In Winnipeg, the injustice story of James Driskell is unfolding and once again, we see individual police officers and crown prosecutors successfully conspiring to charge and convict an innocent man of murder, followed by a blatant cover-up by police who were asked to review the investigation. One of those officers, Jack Ewatski, has risen to the position of chief of the Winnipeg Police Department. The prosecutors, astonishingly, were the same crowns who wrongly prosecuted Tom Sophonow. George Dangerfield has gone on to a lucrative career in private practice while Greg Lawler is still prosecuting in Manitoba. Their former boss is now Associate Chief Judge of the provincial court.
It would seem that officials who get get a taste for anti-social behavior just keep on doing it and are unable to stop themselves. They have to be stopped by those who have the power to stop them. In Manitoba, that would be Justice minister Gordon Mackintosh who has acknowledged there is something deeply wrong in the Driskell file and has hired an independent lawyer to protect the interests of Lawlor and Dangerfield as the federal court gets involved.
Who is going to protect Ewatski? During Justice Peter Cory's inquiry into the wrongful prosecution of Sophonow, he put on a brave face and appeared to take his lumps. Did he not realize that this blatant cover-up would come back to bite him? Instead, he has entered into another cover-up, this time condoning the actions of Loren Schinkel, head of the police union who conducted himself appallingly in the case of Monique Turenne. In his eagerness to get an "assist goal" in an unfair murder conviction, Schinkel first misused the Reid method of interrogation against Turenne and when he was unable to extract from her a confession, he just made one up, signed an affidavit swearing its authenticity and sent it off to authorities in Florida where the justice is truly lawless. Turenne was indicted by a Grand Jury on the basis of these manufactured documents at a trial about which she was not even informed. Dan Lett of the Winnipeg Free Press acknowledged that the "confession" was most irregular, but continued to be lukewarm regarding Turenne's insistance that the other "facts" which have flowed from it, particularly that she had been having an affair with the convicted killer and had sent her husband out to buy her some Midol in the middle of the night so he could wack the guy, are also lies. Injusticebusters believes Turenne's full version of events and we have said so for almost two years. This posting had enough of an impact on Ewatski that he wrote to the webmaster, standing by his lying cop and making pleas in the name of fair play! Ewatski is on the hot seat now and it is unlikely that Schinkel will have either the capacity or the desire to help him. The chief is out of scope in more ways than one.
Schinkel runs the union in the style of Toronto's Craig Brommel, who in turn was proud to say he learned his skills in Los Angeles -- that was before major coruption there was exposed. Saskatoon's police union likewise fights for the rights of its officers to keep their jobs and receive paid leave while under criminal investigation. Many men in uniform attended the trial of Hatchen and Munson, who, after being convicted were fired, but nonetheless receive acknowledgment on the police site as having served for 17 years. Vancouver cop PR spokeswoman stated today that 6 cops who pled guilty to assaulting citizens they believed to be criminals will probably keep their jobs. She also acknowledged four more members of the force were common criminals. How can the public trust the police to serve and protect us when there are no consequences for them when they step out of line?
But, returning to the Driskell case, we find many other parallels in time and kind. At the Klassen/Kvello civil trial, for which we are eagerly awaiting a judgment as I write this, preliminary findings of malice against Superintendant Dueck, the social worker and two crown prosecuters were released in October. Although there is ample evidence -- that is court documents and testimony subjected to cross-examination -- that Dueck obstructed justice in several ways, and this evidence has been in the hands of the Saskatoon police for several weeks, he is still in his job. If they are planning another whitewash in Saskatoon, they will not likely succeed. However, recent history (David Milgaard, Darrell Night) shows there is no depth to which they will not try to go to cover corrupt tracks.
The Driskell case has brought to light a Saskatchewan connection. Ray Zanidean, a major Crown witness against Driskell, was facing arson charges in Swift Current. A deal was made whereby Zanidean received immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony.
Following the Stinchcombe decision in 1991, Chief Saskatchewan Prosecutor Richard Quinney advised the Manitoba Crown that they should disclose this information to the defence. The Crown, as represented by Dangerfield and Lawlor, and their immediate boss, Bruce Miller (right) who is now Associate Chief Judge of Manitoba's provincial court, withheld this disclosure until Driskell had lost his appeal.
In Jason Dix's exoneration in Alberta, prosecutorial misconduct was found in a case tainted with malice.
Judge Cory found "tunnel vision" all over the Sophonow case.
In the Klassen/Kvello matter, the two prosecutors who preliminary findings have shown to be malicious also had a boss. His name was Wilf Tucker and he also is a provincial court judge, receiving his appointment while prosecuting defamation cases against citizens trying to bring the facts to light.
It remains to be seen whether there will be any consequences for any judges who have been involved with these cases which would be forgotten now with the wrongly convicted still rotting in prison if not for the persistence of family, friends and those rare creatures, diligent defence lawyers. I don't think it does the reputation of Saskatchewan justice any good to harbour scoundrels. Nonetheless, on our Appeal Court sits Calvin Tallis, a legal aid lawyer who was appointed to the judiciary in the middle of a now famous case, David Milgaard.
Even as the nefarious workings of these cases are coming to public light on the prairies, cases in Ontario are continuing to pile logs onto the fire to ignite future investigations. The Reid method of interrogation of suspects and other questionable police investigative tools have received some publicity during the last couple years as the Supreme Court has struck down several convictions based on dirty tricks by police.
Some of these are being caught at trial, as in the case of postal worker Kim Cooper who was acquitted after Judge Robert Laing discovered he had been threatened by Dueck and Sgt. Murray Zoorkan. There were no consequences for these cops and they will keep right on doing it, playing the odds they will get a judge more tolerant to their tactics.
In Sarnia, Ontario, John Chalmers will be sentenced on a second degree murder conviction which was obtained through bad police work, prosecutorial misconduct, and a judge who clearly has an attitude problem. It is not going to take ten years for the facts of the misconduct to unfold. The public is catching on.
The Klassen/Kvello judgment will be significant in all these other cases. Therer have been not only preliminary findings of malice (actions used by officers of the court for a purpose other than justice) but also of conspiracy.
In order for any of these wrongfully charged/prosecuted/convicted persons to find themselves in their present predicament, two or more police, prosecutors or other officers of the court must conspire. Conspiracy does not require persons to actually get together and plan it; rather it requires that they work together to a purpose which is not just.
This is, of course, what the RCMP did to Leon Walchuk. He was convicted of second degree murder based on findings that he drove his car into the side of his house setting it on fire and then threw his wife down the stairs and killed her.
One of the main cops involved in setting him up was, shall we say, very close to his soon-to-be ex-wife. Important evidence (the car which Cori Walchuk drove into the side of the house and a hockey stick which she had used to attack her husband) were not disclosed to the defence and have now completely disappeared.
An independent investigation has cast serious doubt on the testimony of the Crown's expert witness regarding the cause and path of the fire. Just yesterday at a hearing in Regina, at which he was not present, this former Crown witness, with very little expertise, who now works for Wawanesa insurance, regurgitated his flawed theory in civil court where Walchuk is seeking justice.
The media in Regina have presenting the Crown's case without question, presenting Walchuk as a murderer and arsonist. He is into his fourth year of imprisonment. No one in a position of influence has seriously looked at his case, possibly because there is nothing as clearcut as DNA to prove his innocence. The Crown's circumstantial case, however, is based on a series of "facts" which could be quickly shown to be false. The Crown and police had twin tunnel vision on this one, even if they did not actually hatch the plot to convict Walchuk together. They got lucky by drawing Judge Larry Kyle, who is in a bad mood on most days and is given to outdated views and a failure to think logically.
All these malicious conspirators are going to have to experience some consequences for their actions. These consequences must be serious enough to deter any other cop or prosecutor from even thinking about walking down this path.
Lady Justice will have her reputation restored the day these paths of corruption are so closed off, so grown over that miscreant thinking officers of the court will not be tempted to even look for them.
Well, we can dream.
-- Sheila Steele, written during week of Nov. 25-30, 2003