December 10, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Jurors are now deciding the fate of two city police officers accused of shooting an unarmed man and then trying to cover it up.
Chief Justice Glenn Joyal finished his instructions to the jury shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday.
In a charge that lasted more than three hours, Joyal's instructions could be boiled down to this:
"Keep an open mind, but not an empty head," Joyal said shortly before the jury departed.
Selly and Overwater have pleaded not guilty to a number of charges in connection to a high-speed police chase that began in the small hours of July 16, 2007 and ended minutes later on Lindsay Street near Grant Avenue when Selley shot Fournier in the left cheek of his buttocks.
Selley, 40, is charged with attempted murder, fabricating evidence, aiding and abetting dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, discharging a firearm with intent to wound, aggravated assault with a weapon, careless use of a weapon and criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
Overwater, 32, is charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, fabricating evidence, aiding and abetting discharge of a firearm with intent to wound and aiding and abetting aggravated assault with a weapon.
At the time of their arrests they were both six-year members of the force.
Jurors have heard two markedly different versions of what happened that night during closing arguments Tuesday.
Special prosecutor Robert Tapper portrayed the two officers as renegade cops hell-bent on meting out some street justice to Fournier, a known crack cocaine dealer who had led them on a dangerous high-speed police chase south across the northbound span of the Maryland Bridge and into River Heights.
Tapper said the crux of the case is that jurors must hold the two officers accountable for their actions.
"We do not allow vigilante justice in Canada, especially [for] those in a police uniform," Tapper told the six-woman, six-man jury.
"The law does not permit the police to execute the bad guy."
Tapper also said the two cooked up a story of Fournier wrestling Overwater’s gun away during a brief struggle in the darkened back lane and then pointing it at Selley seconds later.
Selley claims he fired four shots a Fournier, the last one hitting him in his backside when he stopped to aim Overwater’s gun at him.
Overwater claims Fournier yanked his gun away from him and took off into the darkness.
Afraid for Selley’s life, he yelled out, "Sel, he’s got my gun. He’s got my gun. Shoot him. Shoot him."
Tapper told jurors that never happened -- he said Selley shot at an unarmed Fournier after Fournier heard someone behind him yell, "Shoot him, f------ shoot him," during a foot chase.
The two officers are then accused of placing Overwater’s Glock .40-calibre handgun near the wounded man to make it look like the shooting was justified.
Tapper also said the expended shell casings, ejected from Selley's handgun as he fired, were found over a distance of 52 feet, indicating Selley fired at Fournier's back as he ran away.
Defence lawyers Richard Wolson and Hymie Weinstein told jurors the Crown’s case and Fournier’s allegations are not believable.
Each told the jury Fournier is a habitual liar whose word could not be trusted.
They argued their clients should be acquitted.
Fournier has admitted to driving a stolen GMC Yukon SUV he bought for $200 from a young car thief and that he was high on crystal methamphetamine and marijuana.
Selley and Overwater have sat throughout the trial, outside the prisoner's box behind their lawyers, mostly expressionless.
Neither man testified.
Both were placed on administrative leave from the police force after they were charged in 2009.
They were arrested following an extensive internal investigation by the professional standards unit and consultation with Manitoba Justice officials and a private legal counsel.
At the time of their arrests, it was reported Fournier and at least one of the officers apparently knew each other from an incident days before the shooting in which police tried to pull him over but he sped away and escaped.
According to a police report of the incident, the two officers had split up while chasing Fournier in River Heights when one of them slipped and injured his ankle. Fournier had briefly disappeared, only to "spring out of the bushes" and try to wrestle the downed officer's gun away.
Police charged Fournier with several offences -- including assaulting a police officer and attempting to disarm -- which were later dropped.
Fournier later pleaded guilty to having a quantity of cocaine and ecstasy on him that night.