NDP show trials set the stage for prosecuting 2 cops
Manitoba's NDP government wants to send a Winnipeg police officer to jail.
It doesn't matter which one. Any one will do.
"Justice" Minister Dave (Six Months) Chomiak has painted bullseyes on two policemen in particular to get the ball rolling --- Const. Darrel Selley and his partner Const. Kristopher Overwater, who have been charged with a raft of offenses guaranteed to send them to prison if convicted.
The province has had great experience convicting police in the court of public opinion through Stalin-esque show trials called public inquiries (Sophonow, Driskell, Taman) at which the verdict is arrived at first (police are guilty) and evidence is then manipulated to, ahem, "prove" it.
The Black Rod has developed a cottage industry doing what the mainstream media refuses to do---expose these show trials as the travesties of justice they are, modern-day Salem Witch Trials.
The NDP has had a bad track record, though, in real courts with real judges who apply real rules of evidence and cross-examination. This time they hope its different. This time they invested 20 months of investigation to arrive at headline-grabbing charges against the accused officers.
The girl who this week smashed an innocent office worker in the head repeatedly with a hatchet wasn't charged with attempted murder.
The car thieves who deliberately drive stolen vehicles at police officers on foot are never charged with attempted murder.
But two policeman trying to stop an (allegedly) doped up serial car thief get the book thrown at them.
Nope, no double standard here.
There was always something odd about this case. To start with, the, er, victim was not your usual cop-shot stiff , namely aboriginal, criminal, stupid and dead.
He wasn't dead. He got shot in the ass.
The rest of the story fit the template though---stolen car, car chase, police officer jumped, a shot. Except the shot was a bumshot, which, no matter how you look at it, was and is unusual.
A look at the charges stemming from the shooting tells the story the NDP wants to convince a court is the truth.
The charges say that Const. Selley shot fleeing car thief Kristofer Fournier in the ass and thereby broke the law. Then, says the Crown, Selley and his partner Const. Overwater made up a story to cover their own asses.
The charges against Overwater are clearly designed to get him to roll over on his partner-fabricating evidence, plus aiding and abetting the shooting. For good measure they threw in dangerous driving while chasing a desperate druggie in a stolen car.
But it's really Selley they want to put in jail.
Attempted murder tops the list, then all the variations, like Campbell Soup flavours:
- discharging a firearm with intent to wound,
- aggravated assault with a weapon,
- careless use of a weapon and
- criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
For more exotic fare they added fabricating evidence. And the cherry on top, aiding and abetting the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.
After 20 months of investigation, they couldn't decide what crime Selley had committed, so they're offering the jury a smorgasbord.
This is an old prosecution trick. With a single charge, the jury gives a simple Yes/No answer into whether the evidence supports the charge beyond any reasonable doubt.
With a dim sum menu, the Crown knows that juries reason that the accused did something, even though they can't exactly be sure what, so they rationalize a compromise---throw out the worst and the least and vote guilty on the middle.
But if the Crown has to resort to these games, you know something smells. They don't care what the charge is, as long as they get a conviction.
This begs a hard look at the case against the police, and since the MSM won't do it….
The initial police report said that about 2:45 a.m. one morning in July, 2007, Selley and Overwater spotted Fournier in a stolen SUV as they responded to a robbery call from a 7-Eleven store in St. James. They chased him about 2 miles to the intersection of Grant and Lindsay St. in south River Heights. There, the cars crashed into one another.
Fournier jumped out of his vehicle and ran. The officers split up and gave chase. Selley fell and hurt his ankle. He said Fournier jumped him and tried to wrestle his gun away. Then he dropped Fournier with a shot from his gun.
So what does this tell us?
1. The mainstream media accounts never failed to say that police now say Fournier was not responsible for the 7-Eleven robbery. So what? If the officers who spotted him in a stolen vehicle near the robbery scene thought he was a good suspect, that's sufficient reason to stop him.
2. Fournier was driving a stolen car, and when made by police he fled. That made him even more of a suspect for the robbery. Note to media: convience store robbers often use stolen cars to get away.
3. When the police caught up with Fournier, there was a collision of vehicles. Who hit who? We read in one report that he rammed the police car. We read in another that the police car rammed the stolen car. Professional reporters at work.
Either way, the incident had now escalated. Either the police felt they had to use their car to physically stop the stolen vehicle or Fourner used the SUV as a weapon to attack the police. More importantly, Fournier fled the scene of the accident.
Put yourself in the shoes of the two police officers.
They've just chased a suspect in a robbery for two miles and had their cruiser car smashed up by the suspect's vehicle. If they had had time to run the plate, they knew it was a stolen car. A robbery, by itself, is defined as theft with violence or threat of violence, which means the suspect may be armed.
If they knew he was driving a stolen car, they knew for a fact he was armed, since the tool of the car thief is a screwdriver, an edged weapon no different than a knife in police tactics.
If the collision was caused by the thief, then they knew he was violent. He was obviously desperate to escape, and if not apprehended as soon as possible, it's not inconceivable he would resort to carjacking to get another vehicle.
And the timing of the incident was bad and getting worse by the minute. 2:30 is pub closing time. In the next half hour, 45 minutes, the streets are filled with pub goers driving home, a perfect storm for a T-bone accident involving a fleeing car thief racing through a red light.
In short, Fournier had become a danger to the public by any definition of police work. And that is exactly what was missing from every MSM story on the charges.
It's called the "fleeing felon" defence. The law says police can shoot a fleeing suspect if they can show they had to act to stop a threat to themselves or the public.
Fournier's former lawyer said forensic evidence shows Fournier was shot at a distance. And several shots were fired.
Since Fournier was hit in the ass, he had his back to Selley and therefore you can argue he was not a threat. And police are trained to use controlled fire, not a spray of shots.
But what about that story that he jumped the fallen officer. Most people suggest this is the allegation of fabricated evidence.
Even if Fournier never actually touched Selley, there's no doubt he was in the vicinity, having just fled his stolen car. And he may have entered the kill zone, deliberately or otherwise, which, as we learned in the Matthew Dumas inquest, is a bubble 25 feet around a police officer confronting an armed person, within which he is trained to shoot to kill before the other person can cover the distance and strike.
A spooked police officer firing from a downed position may not be as accurate with his shots as he intends, especially if his target turns at the last minute and takes a slug in the keister.
This may be the right time to take a closer look at the victim of the alleged crimes---Kristofer Fournier.
He was 18 at the time, and on the last court day of 2008 he answered charges arising from the July, 2007 incident.
Some charges, like assaulting a police officer and attempting to grab his gun (that's a charge?), were dropped. But he did plead guilty to others which are quite illuminating.
The Winnipeg Free Press says Fournier pleaded guilty to auto theft, dangerous driving, and "having a quantity of cocaine and ecstasy on him that night." The paper added, "He's also admitted to causing some damage to six other cars he tried to steal in late 2006."
Does that mean he pleaded guilty to attempted theft of six cars? How much dope was he carrying? Did he plead guilty to possession of cocaine or trafficking in cocaine and ecstasy? Is it too much to expect clarity in the newspaper?
Even more confusing is the story by Canadian Press which states that "he was convicted of impaired driving and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle." Was the impaired driving charge related to the cocaine?
We can fume about professional reporters at work another time. What's clear is that Fournier makes a poor victim.
He had stolen a car and drove recklessly for two miles, possibly stopping only when driving into a police car in pursuit. And they're charging the police with dangerous driving for trying to stop him?
He may have been stoned on cocaine, although that's not clear from the press reports. His juvenile record is sealed, but we can guess from the six attempted thefts referred to by the Free Press that its filled with priors.
Did someone mention cocaine? Or was it actually crack. The use of either causing the user to become aggressive and/or paranoid.
In other words, dangerous, desperate and exactly someone who would resist arrest violently.
The NDP may even find that the parts of their prior show trials that were celebrated will boomerang back on them.
Fournier had charges dropped by the Crown.
Wasn't this explored in the Sophonow and Driskell inquiries?
Shouldn't we know if the charges were dropped in exchange for Fournier's testimony at the trials of the police officers?
Was there (gasp) a secret plea bargain?
Fournier has spoken with a lawyer, according to one story, with plans to sue the police. Doesn't this give him motive to lie?
And haven't we learned from the Sophonow inquiry that eyewitnesses to crimes are the worst witnesses?
Four or five people testified in court that they saw Thomas Sophonow walk out the doughnut shop where Barbara Stoppel lay dead in the washroom, and the inquiry into his conviction decided they were wrong to a man. And they were sober and not under stress, unlike Fournier who was
- running from the law,
- desperate to make an escape,
- possibly stoned, and, eventually,
- in shock from a gunshot wound.
Yeah, he'll be great on the stand as he, ahem, remembers the exact details of his crime spree.
Even the tactic of turning one police officer against the other will run into big problems thanks to the previous public inquiries. The prosecutor cannot accept any plea bargain, thanks to the Taman Inquiry, without facing public allegations of a cover-up.
The only independence the independent prosecutor assigned to the case will have will be to decide what colour socks to wear to court. And if he decides anything other than black, he'd better phone the Crown's office first.
And will Fournier even show up for the court proceedings? One story said he lived in Winnipeg on Eric Street and another said he had moved to Alberta.
Which is not to say this case isn't going anywhere. The investigators spent 20 months sifting through evidence. In biker trials, that usually means wiretaps. And a charge of fabricating evidence can't be just a bluff. There has to be something to back it up even if that something can be challenged in court.
Ultimately, for the NDP, it's not whether they win or lose this case, it's playing the game.
They laid the charges, now they want the prosecutions.
If the police lose, the NDP will preen at sending a cop to jail.
If the police win, the NDP will feed the public cynicism and claim it is proof of the need for their announced changes to the police act.