The lawyer for a man wrongly accused of homicide says a public inquiry is needed to find out why his client was falsely accused and what steps are necessary to prevent a similar injustice from occurring.
Winnipeg defence lawyer Martin Glazer is demanding the inquiry after his client, Robert Maier, was cleared of manslaughter last week after spending nearly eight months in custody accused of killing a fellow tenant in a Balmoral Street rooming house.
Glazer has formally requested that Manitoba Justice Minister Andrew Swan call a public inquiry into Maier's case and the serious concerns about the administration of justice he says it raises.
He notified Swan of the request via a three-page letter faxed to the minister's office Tuesday.
Maier, 38, admitted assaulting Ronald McKinnon, 54, hours before McKinnon was found dead in his own suite on Feb. 26. Maier was arrested and detained.
After waiting many months for toxicology test results, a pathologist found McKinnon died by overdosing on alcohol and prescription pills.
The Free Press obtained Glazer's letter to Swan. It outlines 10 central questions the lawyer believes a public inquiry should answer.
Among the most pressing: How could Winnipeg police arrest and charge Maier with a homicide before they knew a homicide occurred? Why did the Crown authorize a charge when McKinnon's cause of death wasn't certain? And where did police get the information that an autopsy revealed McKinnon died of injuries from Maier's assault?
That was what police said in a March 1 press release announcing Maier's arrest for manslaughter. Clearly, this wasn't accurate.
"The public deserves answers," Glazer said in an interview Tuesday. "Members of the public need protection from false accusations and wrongful arrests. The police are supposed to serve and protect the public. In this case, a member of the public was not protected, namely Mr. Maier.
"If police don't answer questions, how can they be held accountable?," he wondered.
Police told the Free Press last week investigators presented the information they had at the time to the Crown, and a charge of manslaughter was authorized.
Police refused to comment on any findings made or information provided by the medical examiner's office, but agreed it was possible investigators had been given a preliminary opinion to work with.
Court was told police initially believed McKinnon died from blood loss from a laceration to his cheek, an explanation Glazer has described as sounding "speculative and improbable."
Glazer also wonders why the homicide charge Maier faced wasn't immediately stayed after a March 5 autopsy report's "cover page" stated "the cause of death was pending toxicology investigation."
Answers are also needed, the lawyer said, on why it took so long to get results from medical officials, and whether pathologists are "under pressure" from police to provide causes of death before it's appropriate to do so.
"Is there a systemic problem in the province of Manitoba with respect to obtaining toxicology testing and results on a timely basis, and if so, how can that problem be resolved?," Glazer asks in his letter to Swan.
Court was told the complexity of the testing, combined with issues relating to the location of an RCMP laboratory, led to the delay in toxicology results.
A spokeswoman for Swan said his office received Glazer's request and would review it.