RCMP Gary Steinke framed Jason Dix for murder - was sued
The new officer in charge of Strathcona County's RCMP detachment confirmed yesterday he was one of several cops successfully sued by Jason Dix, a former suspect in a double-murder case that remains unsolved. And while Insp. Gary Steinke's new post in Sherwood Park raised questions about his potential future involvement in the murder case, Steinke insisted he'll be responsible in his role.
"This is really unfortunate that you guys have to ask about that, a case that's so old" Steinke said yesterday.
... and so damning
"I will be impartial, whatever comes up. The case is still open and we're keeping our options open.
"Nothing's going to change because I'm here."
"I consider the conscious team-building by police in interviewing witnesses to be a deplorable practise. The investigation of crimes is not a game pitting one team against an accused. The investigation ...must remain independant, objective and fair. The fact of the matter is ... the police were out to get the accused".
- Judge John Maher
Provincial Court of Alberta
The president of the Criminal Trial Lawyers' Association said that, "strictly speaking," the RCMP decide who will be the officer in charge of any detachment.
"It's understandable how a member of the public may have a negative perception with regards to the findings of the Dix case," said Rod Gregory.
And high-profile defence lawyer Peter Royal said questions around a possible conflict of interest are "bad enough," but it seems "outrageous" that the RCMP promoted Steinke from a corporal to a sergeant and now to an inspector.
"I don't understand how he's promotable in light of this unchallenged, unappealed finding that he's been liable for malicious prosecution and false imprisonment."
Jason Dix spent 22 months in jail after being charged with the Oct. 1, 1994, execution-style shootings of James Deiter, 24, and Tim Orydzuk, 33, at a Sherwood Park recycling plant.
Dix sued the Crown and RCMP on Feb. 1, 1999, after murder charges against him were dismissed on Sept. 3, 1998.
He was awarded $764,863 in damages for his malicious prosecution lawsuit, after Court of Queen's Bench Justice Keith Ritter said in a June 2002 decision that police and prosecutors were "legally cloaked in malice".
Ritter called some of the police tactics "reprehensible" and said police had breached many of Dix's charter rights.
Steinke was one of six cops Ritter held civilly liable.
But the commanding officer for the RCMP in Alberta told the Sun yesterday he has "full confidence" in Steinke.
"Gary is held in very high regard and the other investigation, as you know, was quite awhile ago and we've taken notice of what the courts have told us about our operational procedures and have amended our procedures accordingly," said Assistant Commissioner Bill Sweeney.
The RCMP major crimes unit - not Steinke - will direct investigations into the homicides of Deiter and Orydzuk, Sweeney added.
"He manages the detachment operations so it's far removed from being actually directly involved in the investigation."