About this blog (3): The Name Game (1)

Allan, Allan bo Ballan Bonana fanna fo Fallanl
Fee fy Mo Mallan. Allan!
[Apologies to Shirley Ellis for (mis)use of her 1964 pop hit, The Name Game.]

Sorry, 60s nostalgia fans. That’s not the game I mean.

I’m thinking of the name of this blog: 28 Questions.

The “questions” part is clear. I have questions about the way the Ontario justice system dealt with the 31 August 2009 death of my son, Darcy Allan.

Hundreds of questions. I started this blog to ask them.

Then why “28”? If you’ve followed the story of my son’s death and its judicial aftermaze, you already know.

“28” comes from 28 Seconds, the title of a self-serving memoir of the incident that, as he tells it in the book, changed Michael Bryant’s life; the incident that, coincidentally and marginally (again as Mr. Bryant tells it), led to my son’s death. Or, as Mr. Bryant recently put it, delicately, the incident that led to his being “charged with a serious criminal offence that involved the death of Darcy Sheppard.”

“Tone-deaf”? You be the judge.

The original notion of 28 seconds as a kind of secular mantra (a simple phrase that focuses thought and action), comes from Mr. Bryant’s lawyer, Marie Henein. After calculating that the hard heart of the encounter between her client and my son lasted but 28 seconds, Ms. Henein coaxed a defence narrative from that seed.

Narrative, in the sense Ms. Henein uses the word, does not mean story, or story line, or plot, or scenario. For her, as for many defence lawyers, narrative is simply a thought or action around which any number of stories can be constructed and told using the same plot and character elements, arranged according to inspiration or need. The goal is a plausible narrative-driven scenario for a defendant’s actions, for instance.

“Boy meets girl” is a classic example. There are variations: Girl meets boy; Boy meets boy; Girl meets or girl; or, for those who like their escapism a bit more complex, Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back again (or doesn’t); etc. The plots can vary endlessly, but the narrative(s) remain(s) the same.

I’ll have more to add on Marie Henein’s use of narrative as part of defence strategy in future posts. For now, I’ll just say the good ones have inherent dramatic tension that resonates with many people.

Ms. Henein found a great one for Mr. Bryant’s defence: Good man meets bad man.

She elaborated a bit: Upstanding citizen (with political successes and ambitions) on the way home with an adoring wife from a sentimental twelfth wedding-anniversary celebration, meets drunken, berserk, outlaw messenger.

Aside from the fact it’s substantially untrue (or unprovable), what’s not to like about a narrative like that? What not to love, if you are a desperate defendant or a creative lawyer?

Not much, if it works as well as Ms. Henein’s did for Mr. Bryant.

But if, like me, you see holes in that narrative; if you believe the former attorney general’s new suit of narrative clothes—though (or because) tailored by one of the best—is a deception, there is much not to like.

Think of my name for this blog as the cheeky gesture of an old man giving a finger (in the nicest possible way, to be sure) to the hero and heroine of their own self-serving narrative. (Game? Set? The match, of course, has just begun.)

And if you see (and appreciate) the name as a double finger to Special Prosecutor Richard Peck, who chose not to look closely at the former attorney general’s new clothes, please join me on my journey.

Hey! That could that be an excellent narrative: The Former Attorney General’s New Clothes…

It has the ring of a classic. (Even if I do say so myself.)

28 SECONFD BOOK SHOT_20150218_162036

 

 

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8 Comments

  1. Mary Humphrey Baldridge

     /  February 22, 2015

    I wholeheartedly applaud & support Allan Sheppard’s quest for a better resolution to this unpleasant case — for case it is still, until recognition of Bryant’s behavior has been acknowledged; and the more Bryant tries to wiggle or manipulate his way out of accepting some measure of blame for Darcy’s death, the deeper the hole he orginally dug will grow.

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  2. KCC

     /  April 8, 2015

    Handling of this prosecution is certainly raising plenty of questions.

    1. Darcy cuts off the SAAB as Bryant attempts to move standing vehicle. Quite possible that the car stalled here.
    2. Darcy likely yells back at the inattentive driver. This cannot be frightening in any way as the complaint would have merit to it.
    3. Traffic light goes green (opposite direction traffic appears)
    4. Darcy does not move which likely irritates Bryant.
    5. Bryant moves a little and then rams the stubborn cyclist.
    6. Sensitive and touchy Bryant is not shocked by the accident. He does not run to check if the cyclist is OK.
    7. Sensitive Bryant shows remarkable speed and coordination to put the car with tight clutch in reverse and then drive around the cyclist.
    8. This has all appearances of the driver fleeing scene of an accident.
    9. Backpack is thrown and Darcy attaches himself to the car as he attempts to stop the driver from leaving.
    10. As the car accelerates Darcy has no options left but to hold on tight and attempt to get into the car.
    11. For some reason the car drives too close to side-walk on the side of the road which would be typically for traffic in opposite direction.

    Backpack and latching on side of the car have clear merit in the circumstances. Bryant could not be confused about this being merely an attempt to keep him on site of the accident and his immediate conduct being explanation for the acts, but he was already set on going. Excuses about fear do not sound credible.
    Ultimately, Bryant had to be stopped well before. That had to occur irrespective of what he felt about injuries of Darcy from ramming. First impressions can be deceiving and lawyers know that well. Whining about being inattentive driver whilst sitting on bicycle cannot be seen as aggression, but more like a nuisance. Witnesses are fine, but all developments can be observed from videos. Who of the two was louder is insignificant and immaterial.

    It was reported about Darcy being intoxicated. In general terms, people find someone intoxicated more of nuisance than a bona fide threat. Bryant, who had problem with alcoholism first hand, would be the one with understanding of the problem faced by a fellow citizen. Such experiences are known to give rise to compassion. Videos show Darcy made no threatening moves. His post ramming move would be well in line with circumstances and someone going for citizen arrest.

    The genuine question a trial would have to resolve, whether the observed circumstances PRIOR to the ramming were REASONABLY enough to strike the STRONG ENOUGH type of fear for Bryant to run. Whatever transpired after ramming would be immaterial. In his explanations, Peck focused on collateral details and details which transpired AFTER Bryant decided to run.

    The way other people get convicted in courts, Bryant could be easily convicted if put for trial. Analogy can be drawn to discharge of a gun for someone being simply a nuisance. It can be said that Peck operates with UNREASONABLE ESTIMATE when making decision to drop charges. He focused on wrong set of events in the whole sequence thus exaggerating reasonably perceived level of threat at the time.

    Bryant was never charged for leaving scene of RAMMING accident. The charge can be laid easily. It is more complicated with the charge which was withdrawn and not laid again within 1 year. May be there is some way to get something similar going or get it reinstated in view of the circumstances.

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    • KCC, I apologize for taking so long to approve and comment on your post.
      You outline a scenario that fits the facts as we know them, at least as well as the scenario put forward by the defence.
      Your interpretations of Mr. Bryant’s and my son’s thoughts or state of mind at each stage are speculative. It might not be possible to support them with factual and admissible evidence in court. But it’s not clear that the defence scenario, as interpreted by Mr. Bryant’s lawyer, Marie Henein, and accepted and explained by Special Prosecutor Peck, has better support. None of that has been tested in court, either. I believe much of it would have been inadmissible. Ms. Henein would disagree. Mr. Peck, in a radical departure from the normal process, agrees with her. But we are left to take their word for it. I don’t. Can’t. Won’t.
      You are absolutely right to focus on the importance of what happened before Mr. Bryant rammed my son and his bike with his car. He said he panicked. Witnesses at the scene say he was guilty of road rage. There is enough ambiguity, going by the evidence we can see and evaluate, to raise a reasonable doubt. But we do not have access to all of the evidence. We must, again, take what the defence says and the prosecutors accept, happened at face value.
      Mr. Bryant may or may not be guilty of the charges he faced or that still might be laid. I believe the question is now moot, due to the way the case was handled by Mr. Peck and his Toronto agent, Mark Sandler. I believe they have undermined and compromised the integrity of the justice system–they took the law into their own hands–and my focus is on holding them accountable.
      But I appreciate your engagement. Your analysis is consistent with many of the facts.

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  3. One of the BIG questions? How is it the VICTIM was tested for alcohol/drugs and the driver of the car was not? I’m confident had a test been made on the DRIVER of the car charges would have been laid.

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    • The victim (my son) was tested for alcohol/drugs during an autopsy. If he had lived, he would not have been tested–unless he was to be charged *and* he exhibited signs of intoxication. Police have leeway to bend the rules, but they also know evidence can be ruled out of order in court, if improperly obtained.
      We do not have laws saying that anyone involved in a collision must be tested, whether they appear to be intoxicated or not. There are strong arguments for and against.
      Our legal system protects us against self-incrimination. It’s one of the reasons why torture is prohibited and evidence obtained through torture is (or should be) rejected.
      I don’t have a problem with that.
      I do have a problem with the fact much evidence that was not tainted was rejected–not in court but by Special Prosecutor Peck and his team, before it could get to a court. They clearly looked at the evidence with tunnel vision; they only considered evidence that supported Mr. Bryant.
      All the evidence available does not support exoneration. It might not lead to a conviction. If all evidence had been heard, Mr. Bryant might have been accountable to public opinion for what he did, even if acquitted.
      I believe Mr. Peck and Mr. Sandler went out of their way (“bent over backwards,” in the words of Mr. Bryant’s lawyer) to make sure that didn’t happen. That is what I object to.
      Thanks for staying engaged with this case.

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  4. Allan, video of the incident provides all evidence which is needed. The inferences drawn from the video are reasonable and palpably the only possible. They are also consistent with the information provided by Mr. Peck. It appears you are looking for absolute proof for conversations’ details and subjective state of mind. It is neither possible, nor required by law in order to meet beyond reasonable doubt standard. Many “panicked” hit and run drivers face trials and their explanations are not taken for face value by the Crown. The Crown might even agree that the drivers experienced feeling of panic, but that does not change the fact of them leaving scene of accident. In this case the run aggravated the whole situation.

    Evidence in your son’s case is much better structured than in the following case of drug importation by mail. http://m.bramptonguardian.com/news-story/5635748-man-faces-lengthy-jail-term-after-drugs-found-in-mail Nonetheless, the man who received the parcel faced trial and was convicted.

    Classification of Bryant’s driving style by eye witnesses and their subjective assessment about loudness of each party are immaterial in this case.

    This case leaves strong apprehension of public corruption by cronyism and caste like treatment of parties, but reviving it would be certainly a long shot. No one looks forward to it.

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  5. PS: Focus is not to be on reasons for the ramming. Acceptance of Bryant’s explanation for it would logically change nothing. However, the instant nature of the move to leave the scene suggests the ramming was intentional and the next move was already programmed into his brain.

    Focus is to be on the moments after ramming occurred. Explanations about an attack and fears have no air of reality to them. It is obvious from the video that Darcy was attempting to stop vehicle already running from scene of the accident. The same would be as obvious to Bryant. The Darcy’s move cannot be confused for an attack.

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  6. Teen who killed Const. Garrett Styles in somewhat similar circumstances was found guilty of murder. Upgrade to 1st degree is due to police being more equal than the rest of us. For a regular citizen he would be guilty of lesser degree murder or manslaughter as the least.

    One can assume the teen been scared, confused, and in state of shock when pushing accelerator, but nonetheless he had to stand trial and was found guilty.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/teen-who-killed-const-garrett-styles-guilty-of-1st-degree-murder-1.3115800

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