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Manitoba justice fails a victim's family

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581-tamanfamily[1].JPG Manitoba justice officials owe the grieving family of Crystal Taman an immediate explanation.Several troubling questions must be answered surrounding the handling of her tragic case and this week's emotional and very controversial sentencing hearing in Winnipeg. (Read story HERE)"We're being kept in the dark here," Crystal's husband, Robert Taman, told me Wednesday outside court.That is absolutely pathetic, especially for a province that claims to care so strongly about the interests of victims.*Why were drunk driving charges dropped against Derek Harvey-Zenk, the former Winnipeg police officer who smashed into Taman's car and killed her in February 2005? There seems to be no question that Harvey-Zenk refused police demands for a breathalyzer. So then why was he given a free pass on that charge?*What exactly did the East St. Paul police do - or not do - that resulted in the Crown apparently having no choice but to drop the drunk driving charges? It's clear that something happened. But nobody is saying a word. And given the recent controversies surrounding the East St. Paul detachment, a full explanation must be given and fast.*Why did private lawyer Marty Minuk - who was hired as special Crown prosecutor in this case to avoid any perceptions of a conflict of interest - agree to recommend a conditional sentence for Harvey-Zenk? There are many documented cases where the Crown has sought jail against a driver in a similar situation. Why not this time?*Why did this case drag through the courts for 30 months before anything happened? This was ridiculous, even for the normally slow-moving wheels of justice. They never even got to the stage of having a preliminary hearing, or setting trial dates.*Why did Minuk order an "independent investigation" of the original police probe into Taman's death? And what, if anything, did they find? Minuk made reference to this during Wednesday's sentencing but gave no other details, which only raised more troubling questions.The final question - should Harvey-Zenk go to jail for killing Taman? - will be answered in a couple weeks.Provincial court Chief Judge Ray Wyant clearly has a difficult task ahead of him. It's clear he's considering jumping the deal, but he's also aware the Manitoba Court of Appeal usually ends up having something to say when judges don't go along with the joint-recommendation of experienced lawyers.Richard Wolson, the lawyer representing Harvey-Zenk, made a not-so-subtle comment to Wyant on this very subject when he pointed out that he and Minuk "have a combined 65 years experience."The underlying message in that statement - be very careful about second guessing what we're doing here.Yet the public - and especially Taman's family - have every right to question what is happening in this case.So what do you think? Are you satisfied with the way this case is being handled? Should Harvey-Zenk - a clearly remorseful individual with no prior criminal record - be thrown in jail?Post your thoughts below.As well, I strongly encourage you to take a few minutes to read the very powerful victim impact statements from Taman's husband and three children.We've obtained full transcripts at the Free Press and posted them online, which you can read by clicking HERE. Make sure you have a box of Kleenex nearby.You can also click HERE to see some video of Robert Taman speaking outside of court on Wednesday.Let's get the discussion on this case going - a lot of powerful people in the justice system are reading this blog so your voice will be heard.www.mikeoncrime.com

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About Mike McIntyre

Journalist, national radio show host, author, pundit and cruise director ... Mike McIntyre loves to keep busy.

Mike is the justice reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, where he has worked since 1997. He produces and hosts the weekly talk radio show Crime and Punishment, which runs on the Corus Radio Network in several Canadian cities.

Born and bred in Winnipeg, Mike graduated from River East Collegiate and completed his journalism studies in the Creative Communications program at Red River College.

He and his wife, Chassity, have two children.

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