injusticebusters logo

Saskatoon Freezing Deaths

Two bad apples caught thanks to Darrell Night

Ken Munson and Dan Hatchen

March 13, 2003: Hatchen and Munson are now in prison. Their defence lawyers say they will have a hard time because of conditions in prison. Maybe that should be a signal to clean up the penal system to make it safe for people who go to prison. These two cops got off lightly, a slap on the knuckles for what they did. Nonetheless it is a start.

The Saskatoon Police continue to say this was an isolated incident. Well, if you believe that, you're really whacked. These two represent the dreck at the bottom of the barrel, but the barrel contains other rotten apples who have risen to the top like Brian Dueck and he walks away with full pension even though he was found to be malicious. --Sheila Steele, injusticebusters.com


Former Saskatoon cops appeal conviction for leaving aboriginal man out in cold

SASKATOON - A panel of judges has reserved its decision in the appeal Monday of two former Saskatoon police officers who were convicted of unlawful confinement.

Ken Munson and Dan Hatchen were sentenced to eight months in jail in December 2001, after driving an inebriated aboriginal man to the edge of the city and abandoning him in freezing temperatures.

FROM DEC. 7, 2001: Former Saskatoon police officers sentenced to eight months

They went before the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal seeking a new trial or, failing that, reduced sentences.

"We believe we have grounds for an appeal," said Morris Bodnar, their lawyer.

He argued that trial Judge Eugene Scheibel failed to properly instruct the jury about the powers of police officers. They acted legally when they drove Darrell Night to the outskirts of the city.

Bodnar also argued that Scheibel should have moved the trial out of the city so the officers could have been tried by an impartial jury.

When he convicted them, Scheibel said: "The accused demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the life, safety and well-being of the complainant."

Munson and Hatchen have been out on bail since they were convicted.

Their case was one of several that led the Saskatchewan government to set up the Commission on First Nations and Métis Peoples and Justice Reform in 2001.

FROM JAN. 17, 2003: Aboriginals may be paid to investigate police

Last week, it recommended the government pay for an aboriginal group to investigate complaints against the police.


No circle for Hatchen and Munson

Sentenced to eight months and now out on appeal bail

Complete text of Judge Scheibel's judgement denying the sentencing circle

Friday we'll know if they get a square cell with bars. The Crown has asked for at least one year jail time. The former officers have asked for noncustodial intermittant time. (As of August 12, 2002, their paltry jail sentence is still under appeal)

How about they be allowed to serve their time in the community, intermittantly, as chauffers and gofers for Darrell Night. They would be fitted with thermometer ankle bracelets which would go off at -22º. Then they would have to go to jail and all aboriginal people would be alerted to stay off the streets if they had been drinking to be safe from other power-happy cops we all know are still out there.

Bill Roe

Coverage of the trial is here, starting with the most recent reports.

Nov. 30, 2001: Judge Scheibel showed great patience in court as he heard Bill Roe (right) and Morris Bodnar (right) argue that they would like to proceed with a sentencing circle even though Darrell Night wants nothing to do with it. Roe went so far as to argue for exclusion of the media and Bodnar suggested Ex-Police Chief Dave Scott would be a good candidate for a circle.

Their clients expressed remorse for having disgraced the police service and, oh yes, for having unlawfully confined Darrell Night, they said.

Morris Bodnar

"Restorative Justice" would seem to mean different things to different people. To Hatchen and Munson, and their mouthpieces in court it would seem to mean continuing to pretend that there is honour in the Saskatoon Police Service and that giving these guys the benefit of a sentencing circle would just fix everything up.

So far the cops have shown no real contrition. Maybe prison psychologists could get to the bottom of their twisted psyches but people who would serve on a sentencing circle have much more productive ways to spend their time.

It's hard to find an iota of sympathy for these bullies whose inglorious days of pushing citizens around have been brought to a halt.

Hatchen and Munson were found guilty of unlawful confinement of Darrell Night. They came to their sentencing at the end of October and asked to be sentenced by a sentencing circle.

Was this a cynical bid for more time or were they genuinely contrite and sorry for what they had done?

The answer was clear two days later at the Naistus inquest when Hatchen took the stand and lied outright. He said he and his partner came forward out of the goodness of their hearts when of course, the opposite is true.


Lawrence Joseph

inJusticebusters endorse Darrell Night's call for a full public inquiry and support Vice-Chief Lawrence Joseph's observation that all marginalized people in Saskatoon require some accounting from the Saskatoon Police for actions of the last three decades.

We are appalled that Chief Jim Matthews would say this is an "isolated incident" He has been here for less than three months. Either he is part of the cover-up or he is naively accepting briefings from sources who have a stake in the cover-up. Mayor Maddin's response is also disappointing.

Superintendent Dueck may be breathing a sigh of relief for now, but we would point out that although the wheels of justice grind very slowly, they are moving forward.


Hatchen and Munsen: Saskatoon Police trial for assault and kidnapping of Darrell Night

The Verdict: Guilty of unlawful confinement but Not Guilty of assault!

Twelve Saskatchewan jurors brought back a decision which shows this province is racist and brain-dead. They ignored the clear charge of Judge Eugene Scheibel that if they found that Darrell Night was not in the lawful custody of the police during any part of his ride from the west end of the city to the field beyond the Queen Elizabeth Power plant, that even a tap on the elbow during any part of such unlawful confinement would be an assault.

They found Hatchen and Munson guilty of the unlawful confinement but not guilty of assault. They were possibly swayed by the suggestion that Night's civil suit (which should not have been brought into the trial in the first place) will be weakened and they don't want the province to pay any damages to a drunken Indian.

Spokesmen for the police expressed confusion. Now they are going to have to take anyone they arrest to the police station said union prez, Al Stickney. Duh? But if they rough him/her up along the way, pepper spray them, etc., well that's maybe going to still be allowed? Or if a "riot" of young, jobless Natives loot Midtown Plaza (as the StarPhoenix irresponsibly suggested might happen), well, the cops will just have to stand by and watch, letting insurance claims mount for failing businesses. "We couldn't drive them home and we don't have room at the station," the cops will say. And racial antipathy will rise another notch.

Violence against marginalized Saskatonians goes on and has been going on for decades. The roughing up is somewhat democratic -- all skin colours are nervous about the violence-driven few who like to beat up on the vulnerable -- but the pepper spraying and moonlight rides are pretty well confined to Natives.

Sentencing is October 30. Roe says he will ask for a suspended sentence. We hope that the teeny bit of justice which has been shown by the guilty verdict will be in keeping with the seriousness of the indictment: unlawful confinement (kidnapping) carries a ten year maximum penalty and these guys should get to spend a fair piece of that in prison.

Hatchen and Munson

The fear should be there that since Hatchen and Munson conducted themselves in court as though their only crime was getting caught and disgracing the police in so doing: that in future they will "take no prisoners." Naistus and Wegner didn't take them to court. They are dead.

The cross section of citizens who expressed complacency with this decision may have cause to be more concerned. When a Saskatoon cop says "Freeze", they bring new meaning to the word. They carry guns. Even their dogs now have bullet-proof vests. And they have learned nothing from this experience, except that they got off easy on trying to kill Darrell Night and the other midnight taxi-drivers got away with it.

As Darrell Night so eloquently stated at his press conference after the verdict, a full public inquiry must be held into the Saskatoon Police force before any real justice will be seen in this dangerous town.


Day Three: Sep. 13, 2001, Saskatoon

It's not looking good. On March 29, 2000, when the secret hearings were held on Hatchen and Munsen, Crown Prosecutor Terry Hinz assured the media that the trial would be public.

In the meantime several coats of whitewash have been laid over the deaths of Rodney Naistus and Lawrence Wegner, Rod Wailing's complaint has been found to be "without merit" and the results of the Neil Stonechild coroner's inquest, which was hard fought for and eventually the body exhumed and sent to Alberta, are not yet in.

A publication order was placed on today's proceedings. The ban is sweeping and includes anything which went on inside the courtroom. Judge Scheibel said he would call a mistrial if it was not obeyed. inJusticebusters want very much for this trial to go forward.

Outside the courthouse the Natives were restless. Despite the strong case presented against the cops during the first two days of trial, we heard bitter mistrust -- including credible testimonials about bad experiences with members of the Saskatoon Police Service and receiving the run-around when they attempted to complain.

We are working on getting these stories ready for the Internet.

Media from across the country were present, hanging on every word Bodnar or Roe would offer them. Their case panders to racism (counting on the jury being a cross-section of Saskatoon) and turns truth on its head by setting out to prove that Darrell Night is racist against whites.

Perry Bellegarde

One of the lessons of the American civil rights movement was that there is a huge difference between systemic racism and the powerless rantings of members of a racial minority.

Where was Perry Bellegarde (right)? Where was Lawrence Joseph? Perhaps the media are waiting for them. We would all like to know what they have to say.


Day Two of the most important police trial in the country right now

SASKATOON This morning the jury heard clear testimony from the taxi driver and the Sask Power worker which corroborated Darrell Night's allegation that he was where he said he was before dawn on the cold January morning. They also confirmed that he was dressed inadequately for the weather conditions.

Police Chief, David Scott

Superintendent Weber confirmed that he had taken confession statements from Hatchen and Munsen after being ordered to do so by Chief Dave Scott (right) and Ass't Chief Dan Wiks. Sgt. Dennis Elias testified he had checked out Night's story and an RCMP officer testified that they had got a warrant and seized the constable's notebooks. Another RCMP officer testified that Night's name had not been entered ito the CPIC.

The confessions themselves were those of children who have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar with all the attendant whining and sorries and promises never to do it again, replete with upset stomachs and sleepless nights. Weber had tears in his eyes at the end of the reading.

Each of the confessions, obtained separately, says that Night pleaded with them to "drop him off anywhere" and then "we just looked at each other" and drove out to Leisureland.

Chilling. These damn cops have done this before! And how many others in the force have done so also: routinely, cold-bloodedly. Somebody left Lawrence Wegner and Rodney Naistus out there to die. Maybe these guys, maybe different ones.

Five of them, including union prez Al Stickney sat in the front row, directly behind the accused dock, providing a physical blue wall as they watched their buddies getting nailed for something that everybody used to think was all right. Like the good-old boys of the KKK feeling nostalgiac for the days of lynching. Well, fellas, it's over.

Racism will die hard. This case and the Ramsay case are a beginning of bringing to account those who drive drunk Native men to the outskirts of town or expect all Native females to provide them with sexual favours.

It's over.

At least, we hope it is over. It is up to the Crown to convince the jury that these guys must be found guilty on both counts and then it is up to the Judge to sentence them to the limit provided by law.

Not because Dan Hatchen and Ken Munsen are any worse than any other cops who have done the same thing. They just get to be the example.


Darrell Night's day in court

Queen's Bench Courtroom number 1 was packed this morning to hear the opening of the Crown's case against officers Ken Munson and Dan Hatchen, charged with assault and unlawful confinement against Darrell Night after having driven him to the outskirts of the city in -25 degree weather Jan. 28, 2000.

Darrell Night

Crown prosecutor Bill Berge led Night through the story he has fought so hard to tell. After a party had degenerated into fights on the night in question, Night had left the apartment building on 20th St. in Saskatoon's west end perhaps to walk the two blocks to his sister's place and crash. He was not drunk but he had drunk enough to know that his sister, to whom he had just made a promise to quit drinking, would be upset with him. As he testified later that day, he would rather spend a night on the cement floor of a police dry-out cell than face her with his broken promise. As he hit the street, a cruiser arrived. Night told them they should get upstairs and stop the fight and gave them the finger. Next thing he knew he was thrown over the trunk of the car, tightly handcuffed and thrown in the back.

He became nervous when the car turned south on Avenue H instead of proceeding to the police station and mentioned the name of a senior officer he knew to be a decent cop, Marv Hanson. His kidnappers were not impressed and proceeded out of town, stopping near Leisureland, manhandled him and left him there. Their words as they ejected him from the cruiser were "Get out you fuckin' Indian." As they drove away, Night took note of the number on the cruiser: 27.

The facts of this case are not in doubt. Hatchen and Munson admitted to picking Night up and to dropping him out of town. Defense lawyers Morris Bodner and Bill Roe attacked Night's character under guise of damaging his credibility. Night had no difficulty admitting to his petty-criminal past and his problems with alcohol. This left the lawyers with no strategy but to repeat themselves, either hoping to impress the seven-man, five-woman jury or to show the cops they were hired to defend that they were worth all that money. They had no case. How can anybody justify that driving a person to an almost certain death (if Night had been drunker he would surely be dead) is a good response to being sworn at and shown "the finger?" No matter how long Night's "criminal" record is (and Bodner read out every line of it, mostly breaches and failures to appear) that does not entitle the cops to turn him into a frozen corpse.

Night showed grace under pressure and a good sense of humour when he was allowed to express it. His reasons for pushing for the laying of charges were clear: when he heard that a frozen dead man, later identified as Lawrence Wegner had been found in almost the same location where he had been dropped, he decided to come forward. In the course of his attempt to do so, he was fortunate enough to run into a second decent cop, Sgt. Elias, who believed his story.

Many of us -- including the entire Native community -- were outraged that Hatchen and Munson were charged so lightly. At the same time, we are grateful that they have been charged at all, since this seems to be the only possible way to stop the practice of leaving Native drunks to freeze, a practice which we all know has been going on for decades. It is a beginning, just as the early freedom rides in Mississippi were a beginning to the long process of stopping the practice of lynching blacks.

Racial tension in this town is thick and occasionally loud. A group of Natives who were in the court room today mistook our laughter during a break (we were laughing at the lameness of the defense strategies) for laughter at Night and threatened to kill one of us. By and large, Night's supporters outnumbered the cop supporters, once you got past the colour barrier and if you assumed the media row was neutral.

The real colour barrier that took some crippling blows today was the Blue Wall of cop solidarity. At the beginning of the day, we heard versions of the phrase "Darrell Night has a vivid imagination" ringing hollow as their continued insistence that David Milgaard killed Gail Miller after Larry Fisher raped her.

As the day went on it was clear that Night was not claiming all cops did hosted moonlight rides. Throughout his lengthy involvement with police he said he had never before been beaten. He acknowledged Marv Hanson and Sgt. Elias were two cops who had treated him well. He may, indeed have a vivid imagination but the story he told today is substantiated by the evidence. Police union chief Al Stickney, who had in interviews earlier this week said he just wanted to see justice served got to see it in action.

Judge Eugene Scheibel ran a fair courtroom. He intervened on Night's behalf several times when Berge was failing to protect his witness's interest. We could not help but wonder, from Berge's tepid presentation of the case if his heart was really in it. We hope that the events of today will stir the justice part of him to break free from the Saskatchewan cover-up network. The jury has also been chosen from a pool of people confused by systemic racism and it is up to the Crown to persuade them of the justice of these indictments. We trust Judge Scheibel will instruct the jury well.

Then it will be up to them.