Mike on Crime
with Mike McIntyre
- HERE)Two home invaders quickly find themselves overmatched by their intended victims. One of the intruders is killed on the spot. Another suffers life threatening stab wounds and is currently in hospital.The occupants of the home - who had been sleeping prior to the attack - escaped with minor injuries.And now police say they may lay a murder charge against the victim who fought back with deadly force.Let the howls of national protest begin."Good for him!" many are no doubt saying. "He had every right to defend his property."If we were in the United States, this issue likely wouldn't even be debated. There seems to a much different standard down south in terms of how much force a victim is allowed to use to defend themselves. (As in, as much as a victim feels is necessary)This Alberta man would likely get a pat on the back and nothing more from U.S. authorities.It's not so simple in Canada. Although a person is allowed to use self-defence, it is limited to being on a fairly even level with the threat they are facing.Of course, that may be easier said than done. A person who bursts into your home in the middle of the night could have all sorts of weapons, even if none are readily visible.It wouldn't be reasonable to expect the victim to calmly analyze the situation and then make a clear-headed choice about what, if any, weapon he or she could use in response. (Ex. - I'll see your switchblade and raise you a steak knife)It's going to be very interesting to watch how police and justice officials in Alberta handle this case. No doubt there are many facts we still don't know which could impact which way this goes.But I suspect there are many people across Canada - from curious members of the legal community to outraged citizens fed up with crime - who have very strong feels right now about what should happen.Got a thought. Post it below.
- HERE)Police say they likely triggered the avalanche, which swept them both over a cliff. And officials say they're tired of seeing careless people causing these types of senseless tragedies.They believe the only logical step now is to start arresting the scofflaws.I'm not sure it will be any kind of deterrent. After all, if the risk of a sudden, violent death isn't enough to scare a brainless thrill-seeker away, will the possibility of getting arrested do the trick?But I don't blame officials, who likely have every ground in law to proceed with charges.It's not unusual to see a motorist - perhaps impaired by alcohol or distracted by other factors - charged even if involved in a single-vehicle where nobody is injured.And if drivers are expected to comply with stop signs and traffic lights, why shouldn't skiers and snowboarders do the same with warning signs?There are other factors here too. These men, by deliberatley placing themselves in a dangerous situation, also put the lives of emergency responders at risk.Sure it's their job to to come to the rescue. But that doesn't mean we should give the cause of the accident a free pass.I'm not saying the survivor here should be blamed for his friend's death. That would be going too far, in my opinion. Unless there is evidence the other man was dragged into the area against his will, no such charge (such as criminal negligence causing death) should be laid.But this is about personal responsibility and accountability. If the man's actions were negligent in law, than so be it. Charge him. Set the precedent. And make sure there is consistency from this point forward.He doesn't need to go to jail. But perhaps a criminal conviction on his record - which at least might hinder his future travel to other popular ski destinations outside Canada - might be able to do what those avalanche warning signs clearly can not and put a stop to this kind of risky behaviour.Agree? Disagree? Post your thoughts below.
- HERE.***** THE YULETIDE BANDIT: A SEVEN-YEAR SEARCH FOR A SERIAL CRIMINAL (2004)Winnipeg police dubbed Michael Syrnyk "The Yuletide Bandit" following a series of dramatic, daylight Christmastime robberies in 1998, 1999 and 2000 that left citizens fearing for their safety and police searching for an apparent psychopath. One of Syrnyk's most notorious shoot-outs occurred during a December 2000 robbery outside Polo Park Shopping Centre, Winnipeg's busiest mall. Dozens of Christmas shoppers - including senior citizens - dove for cover as bullets flew and glass shattered.THE YULETIDE BANDIT chronicles Syrnyk's crime spree across western Canada to his eventual capture in a brothel in Winnipeg's red light district. The story includes jailhouse interviews with Syrnyk and extensive details from victims and witnesses of his many crimes.Film rights have been sold and a screenplay is currently in development.You can also find the book online by clicking HERE.***** NOWHERE TO RUN: THE KILLING OF CONST. DENNIS STRONGQUILL (2003)Dennis Strongquill was an Aboriginal RCMP officer who had spent his life protecting society, but he was helpless to fend off three ruthless killers who ambushed him on a dark Prairie highway just days before Christmas.Robert and Danny Sand were two young brothers who had grown to hate authority. Laurie Bell was a struggling junkie with a fatal attraction to Robert Sand. Together, the trio embarked on a ruthless cross-country crime spree, leaving behind a trail of victims in their violent wake.In NOWHERE TO RUN, readers are taken to the scene of the chilling crime, into the hearts of the victim’s family and into the minds of the perpetrators, capturing every twist and turn of the case from the cold-blooded murder to the sensational trial.The book quickly became a national bestseller upon its release, was nominated for an Arthur Ellis crimewriting award and is currently in its third printing.Film rights have been sold to an Alberta company and a screenplay is currently in development.You can also find the book online by clicking HERE.Thanks again for the continued support and Happy Holidays!
- HERE)There are two main reasons for this policy "boycott", as I understand. Included are my own thoughts on these points.*****POINT 1 - A person is innocent until proven guilty and naming them after simply being charged - but not convicted - could compromise that.Here's where this one breaks down with me.Media outlets name accused persons every day in this city. Murder suspects, armed robbery, assaults, auto thefts - we see their names in the papers and on television all the time. And yet we don't usually hear people suggesting we've stamped them as "Guilty" without first having a fair hearing.So why should the offence of drunk driving be any different? Especially if you buy the argument that every drunk driver on the road is a potential killer, and it's often only dumb luck that prevents a tragedy.Actually, I'll take that a step further. The crime of impaired driving is one of those rare "black and white" offences that you could argue a person is pretty much guilty upon arrest. I mean, you either are or you aren't. Especially when a person refuses a breathalyzer, as so many people seem to do these days. That's a slam dunk - save for some defence lawyer finding a legal loophole to squeeze you through.So the chance of a wrongful arrest for drunk driving is virtually nil, especially compared to every other type of crime.The exception on naming accused criminals - at least where I work - is when a person is charged with sex-related offences including child pornography and rape.The main reason is the fact there is an increased stigma with being branded a molester or pedophile which is difficult, if not impossible, to erase should a person ultimately be found not guilty.The other has to do with the fact sex assault would have one of the highest rates of collapses cases, due to a combination of people being falsely accused, the usual he-said/she-said case and would-be victims and witnesses changing their stories or refusing to testify.Certainly there's a stigma attached with every crime. But with drunk driving, that's exactly what police WANT to accomplish here.Since nothing else seems to be working - increased enforcement, a non-stop educational campaign - why not try and scare people sober? Works for me.Here's one final example of why refusing to publish the names of suspected drunk drivers troubles me.Let's say Joe Smith is driving home from an office party, having had a few too many to drink. He doesn't notice the light has turned red, blows through it and smashes into an unsuspecting motorist, seriously injuring them. Or maybe even killing them.No media outlet in this city, including mine, would hesitate for a second to publish Joe Smith's name. We do it all the time. "Police have charged Joe Smith with impaired driving causing bodily harm/death" the story would read. And nothing would be said about it.So why should Joe Smith be protected from being identified if running that red light results in him just missing hitting that innocent motorist?Let me put it to you another way.If a man fires a bullet towards a crowd of people and misses, would the media name him? Of course. So why not a drunk driver, who is behind the wheel of a weapon that can be every bit as lethal?*****POINT 2 - Media outlets are not likely to follow all the people they would be naming through the court system, meaning their guilt - or perhaps eventual innocence - would never be reported on.This one gives me greater pause. And there is certainly some validity to the argument.As I mentioned above, the success rate for convictions on people charged with impaired driving would be extremely high - perhaps more than any other crime out there.But that doesn't mean some people won't beat the charge.Maybe it turns out Joe Smith was actually having a seizure/reaction to medication/other health issue and really wasn't drunk after all. But that doesn't come out until trial, when doctors can be brought forward to testify on his behalf and other medical evidence presented.The reality is, there's no way the media will be able to follow-up on every person who is charged. There's just too much other stuff going on. So how do we get around the fact we might be naming someone who eventually turns out to be not guilty - and thus damaging their reputation in the process?The only answer I have for that is that we are already doing it. Speaking from nearly a decade of covering courts, I can tell you with complete honesty there's no way I cover the outcome of every person who is charged.The big ones, yes. Rarely would we miss a murder case. But the rest is a virtual crapshoot and has as much to do with what else is on our plate on a given day and how many other cases we're covering.In a perfect world, reporters would track every single arrest that appears in the paper/on tv or radio and then follow it through to the finish. But that's not the reality.So what to do? Perhaps Winnipeg police, as part of this campaign, would be able to monitor these cases and then update the media on the results. It wouldn't be a stretch, since police would be playing a key role anyways as the arresting officers would know exactly what is happening.Or, maybe this campaign should be modified and police agree to provide the names of every CONVICTED drunk driver?Yes, you'd lose the immediacy. But everyone would know their name is eventually going to come out if guilty. And that would still be a very strong deterrent.*****I've told you a bit about what I think. Now I want to hear from you.It's clear the public is divided on this one. Thursday's daily Free Press poll asked whether police should be releasing the names of people charged. Of the 2,712 voters, 54 per cent said "No".What's really interesting to me is the fact the vast majority of drunk drivers are usually law-abiding citizens who made a very stupid error in judgment.You know that Bob from your office likely isn't going to go hold up a bank this evening - but he certainly might get behind the wheel after having a few too many.Maybe that's why this issue is so troubling to some, as I doubt we'd see the same results if the question was "Should Winnipeg police release the names of drug-addicted thugs who steal your car and rob your neighbourhood gas station?"Agree or disagree on the policy of releasing names? And what should media outlets be doing with them? Let's get a discussion going by posting your thoughts below.One final thing - please don't drink and drive.www.mikeoncrime.com
- HERE.The newest video, just posted this week, involves the August 2007 killing of 17-year-old Fonassa Bruyere. The teen was found dead in a bushy area in the northwest corner of Winnipeg. She was last seen Aug. 8 in the North End and her family reported her missing Aug. 11. Police have said she was involved is street sex trade.Other homicide videos are coming soon.As well, Crime Stoppers is doubling up its cash awards to a maximum of $4,000 for tips that leads to arrests. This special offer runs until Jan. 31.Tips and information can now be provided to Winnipeg Crime Stoppers at 786-TIPS, or online by clicking HERE.Winnipeg Crime Stoppers has helped solve 21 homicides since its inception in 1984, and is internationally recognized for efficiency and results. Over $82 million has been recovered in value of crimes solved.
- HERE.The question is, will you?Here's what Winnipeg Free Press editor Margo Goodhand had to say in her daily news bulletin about the difficult choice facing people:"Those who choose to watch it will likely defend their choice because of the variables involved: Was the man clearly endangering the officers who wielded the weapon? Was it justifiable force? Those who refuse to watch the man's dying moments will choose to do so on their own ethical and moral grounds. But in the age of YouTube, control over images like these continues to shift from news corporations to the individual. You decide."I'm curious to know what you plan to do? And, if you watched it, what your conclusions are? Were police justified in tasering the man? Or was this over the line?Post your thoughts below.
- HERE to read - a 14-year-old girl took her own life early Tuesday morning.The suicide happened just hours before the girl's mother was set to appear in court on a second-degree murder charge for the stabbing death of the girl's father.The slaying happened in a northern Aboriginal community two years ago. The suspect's lawyer tells me her client has been living with her daughter ever since while out on bail.In fact, the teen has even attended some of her mother's court appearances in an apparent show of support.Now, I don't profess to know the intimate details of this killing or what the woman's potential defence(s) may be.But what I do know is that allowing a young girl to continue living in the home environment with the parent accused of killing the other parent isn't exactly a recipe for a stable environment.Did this play into the fact the girl tragically killed herself this week? Who knows. But it certainly doesn't look good.My colleagues at the Free Press, Lindor Reynolds and Mia Rabson, did an extremely thorough job recently exposing the many flaws which exist in Child and Family Services.There seems to be a particular problem in the area of native CFS, where a "keep the family unit together at all costs" mentality clearly exists in many cases that have ended in tragedy.Looks like we've now got another one to add to the list.What are your thoughts?Are you angry this teen girl wasn't put into foster care while her mother was awaiting trial?Or do you think keeping them together in the wake of an obvious family tragedy - albeit one allegedly caused by the mother - was the best of a bad situation?
- HERE)The majority of radio callers had no pity for the senior and said he deserves to be severely punished, despite his current condition. One very emotional man called in, identified himself as a victim of childhood sex abuse and told listeners about his daily struggles in the many years which have passed.If the call was yours, what would his sentence be? And why?CASE #2 - THE 10-YEAR-OLD WILDFIRE ARSONIST It may be one of the most costliest cases of playing with matches we've ever seen.Authorities in California say a 10-year-old boy is responsible for one of the major wildfires which recently ripped through 155 square kilometres of land and destroyed 21 houses in the process. The kid - described by those who know him as a quiet, polite boy - apparently started a small blaze outside his mobile home. Dry, hot conditions combined with a strong wind quickly turned his work into a massive, out-of-control inferno.Now a debate is raging - should prosecutors charge him with a crime? (Read story HERE)We couldn't have this debate in Canada, as the boy is too young to face sanctions under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. But it's a different story down south.Some legal experts say they could never prove such a young child could be aware of the consequences of his actions - something they'd need to do to make an arson and/or negligence charge stick.Callers to the radio show were somewhat divided on this one, although more seemed to side with the child and said he shouldn't suffer legal hardship for what amounts to a tragic mistake. Others weren't so forgiving, saying the boy must have known what he was doing and should be hauled into court. Some suggested his parents should as well, and they should be forced to foot the multi-million dollar damage bill.Imagine you're the prosecutor here - would you charge the kid? And why (or why not)?I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts.
- HERE)So what exactly does the man who should be trying to terminate drugs of all kinds in his crime-riddled state think pot is exactly? "A leaf."Schwarzenegger goes on to have a total recall of his past and admits he used marijuana in the 1970s but denies ever taking drugs."My drug was pumping iron, trust me," says the one-time kindergarten cop.Sounds to me like Schwarzengger is clearly telling some true lies here. Agree with Arnie? Or do you think he's just blowing smoke? Post your thoughts below and click HERE to vote in my latest website jury poll.
- Quebec mother sentenced for whipping daughter, burning her with iron-Calgary father who molested three-week-old baby jailed 10 1/2 years-New Brunswick woman convicted in death of two-year-old daughter-Quebec woman to appeal 30-month prison sentence for injuring baby in her care-Restraint may have been used on toddler for two years before she died, inquest hears-Toronto father charged in eight-year-old daughter's death-Florida mother acquitted of child abuse in daughter's genital piercing-North Carolina mom put baby's body in attic, police sayThat's a staggering eight major stories in one week. Got a thought on how to better protect children from their own parents? Share it below.
- HERE and follow the link)Harvey-Zenk, of course, avoided a jail term this week which has triggered a wave of public anger that has led to Manitoba Justice Minister Dave Chomiak ordering a public inquiry.Wyant — in handing down a conditional sentence Monday — said this case is the “perfect storm” for public cynicism and scrutiny.From the botched police investigation into the February 2005 crash that killed Crystal Taman, to the plea bargain which saw all alcohol-related charges dropped, it has been a mess from the start.Wyant surprised many legal observers when he candidly spoke in court about what the public “really believes” happened in this case.Now that you can read exactly what Wyant said and how he arrived at his decision, I'd be curious to know if your views on this case have changed at all.Have a read of it, and then post your thoughts below.Justice officials certainly won't be able to rely on the familiar refrain of "if only the public were better informed" to try and defend this debacle.
- HERE to read), Wyant had agreed to allow a live audio broadcast of next week's high-profile decision surrounding a former Winnipeg police officer involved in a deadly crash.Local talk-radio station CJOB had made the initial request, and Wyant decided that this would be the case to break some new ground. He would allow a "pool" microphone to send a feed from his courtroom across the airwaves.This would mean that anybody who wants to could listen to every single word of a decision that is sure to be extremely controversial.To recap, Derek Harvey-Zenk killed a mother of three after slamming into her stopped vehicle following a night of partying with his police colleagues after their shift had ended. There was definitely drinking involved, and Harvey-Zenk refused a breathalyser demand.However, massive problems with the investigation by the much-maligned East St. Paul police service - including how and when the breath demand was made - apparently forced the Crown to drop all alcohol-related charges.Submissions were made on the case several weeks ago, with both Crown and defence lawyers making a joint-recommendation for a conditional sentence that would spare Harvey-Zenk a jail term.The family of victim Crystal Taman howled in protest. The public responded in anger, flooding local talk shows and penning letters to the editor. And Wyant was clearly uncomfortable with the proposal, even requested lawyers to return to court last month to answer additional questions and make further submissions.Even then, Wyant was obviously still unhappy with the lack of information coming his way.So now, as he prepares to deliver his decision on Monday, Wyant made the decision to give the public as much information as possible.That doesn't mean he still won't be second-guessed. But at least the public would be fully informed of his exact reasons behind the decision - straight from the proverbial horse's mouth.So what's the problem with that?In my view, absolutely nothing. Judges routinely complain that the public doesn't fully understand or appreciate what they are dealing with as they try to craft the elusive "perfect" sentence.As a member of the media, I agree they have a point. Short of running a verbatim transcript of their decision in the newspaper - which space would never allow for - we are tasked with trying to sum up their reasons for judgment in a concise, accurate story that also represents the views of other parties with a stake. That means reactions from the victims, their families and even Crown and defence lawyers whenever possible.So this was their chance to make their voices heard. There would be absolutely no editing involved. It would go straight from Wyant's mouth into the ears of anyone who wanted to listen.So why did judges get so upset at this concept that they had a letter sent to Wyant expressing concerns, which indirectly came across as questioning his leadership?I certainly don't have the answers. I suspect Wyant doesn't either. Sources tell me he's as surprised at the backlash as anybody.One source said it best - "You can't suck and blow at the same time". But that's exactly what the judges who oppose this are doing.They're complaing you the public aren't nearly as informed as you need to be. And then they're standing in the way of allowing you to be better informed.This makes even less sense considering courts are public places that everyone is allowed to attend - and listen directly to a judge's decision if they wish.Of course, reality tells us the vast majority of people aren't able to take time out of their busy days to physically come to the downtown Law Courts. But giving them another medium to listen - such as on the radio of even through streaming audio on the Internet (which is a tool the Free Press would likely utilize in such a case) - is a brilliant way to bring the courtroom to the masses.Fortunately, Wyant isn't giving up. He's going to press ahead, hold a meeting with all judges and apparently table a policy that would give individual judges the discretion to choose whether to allow for broadcasts of their decisions.We know where Wyant will stand on that issue the next time a high-profile case comes before him.Let's hope other Manitoba judges follow his lead, realize this is a win-win for everybody and put away their criticism in exchange for some common sense.What do you think about this issue? Post your thoughts below, and make sure to take a second to vote on my website Jury Poll question by clicking HERE.I can tell you this - some judges may not want you to hear them. But they are definitely reading this and will hear you!
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.
Blogs that Mike McIntyre follows:
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