…the charges will be dropped.
The Crown has withdrawn charges against former Ontario attorney-general Michael Bryant in the death of a cyclist.
Mr. Bryant was charged last September with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving in the death of bike courier Darcy Allan Sheppard.
Lonely in here, ain’t it? That’s because it’s just us. (get it? justice. just us. awesome.)
I wrote about the incident back when it had first occurred, back in September of last year: drunkcyclist.com/2009/09/02/email-dump-on-the-ag-tip.
This article from the same time period provides a refresher of what witnesses to the event claimed to have seen:
The fatal crash is the result of an apparent altercation that took place between a motorist and a cyclist over several blocks along Bloor Street, from Bay Street west to Avenue Road, just before 10 p.m.
Words were first exchanged, then at some point, the black Saab convertible and the bicycle bumped. Things escalated from there. For reasons that aren’t yet clear, the victim grabbed the side of the car and wouldn’t let go.
“What I saw was the car speeding up the wrong side of the road, with the injured man on the driver’s side of the car holding on as tight as he could,” witness Ryan Brazeau said. “And then the driver of the car pushing up against the curb, trying to knock him off on the poles as he went down the opposite side of the road.”
Another witness said Sheppard hit a mailbox then the road. The back tires then ran over him.
If that isn’t a perfectly clear description of completely indefensible behavior by the operator of a motor vehicle, I don’t know what is.
[I]n order to be found responsible for dangerous driving a defendant’s conduct must be a “marked departure” from reasonably prudent driving standards. The clearly threatening behaviour [sic] of Mr. Sheppard, and the fear and exposure Mr. Bryant and his wife felt, were factored into the Crown’s decision that no criminal liability could be found.
Police have said the Aug. 31 incident began with a minor collision between Mr. Bryant and Mr. Sheppard on a busy downtown street which resulted in Mr. Sheppard grabbing onto the side of a car.
Mr. Sheppard then fell under the vehicle, suffering fatal injuries.
Is it “reasonably prudent” to cross the roadway, in the oncoming lanes, with a man hanging on to the side of your car, and to drive against steel poles and a mailbox fastened to the concrete sidewalk in what can only be described as an attempt to scrape that man from your car?
Such conduct is clearly not “reasonably prudent.” It is brutal. It is contemptible. It should be universally condemned.
In a lengthy address to the court Tuesday, Mr. Peck said Mr. Sheppard had about twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood according to the post-mortem [sic] toxicology test.
He also provided details of other incidents between Sheppard and drivers, four of which happened the same month as the Bryant incident.
“The evidence establishes that Mr. Sheppard was the aggressor in the altercation,” Mr. Peck’s executive summary reads
. . . The clearly threatening behaviour [sic] of Mr. Sheppard, and the fear and exposure Mr. Bryant and his wife felt, were factored into the Crown’s decision that no criminal liability could be found.
I do not pretend to be well versed in the particularities of criminal law in our Great Northern Neighbor, or any nation’s laws really (read – I am not yet an attorney). Essentially, I see two general issues, contributory negligence 1 and self defense 2. The latter may excuse liability entirely, and the former may reduce it by a percentage based on the victim’s “contribution” to the injurious event (i.e., the victim “shares” in fault). I don’t know, however, how either fits into an analysis of whether or not to bring a criminal matter to trial. Both are defenses asserted at trial. Charging a matter criminally is, generally speaking, an analysis of whether the defendant’s conduct meets the elements of the relevant criminal statute. It feels as though the Crown put the cart before the donkey, reaching their conclusion first and then justifying it later. (I should note the use of Wikipedia links is to provide a general background for the concepts, not the relevant law in the particular jurisdiction.)
Owen Young, a bicycle courier for the past six years, said he fears Mr. Bryant’s acquittal will mean “it’s open season on cyclists.” He said the former attorney general should have acknowledged his role in the events that led to Mr. Sheppard’s death.
“He has to take some responsibility because there’s a man who is dead,” Mr. Young said outside the courthouse. “It doesn’t matter if he’s a courier, a cyclist or somebody on the street; there’s still one person on the face of the Earth who’s not here because of the man inside there today.”
Mr. Young has it exactly right. A man is dead. A son is without a father.
Has justice been served?by