Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

Archive for August 2009

Popular spin blurs facts in Marshall case

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Donald Marshall Jr. died this week at age 55.  That is too young to shuffle off this mortal coil in most cases.


The mainstream media (read trendy lefty) have tried to portray Marshall over the years as an icon and a rights activist.  He was nothing of the sort.


In 1971, when he was 17, Marshall and his partner in crime, Roy Ebsary, set out to commit a violent robbery of a man in a Sydney, NS park.  During the course of that crime, the intended victim Sandy Seale, was stabbed and died as a result. Marshall was charged in the case and convicted and sentenced to life in prison.  Which, I would argue, was emminently fair.  However, the politically correct got involved and because he was aboriginal and he didn’t actually wield the knife, (Ebsary did) he became an  icon and was painted as “wrongfully convicted.”  


He may have been wrongfully convicted of the specific charge, but that is legal hair-splitting.  Marshall deserved to be in jail for his participation in the crime that resulted in the death of Sandy Seale and that is the reality the hand-wringers simply won’t deal with.  


I suppose there is a legal argument here, but there is equally an argument that as a party to the offence of robbery, the murder that resulted made him as guilty as though he wielded the knife.  And in that case, he was not wrongfully convicted in the least.   And The Criminal Code of Canada supports that assertion.  Could that position be argued at bar? Certainly. 


But, that is a far cry from making Marshall the martyr of the justice system as the media has done.  


In point of fact, after he was released form prison and given a King’s ransom of taxpayer’s money as his reward for participating in a robbery and murder, he has been in and out of the justice system from everything from fishing out of season to assaulting his wife. 


Terrific, what a prince and a role model.


I don’t wish ill of anyone.  That Donald Marshall is dead prematurely I am sure is sad for his family and those who cared for him.  But it is not a momentous event for the country as portrayed.  Nor was he the aboriginal rights activist as he has been portrayed in the media.  He was a violent criminal who may have served a little more time in jail because he was charged with the wrong crime than he actually committed, even though that is arguable.  But that’s it.  That’s the length and breadth of his story. Or at least that should be the length and breadth of this story were it not for a politically correct and pliant media. 


Leo Knight

Written by Leo Knight

August 8, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Tasers have a role

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In the wake of the recommendations for police use of Conducted Energy Weapons (CEWs) or Tasers if you will, by Judge Thomas Braidwood conducting the inquiry into the death of Polish traveler Robert Dziekanski at YVR, the government of Alberta also issued its own recommendations (remarkably similar to Braidwood’s) to police in that Province.

What I found interesting was the RCMP took a couple of days to respond before saying they will abide by the Solicitor General’s new guidelines.  Oh, to have been a fly on the wall of K Division headquarters listening to the discussions.  Do we or don’t we?

The RCMP, as the federal police force in Canada, are subject to the RCMP Act for matters of legal procedures, discipline and such. The Commissioner’s Regs and Orders is the other ‘Bible’ that guides the RCMP.  Provincial legislation such as the BC Police Act or the Alberta statute governing municipal police forces simply don’t apply to the RCMP. They were under no legal obligation to even respond to the directive put out by the Alberta Solicitor General.  Yet, they acquiesced in short order.  Why?

Well, one suspects it has everything to do with the pending contract for provincial policing services due in 2012.  But, colour me a cynic.

Tasers have been in widespread police use since the early ’90s and have been controversial in that time because of indirectly related deaths.  Taser use has even spawned new psycho-babble terminology such as “excited delerium.”

Braidwood delivered, for the most part, well-considered and logical recommendations in his report.  Although, the part saying police could only deploy CEWs in criminal investigations is a head scratcher.  By definition, if the police feel they or others are in danger it becomes a criminal investigation.  So why the need for redudant terminology?

But, I digress.

Twenty five years ago, police were taught things like ‘ground fighting’  –   what the average person would call ‘dirty fighting’ – and a variety of chokeholds to control agressive suspects.  The Marquis of Queensbury Rules don’t apply in a street fight. Equally, a policeman’s life expectancy is direcly related to his or her ability to finish a fight.  The scumbags start them, but a cop has to finish them.

In those days we used flashlights (3 cell Maglites or Kelites) as weapons.  We also used batons.  And we choked people to control violent behaviour.  When a cop choked a non-compliant suspect unconscious, it was called “making them do the chicken” – which referred to the flopping the suspect did when rendered unconscious.

    And sometimes, when engaged in a ‘knock ’em down, drag ’em out’ fight, stuff happened, people got hurt and occasionally died.  Because that is the nature of a violent struggle.  Stuff happens.  

      Well, imagine what might have occurred to Robert Dziekanski had the RCMP engaged him with batons, flashlights and chokeholds.  My bet is that he would have died in that circumstance as well. 

        Dziekanski was an alcoholic in withdrawal.  He was also a 3 pack a day nicotine addict who was exactly about 15-20 hours into nicotine withdrawal when he landed at YVR. Let’s assume he was a little agitated when he arrived in the Customs Hall at YVR some 12 hours before the RCMP would have their 30 second interaction with him.

        The problem with all of this is that an instrument like the Taser has caused police to default to it to avoid the unpleasantness that is a fight to subdue a violent or resistant suspect.  And, I would argue that the default position was created because the squeamish hand-wringers felt it was unfair when the police went ‘hands on.’ So, the situation created by the hand-wringers is now causing those self-same weasels angst.

          And now Braidwood, with the Alberta government in lock-step, has brought into effect guidelines that dictate to police when they can and cannot deploy a CEW. 

            In Edmonton this past spring, police attended an apartment on a disturbance call.  Routine – a dime a dozen call as it were.  Officers on arrival were met by a distraught female armed with a large knife.  A CEW was deployed and the woman was taken into custody.  Nobody died that night.  The Taser was the difference between a nine millimeter bullet and life for the woman.  That story, though relaeased by the Edmonton Police Service media relations folks, didn’t get any traction with the media.  

            So, what of the new regulations?  Well, on the surface of things they are little different than the guidelines brought out by the RCMP last February.  Police are to use a CEW only when and if they or someone else is in fear of bodily harm.  It is no longer to be used as a ‘compliance device.’  

              Fair enough. But I don’t want to hear the complaints when the hand-wringers come across a police officer with a chokehold on a perp that  makes him do the chicken.  Or the inevitable whingeing about four officers struggling on the sidewalk to control one hopped-up methhead.  Yet, that is what will happen, I guarantee it.  And, I will also guarantee that someone will die as a result of the hand to hand fighting that will be the inevitable result of the restrictions on Taser use. 

              The hand-wringers want but can’t have it both ways.

              Leo Knight


                Written by Leo Knight

                August 5, 2009 at 4:55 am

                Posted in 1

                Tax grab offends

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                The theological place of eternal punishment must surely be nearing a temperature below 0 degrees Celsius for I find myself in agreement with BC NDP leader Carole James on the subject of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).

                On July 23 the Liberal government of Gordon Campbell announced they would bring in the HST next year.  There was no mention of this during the recent election and the minister responsible, Colin Hansen, has been all over the media denying that it was on their radar during the campaign.  Anyone who understands the glacial-like speed at which governments work will viscerally understand that the minister is being economical with the truth.

                Try as I might, I am trying to find something in what Hansen has been saying that rings true. Hansen’s spinmeisters are having difficulty selling what is nothing more than a tax grab by the very government who used to claim that tax hikes were anathema.

                Any simple look at the HST will reveal that things that used to be tax free such as children’s clothes and restaurant meals will cost 7% more with the HST.  The minister says, and with a straight face I might add, that the HST will be “revenue neutral” and he repeats it as though a mantra.  Well, it won’t be anything of the sort.  The average household will pay $1,000 to $3,000 more in tax a year and the government coffers will grow by $1.2 billion in that same year.

                The spin also suggests that this will save business over a billion dollars a year in efficiencies because they will no longer have to file dual returns.  Yeah right.  The governments, at all levels, impose so much red tape and paperwork on business that it would take a lot more than the HST to cause any sort of meaningful savings to business that can be quantified in the billions.

                However the government of Gordon Campbell tries to spin this, it is a tax grab.  Worse, it is a tax grab that was obviously planned before the election campaign that was not put on the table in front of voters. And that is offensive.

                Leo Knight


                Written by Leo Knight

                August 4, 2009 at 3:10 pm

                Location Change

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                In order to keep up with traffic, I have moved from Blogspot to WordPress.
                The move will allow much more ability to evolve from a post and rudimentary comment page to a more integrated and interactive blog.  I hope to integrate poll questions and twitter updates as we move forward.

                Thank you for stopping by and for all the support in the past and I hope you like the new look.

                Leo Knight


                Written by Leo Knight

                August 3, 2009 at 6:45 pm

                Posted in Crime & Punishment