It has been determined by B.C. special prosecutor Richard Peck that Michael Bryant is innocent in the death of Darcy Allan Sheppard. Peck’s decision to have all charges withdrawn against Bryant means no preliminary trial will take place. This has caused, as it should, heated discussions amongst Torontonians and others beyond this city’s borders.
There is no need to review the details of the tragic incident of last August 31st. They have been noted repeatedly in news accounts and on the internet since that fateful night. And they are being rehashed constantly since the news of the charges against Bryant being dropped was revealed.
The disturbing outcome of that evening is that Darcy Allan Sheppard died during his altercation with Michael Bryant. Disturbing not only because of the senseless nature of his death but because, had he lived, chances are he would have had his day in court in one way or another. By being dead, this has been denied him.
It turns out, in the mind of prosecutor Peck, that it was not actually Michael Bryant facing any charges but rather Darcy Allan Sheppard that was on trial. This is the gist of Peck’s executive summary revealed to the court on Tuesday. Sheppard’s troubled history and past incendiary actions made him responsible for all actions that both he and Bryant undertook that night, relieving Bryant of any potential accountability in the resulting death (my underscores).
And there is the major rub in this very sad affair. A case tried in the courts of public opinion and in the mind of one person but one that never made its way to an Ontario court of law. A judgement or verdict reached but only in the mind of Mr. Peck, not by a judge or jury which is usually the process followed especially in a serious incident resulting in death.
I do not know what, if anything, Bryant is guilty of. Or what Sheppard may have been guilty of before he died that evening. But I am truly enraged that information that may have shed light on this most deadly scenario is now unavailable to me and the rest of the Toronto public. Peck refers in his summary to confusing eye witness accounts and forensics reports, the latter indicating Bryant was not accountable for Sheppard’s fatal injuries. Due to a lack of a preliminary trial, no one, especially a judge or jury, will be able to hear or judge for themselves how confusing those eyewitness accounts truly are or decide for themselves how informative and definitive those forensics reports are. What should have been a perfunctory legal process has been denied by the opinion of one person. And that is just not right.
If bringing in a special prosecutor from B.C. to oversee former Ontario Attorney General Bryant’s case was to create transparency and avoid optics of any ‘special treatment’ by Ontario police or judicial officials, not allowing a preliminary trial in this matter has negated those intentions. The undesirable language of ‘the educated rich versus the poor’ and a ‘law for the rich and a law for the poor’ is now swirling about like a typhoon within the city. Cyclists, justified or not, now feel that their safety while navigating city streets is even more imperilled than before the incident. None of these statements are representative of what is actually at stake here (the guilt or innocence of actions that lead to a death) but the lack of a judicial process, not surprisingly, has sadly fed the flames of mistrust and discontent amongst cyclists, motorists and the rest of the city’s inhabitants.
These rumblings and grumblings could have been avoided if the course of justice had been allowed to proceed within an Ontario court room. A trial would have revealed that this case was about road rage, not about cyclists versus motorists nor about couriers versus lawyers. The court would have looked at both men’s actions equally to decide what, if any laws, were broken by either party. The judge or jury would have decided if either party’s actions during those adrenalin-filled 28 seconds imperilled the safety of the other. In other words, the court would have done its job with the public present. If Bryant had been found guilty or acquitted of any charges by means of a judicial decision, we Torontonians would have been privy to the information provided that resulted in that decision. Bryant would not have this spectre of preferred treatment and doubt now forever attached to him. Darcy Allan Sheppard, through testimony (favourable or not) of witnesses at the scene that summer night, would have had his day in court as well.
Because, you see Mr. Peck, I don’t know about B.C. but in the eyes of the Ontario judicial system, every accused, including Sheppard and Bryant, is considered ‘innocent until proven guilty’. In this case, thanks to you, we will never know.