have to say is "No?"
I've seen more remorse from a piece of bark."


Winnipeg Free Press columnist Gordon Sinclair oozed:
"The truth, as they say, might have set him free. Instead he claimed, unconvincingly, to be a victim of memory loss. But, he can't blame memory loss for forgetting to do the right thing. And say "sorry"."

Certainly Brodbeck and Sinclair shouldn't pretend they're interested in the truth. If they were, all they had to do was look in their archives.

There they would find that Harvey-Zenk DID APOLOGIZE to the family of Crystal Taman, the woman killed when he rear-ended her car in February, 2005. He apologized almost one year ago this month on the day he was sentenced for dangerous driving causing death.

"I have taken away someone loved and cherished and for that I am profoundly and sincerely sorry ... I know I have hurt you deeply and wish I could take away that pain."

(The Winnipeg Sun, Aug. 23, 2007)

"I've taken someone away who was so loved and cherished and for this I'm profoundly sorry," a stone-faced Harvey-Zenk said in a brief statement in court...I feel the need to apologize to so many people, especially the Taman family. I hope everyone can hear the sincerity of what I'm saying."

(The Winnipeg Free Press, Aug. 23, 2007)

And if the sanctimonious columnists were interested in the truth they would have reported that the apology was rejected outright by Robert Taman, the husband of Crystal Taman.

And they would have reported that Harvey-Zenk was not asked at the Inquiry if he wanted to say anything to the Taman family, he was asked if he wanted to say anything TO THE COMMISSIONER, or anybody else.

And they would have reported, as FP reporter Kevin Rollason did in his news story, that Taman and his entire family theatrically "filed out when the former officer was asked if he wanted to say anything."

And they would have reported, as did Globe and Mail reporter Joe Friesen, that Taman is so consumed by anger, hatred and bitterness that nothing Harvey-Zenk said would matter to him.

The news reporters had their own roles in the orchestration of the Taman Inquiry show trial.

Their stories concentrated on mocking Harvey-Zenk's claim of suffering memory loss.

During his testimony yesterday, Mr. Harvey-Zenk...used the phrases "I don't recall," and "I have no recollection" more than 20 times, reported Friesen in the Globe.

That's because he was asked 20 questions the Inquiry counsel knew he couldn't answer. It was all carefully choreographed to manipulate the press coverage.

Obviously, it worked like a charm.

Asked why he couldn't remember anything about the day of the accident, Harvey-Zenk said it had been suggested his memory loss was due to a blow to his head during the car crash or to post traumatic stress.

The Inquiry counsel declared there was no evidence Harvey-Zenk suffered any kind of blow in the accident. He was wearing a seat-belt and his truck's air bags deployed, hitting him in the face and causing a little bleeding from his nose. The paramedic who examined him found him alert, his eyes clear, his grip strong, and responsive to questions, the Inquiry was told.

The reporters failed to note that this description is the opposite of someone who is "pissed" and would have been used by a defence attorney to prove it.

Inquiry lawyer David Paciocco flourished a presentence report from a psychiatrist which, according to him, said Harvey-Zenk suffered no sign of memory loss.

Harvey-Zenk's lawyer, Jay Prober, raised an objection. The report was prepared 2 1/2 years AFTER the crash and referred only to that period of time, he said. Paciocco should bring the psychiatrist to the Inquiry to give evidence under oath if he was alleging the doctor was speaking about the day of the accident.

Commissioner Roger Salhany, declined the challenge, something NOT A SINGLE REPORTER thought was newsworthy although every one of them quoted the psychiatrist's report as proof Harvey-Zenk was faking.

The witness said he was seeing a psychologist in Brandon who had suggested he was suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Commissioner Salhany saw an opportunity to recover some of his lost credibility.

"Did you bring along a medical report from this doctor?" he demanded.

THE COMMISSIONER: " … have you obtained a report from him for the purpose of this inquiry?"
THE WITNESS: No.

Prober responded nimbly.

BY MR. PROBER:
Q Anybody ask you to obtain a report from him?
A No, sir.


"No." Just how important this exchange was will be revealed in a moment.

Taman Inquiry lawyer Paciocco worked diligently to discredit the testimony of Harvey-Zenk. But a day earlier he worked overtime to do the opposite with witness Brian Gover, one of two experts in the field of independent prosecutors called to testify.

They needed two.


They ran into a problem when the first one they called, Richard Peck, agreed with Manitoba special prosecutor Marty Minuk that three of the most serious charges against Derek Harvey-Zenk (impaired driving causing death, criminal negligence causing death, and refusing a breathalyzer) had to be dropped because there wasn't enough evidence to take them to court.

And Peck conceded that Minuk did the right thing to accept a guilty plea to dangerous driving causing death and, based on Manitoba precedents, agree to a sentence of house arrest.

Damn. That wasn't what the Inquiry wanted to hear. They wanted him to criticize Minuk, not support him. So they dug up another "expert." And this time, they made sure they got the testimony they wanted.

Gover started by saying he, too, agreed Minuk had no choice but to drop the three most serious charges for want of evidence.

But something was odd about his testimony.
He gave every indication it was carefully staged.
Rehearsed in fact.

Deliberately or not, he peppered his testimony with hints such as:

"And I know that you and I will discuss that further..."

and

"So for various reasons that I know we will discuss in greater detail, Mr. Clifford…"

Gover said he disagreed with Peck over the issue of the plea bargain that saw Harvey-Zenk escape jail time. He said Minuk should have argued in court that any evidence of consumption of alcohol on he day of the accident was sufficient to bring the hammer down on the off-duty police officer, regardless of whether his driving was impaired. And, as a police officer, he should have received a jail sentence as a signal to the public that drinking and driving would not be tolerated.

But in giving his evidence, Gover dropped a bombshell.

His opinion on this matter, he said, had been framed by lawyers for the Taman Inquiry.

They did everything in their power to, shall we say, "help" the witness reach a conclusion, the very conclusion they wanted to hear.

In short, they wanted to discredit Minuk, and when their first witness wouldn't do it, they found another who would, even if they had to give him the ammunition to do it and carefully rehearse exactly what he was to say before the Inquiry.

Some of Gover's testimony:

"I also reviewed a memorandum prepared by Commission Counsel which fortified my conclusion in that regard."

"Q Research conducted by the Commission and other lawyers that assisted us have suggested, sir, that the sentence that was imposed, with respect to the Manitoba jurisprudence, was a fit and common sentence in this jurisdiction.
A I have reviewed all of those cases. And I note what Chief Judge Wyant noted, which was that none of them involved a police officer. And you have my point and we've had the discussion, I believe, that once the fact of drinking prior to the collision was taken off the table, the fact that Mr. Harvey-Zenk was a police officer at the time lost much of its significance."

"I've also had the benefit of reviewing a memorandum that was prepared for Commission Counsel, and it caused me to conclude that, in fact, most Provincial appellate courts have concluded that consumption of alcohol, even in the absence of some evidence as to effect on driving, but consumption of alcohol coupled with driving is an aggravating factor for the purposes of offences such as dangerous driving causing death."

Not one reporter caught the significance of Gover's testimony.

Inquiry counsel never asked Harvey-Zenk for a report from his psychologist, because they didn't want one.

They wanted to discredit him and a report from a professional would undermine that effort.

But they went so far as to provide Gover with the very evidence they wanted put before the Inquiry, evidence which they planted and will use in their final report.

The Taman Inquiry was a carefully orchestrated piece of theatre - a modern Punch-and-Judy show. And the press had their role, and it wasn't that of fair and independent observer.

... cue the Black Rod feature: Professional Reporters at Work

In a controversial plea agreement in 2007, Mr. Harvey-Zenk, who had been up all night partying before the 7 a.m. crash, was convicted of dangerous driving causing death and sentenced to two years house arrest. In exchange, all alcohol-related charges were dropped, as was a more serious charge of criminal negligence.

( Memory virtually blank on crash, ex-officer says, Joe Friesen, Globe and Mail, August 7, 2008)

Three other serious charges -- including impaired driving causing death -- were stayed as a result of the plea bargain.

( "Sporadic' recall, By Shannon Vanraes, Sun Media)

"... other charges facing the accused had been stayed not because the accused had pled guilty to dangerous driving causing death but because the Crown was of the opinion there was no legal proof to proceed with those charges.

(Manitoba Chief Provincial Court Judge Ray Wyant, October 29,2007)

***************

We'll give the last word to Judge Wyant, who showed amazing prescience when sentencing Harvey-Zenk in October, 2007.

"They want their pound of flesh. They want to hear the clanking of the cell door.

But let me make it absolutely clear, Mr. Zenk, those factors are not something this court or any court can entertain in deciding a fit and appropriate sentence. To do so would corrupt the very foundations of our justice system and plunge our system into chaos. So it does not matter what we think happened, what we must do is only sentence or decide cases on the evidence before us.

If we were to substitute our opinions or the opinions of others for proof and evidence, we would surely undermine fundamentally our system of justice. For to replace our feelings or opinions for facts would mean that any citizen could be the subject of arbitrary justice, of decisions based, not on evidence and proof, but on innuendo and personal biases.

Sentence delivered
October 29, 2007
WYANT, C.P.J. (Orally)


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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

McDougall Internet posts challenge Chiefs' manipulation of media and McCaskill

Move over Mattie, you've been replaced.

Matthew Dumas is so yesterday. Manitoba's aboriginal "leadership" has a new poster boy. He's perfect, with all the requisites and more.

He's aboriginal, criminal, stupid, and dead. And connected to a saint.

Tuesday the usual suspects called a joint news conference to announce their collective embrace of twenty-six-year-old Craig McDougall. The youth (their word) was shot to death by Winnipeg city police 45 minutes before sunrise Saturday morning.

Police say he had a knife in his hand and refused repeated demands to put it down. The aboriginal brain trust says he had a cellphone and kept talking to his girlfriend even after being shot. It will be interesting to see which version is true.


But to the the assorted Indian chiefs it doesn't matter.
What matters is they have a new cause celebre to attack the police with.

They tried, but couldn't get any traction with car thief Michael Langan who died after being tasered by police. His low-life father kept undermining their attempts to canonize the latest aboriginal criminal to die.

But McDougall...that's another story. He's related to the immortal J.J. Harper---uh, sort of. Okay, his dad's brother is married to Harper's
sister but that's good enough. They can use J.J. Harper's name in every sentence with the expectation that nobody will dare challenge what they say. And yesterday, they went to town.

They admitted that Craig McDougall had a criminal record, but said that was in the past and had nothing to do with his death. Oh, yeah?

Newscasts revealed that McDougall was convicted in 2005 of assault and assault causing bodily harm. That's CAUSING BODILY HARM. This might indicate some issues with anger and problems with authority which might be directly related to what happened on Simcoe Street Saturday morning.

Let's start with -- why he was carrying a knife? Was he eating a steak in the front yard at 5:15 in the morning?

And why, when confronted with four to six police officers (the first accounts said four, the native leaders said six) didn't he do the obvious---drop the knife?

And if it was a cellphone, why didn't he tell whoever he was talking to,"Gotta go now. I'm surrounded by cops." and---you guessed it---drop the phone?

The Matthew Dumas precedent demonstrates how foolish it is to confront armed police with something in your hand. Michael Langan didn't learn the lesson. And neither did Craig McDougall.
Do we have to add a new course to the school curriculum--- Drop the Knife 101?

*********

It's still unclear what precipitated the McDougall shooting. The first accounts said there were two 911 calls from the house, which would make the presence of two or three cruiser cars understandable. The native leaders said there was only one call.

Did one of the calls make reference to someone stabbed? That could explain the police officers' urgency to get into the house. But why did the occupants try to keep them out, forcing police to literally tear the front door off its hinges? Was something being flushed down the toilet?

Was there a child near McDougall when he was shot? That could explain why police resorted to gunfire when a taser failed to work. But there's been no official mention of a child.

The Black Rod has read a number of internet posts that suggest something was troubling McDougall in the days immediately before the weekend. Was he despondent over the breakup of his relationship with a girlfriend in Wasagamack? Or was there something deeper?

On Friday, Craig McDougall left this message for his girlfriend. (emphasis ours.)

Craig McDougall
"yea i juss we can start over nd juss be friend for now. well i'm sorry fro everything that i said nd did i juss ope u can forgive me. i juss wish i was with u rite now but i have to do somthing first. i have to get som help first nd work on som issuse that i have to deal wit myself. so juss be pactiance wit me"


The day before his girlfriend wrote a message to her brother mentioning Craig... (her name reduced to initials to protect her identity).

S. P.
"oky well he is just waiting for his auntie to get back and see if he gets some money then he is gonna take a bussout here...and yea junior talks with him...junior likes hhim....but he still miss craig and so do i...but dont mean mang...craig is just a friend and he is goin for help and just leave him alone...."

But if the aboriginal leadership is going to try and turn McDougall's death into a clarion call charging the police with racism, they've got a big problem with the rest of her post...

"anyways so what if he looked at tanna fuck she shouldnt be walkin around all slutty...no offence but thats what i think and craig dont like her when she was callin the cell for u that time he said tell that white bitch to stop calling my cell...and i said i knoe eh...."

For that matter, their article of faith that McDougall did nothing wrong when the officers arrived may also be a big problem. The question of whether police ordering him to comply with their commands was heard over the cellphone, was ducked by the leaders when asked at the press conference. But yet another post by the girlfriend, on Sunday, may have answered the question before the Chiefs could find a way to spin the truth:

S.P.
hey babe....awe babe i wish u would of just listen to them...but then again i knoe u were suffering...i can see it in ur eyes...but i'm praying for you every min of the day love you...so long for now...... (2 days ago)


**************

The aboriginal leaders have already begun banging the racism drum. While inflammatory rhetoric is expected from the native demagogues, they're getting support from the news media.

.... Cue the Black Rod feature: Professional Reporters At Work.

CBC national reporter Marisa Dragani characterized the shooting of J.J. Harper twenty years ago by saying he was "just walking down the street when he was gunned down."

The fact such egregious nonsense made a local, if not national, newscast is indicative of how the news media will slant the story in days to come.

Drunk and belligerent as usual, J.J. Harper was walking home from a bar. To his credit he was minding his own business until he was stopped by a police officer searching for a car thief. Asked for identification, he refused. When he turned to leave, the policeman grabbed his arm, and a scuffle started.

Both men went to the ground, and both became convinced the other intended to kill him. The policeman, on the bottom, got the gun first and shot the bigger man on top of him. Harper wasn't "gunned down".

*******************

At the press conference the First Nations leadership collectively demanded that the police accept a "representative" on their investigative team. Police Chief Keith McCaskill personally phoned several of the native leaders to give them details of the McDougall shooting. He said he gave them his personal phone number to call if they had further questions.

HOLD IT RIGHT THERE....

What other groups are getting this personalized police treatment? Since when did the collective become the official representatives of any deceased person? If someone dies at the hands of police it's understood that police representatives will be in contact with the family.

But if they're claiming that the collective of all native organizations has the right to special treatment from police, then they'd all better give it more thought.

First of all, who gave McCaskill the right to call anyone not related to a criminal matter and give them a personal briefing? How do we get on his call list? Or is he playing favorites.

Will he give city council a list of exactly who he intends to call and under what circumstances? A police chief with a secret list of contacts who get insider treatment is a serious issue that should be examined carefully by city council.

Second, if the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the MKO, the SCO, or any other group declares it has a collective responsibility for any individual or group of individuals that come into contact with police, we're glad to hear it.

Because we will then demand that they take responsibility for the epidemic of car theft that's ravaged Winnipeg, and for the string of gang murders that's soiled the name of the city across Canada.

What are you doing about them, Chiefs?

How do you intend to stop the wave of crimes that's coming from your collective group?

Do you have an investigator working on identifying murderers in native gangs for the police?

Do you have a team working to catch car thieves?

It's your responsibility.

Put up...or shut up.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Hip Hop Murder?, More Twisting Taman Testimony, and the return of...

We have to admit that our decapitation story isn't as good as the Greyhound Bus decapitation story that broke Thursday.

But its still damn good---and it's a scoop.

Do we have your attention?

The investigation into last weekend's mysterious abduction in the 500 block of College Avenue is a homicide investigation.

Winnipeg police have been told the still missing, still unidentified abductee had his throat cut to the extent he was almost beheaded, his head hanging on by a thread.

The street was awash with blood when an ambulance got to the scene after a call to police that somebody was seen being stuffed into the trunk of a car.

An 18 year old "man" was charged Monday with Assault Causing Bodily Harm and Forcible Confinement. Expect the charges to be upgraded once a body is found.

The current accused has the same name (and age) as the founder of Bassment Records, a local hip hop and rap record label, who is better known by his street name, Big Fun. Bassment Records is linked by cross-membership and association with the Northside Kingz, a band whose motto is "WE MAKE TRACKS - FUHK BITCHES AND GET MONEY. WHAT ELSE CAN WE SAY . HAHA"

See: http://skin.bebo.com/PhotoAlbumBig.jsp?PageNbr=1&MemberId=2259534008&PhotoAlbumId=2259569917&PhotoId=2712538672

The following posts on the Bassment Records site may be a roadmap to what happened early Saturday morning on College Avenue near McGregor.

Lil Balla
FUCK NORTH SYDE KINGS CENTRAL 4 LIFE
8 weeks ago

Keep It G
is dat true da u n$k guyz joined up wit indian posse?
5 weeks ago

Carlos Roussin
N$K fucks up I.P'z but they aint around no more they all in jail making no noise cause they dead
4 weeks ago

Ashley Desmarais
FREEEE BIGFUN AND JD!!!!
2 days ago

*******
Asleep at the switch to adult court

As usual, the daily newspapers missed the real story when they reported on the sentencing of one of Winnipeg's worst car thieves to five years in a real prison.

"Car thief heading to adult prison.
Wants access to rehabilitation: lawyer."

That was the headline in the Winnipeg Free Press. Nowhere in the story was the name Dave Chomiak mentioned. Chomiak, as you know, is the current Minister of Justice and therefore responsible for the care and handling of "young offenders" like this car thief.

But there is no greater indictment of the Youth Justice Act than the experience of this veteran of the Manitoba justice system.

Isn't rehabilitation the be-all and end-all of the entire youth justice system?

If this kid went for his entire teen years stealing cars, getting arrested, getting probation, stealing cars, getting arrested, getting probation, stealing cars, then what's that say about how well the youth justice system rehabilitates young offenders?

And who is responsible for that abject failure? Dave Chomiak.

And who is never held to account by the reporters? Dave Chomiak.
And who will be the first to cry crocodile tears the next time a car thief kills someone? Dave Chomiak.

********

Professional Reporters at Work

Shannon Vanraes, Winnipeg Sun, July 31, 2008
"During further cross-examination, Taman family lawyer Gene Zazalenchuk grilled Minuk about why he didn't call eyewitnesses to give evidence or use a patient report filled out by a paramedic, indicating Harvey-Zenk appeared intoxicated at the scene."

The Taman Inquiry, July 30, 2008
BY MR. ZAZELENCHUK:

Q You see, Mr. Minuk, Mr. Rosser gave evidence before this tribunal and was able to produce an ambulance patient care report that he filled out, and he filled it out later on in the morning of the 25th of February, 2005. And if we turn to the second page of that report, we've got a little narrative about a quarter of the way down?
A Yes, I see it. I'm reading it.

Q The last word in the third line, and going on to the fourth line, "Patient smelled of liquor." Do you see that?
A Yes, I was aware that he had made that observation.

Q And it is made very close to the time in question?
A Yes, sir.
Q And it is good evidence of alcohol consumption?
A The report itself, perhaps not. His record -- is that what this is -- but I would have called the man to testify, and I would have introduced his document for that purpose, but I would think that his oral testimony would be as good or better than this report. These would be his notes that he made at the time, and would be required to make. And I expect in the case of an ambulance attendant, or some other person of that sort, if they didn't remember the incident, that he would use his or her report to refresh their memory and to report on what they recalled at that time. So, yes, there would have been his observations that the man smelled of liquor, and from that, the inference would be that there was some consumption of liquor.

Q But the report itself is something done in the course of business, isn't it, you will agree with me on that?
A It is a business record, yes.

Q Sure. And that's admissible as evidence?
A Well, I would have filed it through the person. I'm not -- I'm not suggesting I wouldn't have. In fact, I believe that I actually asked -- I think it was Mr. Paciocco yesterday showed me a letter where I asked for this type of record because I intended to file it if the matter had gone to trial, that's why I was looking for it.

Q But you never did get it, did you, sir?
A Today, I can't recall, sir, if I did get it.
Q Okay. We can move on.

You can see for yourself that at no time was there ever any evidence at the Inquiry that the paramedic indicated that Derek Harvey-Zenk "appeared intoxicated." That description is the reporter's own. It reflects her preconceived storyline and is contradicted by the testimony.


Another professional reporter at work.

**********

Gasp. Has the embargo been broken?

Winnipeg Free Press arts columnist Morley Walker did the unthinkable this week. He broke the officially-sanctioned silence at the WFP over the cost of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

While the cost of construction of every single building project in Winnipeg, in Manitoba and in the country has skyrocketed, the cost of Gail Asper's human rights museum has mysteriously and magically remained fixed at $265 million for nigh on three years now. And not a soul has questioned the figure in the pages of the Free Press.

Walker did what none of the city hall reporters, legislature reporters, columnists and editorialists dared. He raised THE question.

"The CMHR is still saying that the construction costs will be $265 million, with $100 million of that from the federal government. The operating budget, proposed at $22 million, will also be a federal expense.

It's hard to believe, given the current construction climate, that building costs will not rise. Maybe the operating budget will too. After all, $22 million is about a third of what those Ottawa national museums get (though it is four times as large as our provincial flagships).

There is a tendency here to be sheepish about such apparent profligacy. But whatever gets built -- and goodness knows the contents are still up for grabs -- will be modest by Ottawa's normal standards.

And because it will be part of Manitoba's arts community, which is one big happy family, it will have no office politics.
(Office politics an art in big-budget cities, Morley Walker, Winnipeg Free Press, July 30, 2008)

Maybe its the fact he's nearing retirement age that stiffened his backbone. Or maybe he didn't get the memo. But he's raised the big question.

Now let's see who picks it up and runs with it.

****
And finally, the ever-popular Krista Report.

This just in....We WILL have Krista Erickson to kick around again.

From Stephen Taylor's blog at http://www.stephentaylor.ca/

we bring you the following which Krista apparently sent to friends and colleagues:

" A week ago, the union and I reached a settlement with CBC management. The details of which have been embargoed until today.

I have been reinstated in the Ottawa bureau as a parliamentary correspondent and national reporter. I will spend the fall working on special projects and in January will return to daily news. My record of employment has been cleared.

I want to thank you for your support during what has been a difficult time. Indeed, I will never forget it. All the best and have a great summer!

Krista "

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