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Farand Bear Acquittal

RCMP may review interrogation methods after Bear acquittal: Judge tosses confession in Wapass murder case

Farand Bear

The RCMP will wait to see if the Crown appeals Farand Bear's acquittal on a manslaughter charge before considering whether interrogation methods need to be reviewed, RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Brian Jones said Wednesday.

Bear was acquitted in the 2002 death of Maxine Wapass on Tuesday, after Queen's Bench Justice John Klebuc refused to admit a videotaped confession because police interrogators violated Bear's right to remain silent.

Klebuc had found that RCMP Sgt. Charles Lerat and Saskatoon Police Service Const. Stan Goertzen "went too far" when they suggested to Bear the court would interpret his refusal to answer questions as a lack of remorse.

Bear said 88 times over three days of questioning in June 2003 that he couldn't answer their questions on the advice of his lawyer.

If the Crown does not appeal the decision, the police may review interrogation procedures, Jones said.

Lerat and Stan Goertzen are qualified polygraph operators, which required training in interviewing and interrogation at the Canadian Police College in Ottawa, so Klebuc's criticism of their method "could have wider implications," Jones said.

On the other hand, judges make decisions every day "on the voluntariness" of statements and this ruling may not be enough to require changing the way police are taught, he said.

Sometimes investigators don't have enough evidence to charge a suspect with a crime, said Bernie Eisworth, executive officer of the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers. In such cases, a confession may be an investigator's last hope of proving who committed the crime, he said.

"The easy thing would have been to say, 'We have nothing,' and go home," he said. "Maybe they feel a little desperate."

The decision to reject the statement based on the police comments and behaviour rests with the judge. Another judge might have ruled differently, Eisworth said.

The public can take comfort in knowing interrogations are videotaped so that if police do make mistakes in questioning, the errors can be caught and police can learn from them, Eisworth said.

"That's the way it has to be. As police officers, we have to accept that," he said.