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This article was published 20/1/2019 (1221 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The former police chief accused, but later acquitted, of intentionally botching the high-profile investigation of the car crash that took the life of Crystal Taman has died.
Harry Bakema, 66, died on Jan. 17 at the Seven Oaks General Hospital.
Veteran defence counsel Hymie Weinstein was Bakema’s lawyer at both the public inquiry, which looked into the circumstances around the collision, and the investigation.
Weinstein said he still remembers how shocked he was when the inquiry concluded and Bakema, the former East St. Paul police chief, was charged with breach of trust, obstructing justice and perjury.
"I was really at a loss of figuring out what the justification was," the lawyer said on Sunday. "It boggled my mind why they even charged him.
"But two things stood out for me in that case. After the evidence was completed and we had given our final arguments, it took 18 months until the verdict. It was cruel to Harry.
"You could see the effect it had on his health. He did not look the same as he had previously... it took a toll on him."
Weinstein said the other was seeing the number of supporters Bakema had in the courtroom the day his acquittal was announced.
"There were so many people we had to get permission for them to stand at the back and by the walls," he said. "It was so gratifying to see the support.
"I will never forget that trial and I will never forget Harry Bakema."
Crystal Taman, 40, a married mother of three, was killed when her car was rear-ended by off duty Winnipeg police officer Derek Harvey-Zenk in 2005. Harvey-Zenk was heading home after a night of drinking with other Winnipeg police officers.
Harvey-Zenk later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of dangerous driving causing death and was handed a conditional sentence.
One of the reasons why alcohol-related charges were dropped against Harvey-Zenk was because East St. Paul police didn’t properly document signs he was impaired. That failure led to the eventual disbanding of the East St. Paul police service, an inquiry and criminal charges against Bakema.
But provincial court Judge Kelly Moar later said that while ultimately Bakema was responsible for the botched investigation, what he failed to do was not criminal in nature.
At the time, Taman’s husband, Robert, called the verdict "two steps back for justice," but when contacted on Sunday, he would only say, "My condolences to the family."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.