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Monday, July 05, 2010

"You can't break the law to enforce the law."

But in 2003 some members of Peel Regional Police (serving Mississauga, Caledon and Brampton Ontario), decided to do exactly that, break the law to enforce it:

On arrival at the Peel police station, the officers shoved and punched Tran. They then put him in a locked interview room and again demanded a statement. Tran remained silent. One officer punched Tran in the ribs and the jaw. Tran bled profusely from the mouth but still would not talk. In fact, he might have had trouble talking had he wanted to — his jaw had been broken in two places.

The officers tried to conceal their assault. They cleaned up the blood in the interview room. They placed Tran in front of a video camera and attempted (unsuccessfully) to get him to say that he had hit his chin on the table.

These are not allegations against the Peel Police, these are the findings of both a trial judge and a panel of appellate justices. Nor did the suspect, Quang Hoang Tran, behave violently toward the police or resist arrest, he instead surrendered peacefully. When a confession was demanded of Tran by the officers, he refused and invoked his right to silence. The police responded to his invocation of a basic constitutional right by pummelling him repeatedly. 

Tran was accused of participating in a series of brutal home invasions in Mississauga, during the spring of 2002. He was convicted of conspiracy to commit robbery and sentenced to 28 months, reduced to 14 months by the trial judge in light of his mistreatment. Last week the Ontario Court of Appeal stayed the charges against Tran, in effect squashing the original conviction. 

Referring to Tran's mistreatment by the police, the justices ruled:

It is essential for the court to distance itself from this kind of state misconduct — an unwarranted, grave assault causing bodily harm, delayed medical attention, a cover up that included perjury, a prosecutorial response that affected the perception of trial fairness and no effective response. Not to do so would be to leave the impression that it tacitly approves of it.

In other words, to have allowed Tran's conviction to stand would be tacitly consenting to the police misbehaviour. This leaves the victims of Tran's crimes with little consolation. A guilty man now walks free. But who are to blame for this injustice? The police or the judges? 

It would seem a simple matter to distinguish between the actions of the police and Tran, applying the full force of the law against both equally. Allow Tran's conviction to stand, and press charges against the officers involved for their assault. The officers in question, however, have not been charged. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which decided it had no grounds to charge the officers in 2003, has in the light of the recent ruling reopened its investigation. 

The apparent incompetence of the SIU does not materially alter the judges decision to stay Tran's conviction. Though the appeal judges expressed surprise at the SIU's inaction. The decision to stay a conviction is extremely rare, and typically made when basic constitutional safeguards are believed to be threatened. It is in this light that the Tran case needs to be seen, and to understand the essential wisdom of the Court of Appeals' decision.

In staying the conviction the Court upheld all Canadians basic civil liberties. The outcome of allowing a clearly guilty man to walk is extremely distasteful, to have allowed the conviction to stand would have comprised two basic principles of jurisprudence: the right to silence and equal rights of all Canadians. 

The right to silence is a procedural, it is based on the understanding that ordinary citizens, placed in the extraordinary situation of being interviewed by the police, can convict themselves by accident, regardless of their actual guilt. A word spoken in panic or desperation can easily be misconstrued, even by police officers, judges and juries with the best of intentions. The justice system is exactly that, a system devised by human being and staffed by human beings, it is a government bureaucracy whose function is the management of coercion by the government. 

These procedural safeguards are as vital as any of those more "glamours" rights - free speech, property, bearing of arms - enshrined in the constitutions of free nations. It is the procedural rights which guaranteed the fair enforcement of all rights. Equality before the law is akin to these procedural rights. If the police are able to assault suspects with impunity, they have placed themselves above the law. It is true that certain allowances must be accorded to officers in the conduct of their duties, being allowed to speed on public roadways being one of the more obvious examples, these allowances are, however, only of a very limited nature. These allowances extend only so far as it is absolutely necessary for police to conduct their duties. Beating suspects - not even convicted criminals - is obviously beyond the pale.

In making their ruling, the Court of Appeals helped send a powerful signal of deterrence to police officers across the province. The paramount fear in this case is not of bad officers abusing their power for personal gain. The officers gained nothing by the beatings inflicted. Given the evidence now available, it seems that the officers in question were morally outraged by the conduct of Tran and his fellow thugs. The description of these home invasions is harrowing, and Tran did worse than he was done by. 

It is only too easy to imagine the officers losing their patience with Tran. He was scum and they wanted him behind bars. I don't think there are many Canadians, and I include myself, who don't sympathize with what was probably going through the minds of those officers. At some primal level we do believe, or at least feel, in "an eye for an eye." Many officers enter the force with a high moral sense of their profession. They see themselves as a thin blue line against violence and fraud. They are solemnly charged with protecting the public against the worst of humanity. There is, however, the finest of lines between moral integrity and moral righteousness, between having a strong sense of right and wrong, and having that moral sense distort the facts before you. The tragedy of this is that, it seems, good officers behaved badly. This is a form of corruption, one far more dangerous than the ordinary corruption for simple personal gain, it is sometimes called "corruption by noble causes."

More harm has been done in human history by good people doing bad things, with the best of motives, than by the merely evil. A zealous officer might not care for his personal well-being or his career. Nailing a scumbag who tormented innocents might be worth the risk. An altruistic morality only compounds this, the officer might begin to see himself, or herself, as a martyr for justice. I will suffer, but justice will be done to the wicked. Such a zealotry blinds an officer to performing their duties professionally and objectively. 

A police officer blinded in such a way is far more dangerous than any criminal. His uniform, his legal authority and the organization he represents render him far more dangerous, for with his special status he can inflict far more harm than a simple criminal. The Court of Appeal has made it clear that those officers tempted to bend, or break, the law to obtain a conviction - however richly deserved - will fail. Tran's defense attorney explained it perfectly: "You can't break the law to enforce the law."

Many of those who feel outrage at Tran's walk from justice will, unfortunately, direct their anger at the Court of Appeal. It is misplaced. The Court discharged their duties well in a difficult case. It was these few officers who failed in their duty. By mistreating Tran they as surely failed the public, and Tran's victims, as if they had not properly followed leads, mislaid evidence or allowed Tran to escape their custody. They were, quite simply, incompetent. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on July 5, 2010 | Permalink

Comments

To answer your question on "who are to blame", it's the police, of course. About 99% of the cases that are thrown out are the result of police incompetence. Their associations get on talk radio, and lament about the revolving door of the justice system, and lobby for more money, but the blame lies mostly with lazy cops.

Maybe crown proscecuters need to form an association, and have a spokesperson doing the talk show circuit. They could lobby for more funding, start a phone solicitation drive for donations, and even have a telethon. They could use the proceeds to hire their own investigating staff, and not have to rely on a bunch of steroid chewing union workers to build strong criminal cases for them.

As much as I'd like to see Tran with a neat round hole in the middle of his forehead, I have to agree with the decision to release him. Those cops are responsible for him getting away with past crimes, and have a certain amount of responsibility for his future crimes.

Posted by: dp | 2010-07-05 7:39:57 PM


This case proves, once again, that Ontario is an Apartheid state. All-white police forces and non-whites just do not mix there. The result is ghettoization, poverty, and high crime rates. Whites live in privilege, luxury and security while non-whites endure untold hardships. Unbelievable.

The only solution is for non-whites to stand up for themselves. They cannot expect whites, no matter how 'enlightened' or 'progressive' to change their ways. So far this has not happened due to poor leadership and organization. I'd compare the non-whites to slaves but slaves knew how to fight back.

We shall overcome.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2010-07-05 8:30:54 PM


I say that it is a miscarriage of justice for connecting the two incidents. First of all if Tran was found guilty based on evidence, he should have been sentenced accordingly. He would still be able to sue the police for their assault on him and all and any damages. Secondly the police in questions should have been charged for their crime, for crime it was. At the same time they should have been fired. To grant Tran leniency (assuming he was found guilty) due to the criminal act committed by the police is equivalent to thumbing one's nose at the victims of Tran's crimes. It is ridiculous that the judge muddled the two, and no, this is not defending the cops.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-07-05 9:11:59 PM


I don't usually respond to your comments Zeb, but this is too much:

"All-white police forces and non-whites just do not mix there."

Have you ever been to Mississauga? I lived there for seventeen years. The Peel force is absolutely NOT "all white." There are many officers of colour. The same applies to the Toronto Police Service. The charge of systematic racism is beyond absurd.

Do you know any ethnic or racial minorities who live in Ontario? I do. Yes, some do complain that the police pull them over for traffic stops on thin pretexts, but there are plenty of whites who make the same complaints. I've actually shown some of your comments to "non-whites." Blacks, Indians, Chinese, Koreans. They find them hysterical.

Occasionally you do say something interesting Zeb, you don't sound unintelligent, but this absurd racist stuff completely undercuts everything you say. Everything is a white racist Ontario plot? Toronto is run by white racists? With David Miller as Mayor? That man would apologize for the hurt feelings of squirrels if that would win him votes. As for Toronto history, you seem well enough of aware of Zebulon Pike, but how about Nathan Phillips?

You can spend hours walking through parts of Toronto, good areas too, and not see a single white person. Anyone who has ever visited Toronto can see its obvious diversity. I work at a company with non-white executives and managers!! No one minds in the slightest. They aren't even quota hires, they clearly earned their positions. I know that because I worked with them. I've had black managers. I've had women managers. I've had gay managers! The only type of person I've never actually worked for is a straight white male! They are actually a minority in senior positions! No one bloody cares! We spend whole days just working and cooperating peacefully! These are things that never happened in South Africa under Apartheid.

BTW, Zeb, my father used to visit Apartheid South Africa. He was once nearly arrested by the police for being on a white beach - he has a dark Southern European complexion, tanned he can pass for Arab. Any comparison between Toronto now, and Johannesburg thirty or forty years ago, demeans the suffering of Apartheid's victims.

There is the Toronto I live in, and there is this parallel universe you seem to exist in. Cato the Elder wasn't this obsessed with destroying Carthage!

Posted by: Publius | 2010-07-05 9:14:09 PM


There are two books banned in Ontario: one is Hitler's Mein Kampf. The other is "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. The contrasts between these books could not be any sharper. Only in fascist, racist, Nazi, Apartheid Ontario could this happen.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2010-07-05 9:22:50 PM


Posted by: Alain | 2010-07-05 9:11:59 PM

I understand your point. That was my initial opinion of the story. As I mentioned in the post, however, you can't separate the two legally, though you can logically.

The temptation is that some officers, in the future, might break the law in attempting to get a conviction. The Court of Appeals basically said you can't break the rules, in trying to extort a confession, and get that conviction. They didn't succeed in getting that confession because Tran was unusually resilient, but that was luck. Most people would have cracked.

The decision is a deterrent to officers who wouldn't mind risking their careers in order to nail a particularly odious suspect. In normal everyday life I'd agree with your approach Alain, but the police are a special case. To whom much is given (in terms of power and trust) much is expected (in upholding the law).

Posted by: Publius | 2010-07-05 9:23:12 PM


"There are two books banned in Ontario: one is Hitler's Mein Kampf. The other is "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee."

Then how did I read both, as part of classwork, in High School? An Ontario high school! "To Kill A Mockingbird" was on the blasted Ministry of Education curriculum as recommended reading!

Posted by: Publius | 2010-07-05 9:26:54 PM


Publius, I confess to being guilty of applying logic rather than existing law. As for trying to reason with ZP concerning his anti-White and anti-Ontarian racism, it is a lost cause. It is no different from the KKK except the target is white rather than black. ZP needs to move on but only he can do that for his own benefit.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-07-05 9:32:02 PM


Who needs the KKK when there's the TDSB? The KKK aren't needed when democratic institutions legitimize and protect racism. The time has come for regime change on the scale of the end of Apartheid in South Africa in 1994.

The problem is that you people don't realize there's a problem. You live in your little cocoons isolated from the community around you. Take a look sometime - you live in racism central, nicely disguised in "progressive" dogma.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2010-07-05 9:47:38 PM


It's impossible to separate police actions from court proceedings. The collection of evidence is the cornerstone of any criminal case, and it was corrupted. Everything that followed was corrupted by the same actions. Maybe an eyewitness could have sealed the deal, but not even a signed, videotaped confession would fly after the cops broke the guy's jaw. They just plain blew the case.

If anyone remembers the case of Reuben "Hurricane" Carter, he was eventually released from prison, due to his original trial being deemed unfair. What a lot of people don't realize is, he was not acquitted. The courts never said they thought he was innocent, just that his trial was influenced by an over zealous cop, with racist leanings. That ruling tainted all the original evidence, so a re-trial was out of the question.

In Canada, the prosecutors don't seem to have much oversight of police investigations. There needs to be a smoother transition from the arrest phase to the court phase. An independent, civilian police commission might be a nice touch as well. (Maybe they already have one, I don't know)

Posted by: dp | 2010-07-05 10:11:43 PM


"I say that it is a miscarriage of justice for connecting the two incidents. First of all if Tran was found guilty based on evidence, he should have been sentenced accordingly."

No. Because there was an attempt to coerce a confession out of him. He resisted, but if the courts would have allowed this method to stand what would stop other cops from following the same logic in the future? What if he would not have been found guilty in a court?

"He would still be able to sue the police for their assault on him and all and any damages."

That may have helped him to get money back, it would not have sent a clear message to police though that they can NOT do this. Cops aren't personally (financially) liable to these kinds of lawsuits, it's the PD / Government aka you and I that get to pay for police misconduct.

"Secondly the police in questions should have been charged for their crime, for crime it was. At the same time they should have been fired."

Yes, but Police Union and brass (just look at the Dzersinki(sp?) case) do their utmost to prevent any of their own to be put in front of a judge. The two jokers who beat up the Asian immigrant when they got the wrong door are on paid leave here in Vancouver, while the guy who sold pot out of his car was fired and charged in record time.

"To grant Tran leniency (assuming he was found guilty) due to the criminal act committed by the police is equivalent to thumbing one's nose at the victims of Tran's crimes. It is ridiculous that the judge muddled the two, and no, this is not defending the cops."

No he did not muddle the two. This isn't about Tran per-se. This is about the courts sending a clear message to the cops (and prosecutor) that they will not tolerate coercion by the police.

If the Justice System is supposed to be meter out Justice then it has to make it clear that the rules by which it operates are adhered to. In Canada we clearly put limits on what methods the police can use to get a confession.

It sucks in this case as the guy apparently WAS guilty, but in the bigger picture, preserving the Justice System and Justice itself, it was the only option.

Now, let's hope that the SIU and Crown get their act together and lay charges against these officers, but I won't be holding my breath.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2010-07-05 11:04:21 PM


Yes, I forgot to mention charges against the cops who created this mess. That would send a useful message.

Posted by: dp | 2010-07-05 11:12:04 PM


None of this would happen so long as whites continue to live in Ontario. Go back to Europe!!!

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2010-07-06 8:50:43 AM


It dosnt sound Zebulon punk has ever been to Ontario, my visit there 20 years ago there was lots of people of African decent there, if it is so bad there for them, why did they move there.
I dont know but maybe all of Trans victims were of asian decent???

Posted by: don b | 2010-07-06 8:58:13 AM


Well, I'm a big believer in -- and this will shock some of you -- dropping criminal cases against guilty people for abuse of process.

The rights of accused, particularly the presumption of innocence is of paramount consideration to the integrity of the justice system. To beat a confession out of someone is not to presume innocence, but to presume guilt, and worse, to have agents of the state themselves engage in a criminal act.

In situations like this, the charges should be reduced or dropped, and the reasons for should be made clear to the public: police malfeasance.

As such, the public should come to understand that in order for guilty persons to be brought to justice, police may actually have to do their job in accordance with respect for people's rights. Failure to do so is a miscarriage of justice, and not justice at all.

Sure, the assailant walks free. But the fact he isn't brought to justice is purely the fault of the police.

As the old saying goes: I'd rather let a thousand guilty men walk free, than send an innocent one to prison. And I'll take it even further: I'd rather let a thousand guilty men walk free, than have one innocent man have his rights violated by the state.

Bleeding heart? No. Just principles. Principles which are too important to treat liberally.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2010-07-06 9:21:55 AM


I agree with you Mike.

Posted by: don b | 2010-07-06 9:42:00 AM


I would like to see Allan Rock charged with the responsibility for Tran being empowered to do home invasions in the first place. When as Justice Minister, that little weasel stated that Canadians didn't have the right to defend themselves with guns, he gave the Trans of the world the go-ahead. Cops are almost useless at any form of crime prevention and clearly in this case they can be useless at legally charging suspects. Let the citizenry become armed and leave the cops in Timmys to conduct union meetings or to round up wounded suspects.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-07-06 10:43:50 AM


It appears that I did not make myself clear. I said assuming that Tran was found guilty based on evidence. I took it as a given that it was would be real evidence, not trumped up evidence resulting from police abuse of power. I suggest those arguing that he should go free no matter what show as much consideration and compassion for the victims as for Tran. Don't even think about twisting my words to say I approve of what the cops did, for I have made that point clear enough.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-07-06 11:00:12 AM


Alain,

You are conflating the issues. This isn't about Tran. It's about Tran's rights. I have absolutely no respect for Tran, but I respect his rights. Do you really want the police to have the power to violate the rights of every suspect?

Posted by: Charles | 2010-07-06 11:14:10 AM


I suggest those arguing that he should go free no matter what show as much consideration and compassion for the victims as for Tran.

It's not simply the victims versus the accused. That is a very black and white, and I dare say, conservative way of looking at the world.

Yes, victims can be denied justice if the justice system does not operate with integrity. This is an unfortunate side-effect of malfeasant police work. But it is a side-effect, that is nonetheless necessary, as to make clear to the police and prosecution that such things can never be allowed to happen.

Conservatives have a hard time grasping where civil liberty advocates are coming from, like say, the CCLA or the ALCU. In their mind, they're on the side of the criminals. Which is a deeply idiotic view, but it's a pervasive one nonetheless.

What people who say Tran's charged should be reduced or even stayed, are saying, is not that Tran is somehow deserving of release or that his victims don't matter in the grand scope of things. But that, the rights that were infringed, carry too much sanctity to allow them to be excused.

Any and all abuse by the police against a suspect of a crime, or an alleged criminal before they've had their day in court and been found guilty by a judge or jury of our peers, after a fair and impartial trial, to me -- equates to a miscarriage of justice.

In cases like this, I believe it is appropriate to yes, just push the "reset" button and eject the case. Why? Because we cannot allow our justice system to be abused by those who represent it.

Our legal rights supersede any right any victim has to see their victimizer punished. Whether or not you're comfortable with that statement, it is the legal reality of the constitutional framework within both the US and Canada. I know this drives victim's rights groups mad, but they must understand that it is their rights too that are being trampled on. Not just once, by the perpetrator of the crime. But twice, when the state acts in kind.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2010-07-06 11:18:54 AM


I don't disagree with your overall analysis, but you are quite wrong to say that the Court of Appeal is not to blame, or that they did their duty. Their duty is to see to it that the justice system is not brought into disrepute. This cannot be done if the system proclaimed as a "justice" system is misused to work injustice. And injustice is done every time the proven guilty are allowed to walk away unpunished, and it's especially grave injustice when they are criminals as dangerous and evil as these. Justice requires that the innocent go free and the guilty be punished.

There is no right to have illegally obtained evidence excluded. The Court had the power to convict these men, and the duty to do so. They failed in their duty.

Posted by: ebt | 2010-07-06 11:46:50 AM


ebt: While there may be no right to exclusion of evidence, if this conviction had been allowed to stand, then it sets a very bad precedent. What if Tran was in actuality Innocent of these crimes? What hue and cry would be coming from the populace?

While I cannot condone the actions of Tran - and he should've been put in jail for them - I find more abhorrent the actions of the officers in this case.

Peace Officers are supposed to be impartial enforcers of the law. These officers were not and the end result is that we all pay.

Posted by: Don from B.C. | 2010-07-06 12:56:14 PM


There is no rationale for punishing the public by releasing a guilty suspect simply because procedural errors or even outright brutality occurred during the course of his processing. The guilty parties--the police officers in question--should pay, not the rest of us.

Tran either did it or he did not; all else is dross. Too, if the officers' only punishment is to be the loss of their court case, that's hardly a fitting deterrent.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-06 1:57:18 PM


Sorry, dp and Mike, but we're going to have to agree to disagree on this one. Evidence consists of facts, which do not change if they are obtained by non-sanctioned means. Releasing a guilty offender in effect punishes society, which makes a mockery of that most sacred of principles--justice.

Justice means the innocent are protected, and the guilty punished. ALL guilty parties in this case should be punished. To wit: The officers should be charged with aggravated assault causing bodily harm and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, and Tran should be convicted if the evidence, however unlawfully procured, warrants it.

Truth is truth, and all ethical principles are subject to it, not the other way round. The "fruit of the poisonous tree" argument is a bunch of bullshit.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-06 2:05:23 PM


P.S. For those concerned that admitting "tainted" evidence to be admitted will result in more of the same, let me ask you this: How many cops would risk ten years in the big house--and worse yet, forfeiture of their pensions--just to win a case?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-06 2:06:53 PM


Releasing a guilty offender in effect punishes society, which makes a mockery of that most sacred of principles--justice.

I don't necessarily disagree. But by continuing to prosecute the person, we're making a mockery of the administration of justice.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2010-07-06 2:28:14 PM


On the contrary. By continuing, and by also punishing the guilty officials, we're acknowledging the self-evident truth that facts, which are immutable, trump principle, which is not. Slavish devotion to principles heedless of facts starts one along the road to ruin; history is replete with examples.

The administration serves the principle of justice, not the other way round.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-06 2:41:27 PM


Shane,

I'm not exactly putting forward a radical idea. The standard I'm applying is the one that is applied in the US and Canada. People are routinely released from charges due to abuse of process.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2010-07-06 2:46:13 PM


Yes, Mike, but they are released as a matter of law. The issue, as many a libertarian has lectured me on this blog, is whether that law is just. Which, of course, it isn't, because only a verdict based on the true conduct of the accused is truly just. What others do to him reflects on them, not him, nor what he has done.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-06 2:51:57 PM


Shane- I don't see it as black and white. I could easily agree with your position, under the right circumstances. What I see in this particular case is tainted evidence. There was no mention of eyewitnesses, or forensic evidence, so I assumed the police needed a confession to make their case. Well, that avenue has been closed, permanently.

You also have to question any physical evidence these cops collected. They've already demonstrated they were capable of violating a suspects rights. It's not inconceivable they'd falsify physical evidence. Pretty well everything these cops accomplished in this case has become unsellable to a jury. It could even come to the point where none of their witnesses are reliable. If they threatened a suspect, they might also threaten a witness. This case is not salvageable.

I wasn't totally unsympathetic to the jury in the OJ Simpson trial. Sure, it seemed obvious to most people that OJ was guilty, but that jury was made up of people who were no strangers to police corruption. In their minds, that bloody glove could easily have been planted by the LAPD. In our part of the world, we couldn't get our heads around that idea.

In the long run, the only way to right this is to fire these cops.

Posted by: dp | 2010-07-06 3:18:14 PM


"You can spend hours walking through parts of Toronto, good areas too, and not see a single white person. And we're told Toronto actually celebrates diversity not de facto segregation. LOL. Does P actually live in those neighborhoods? Didn't think so. Anyone who has ever visited Toronto can see its obvious diversity. Funny, you just said Toronto, in parts, was exclusively non-white. Some diversity!!! LOL. I work at a company with non-white executives and managers!! No one minds in the slightest. They aren't even quota hires, No white men allowed, but we're supposed to believe there are no quotas. LOL. they clearly earned their positions. I know that because I worked with them. I've had black managers. I've had women managers. I've had gay managers! The only type of person I've never actually worked for is a straight white male! They are actually a minority in senior positions! No one bloody cares! Why did they care when the managers were white men? Oh, that's right only whites can be racist. We spend whole days just working and cooperating peacefully! And at night we go home to our de facto exclusive neighborhoods. LOL. These are things that never happened in South Africa under Apartheid." What neighborhoods without whites? LOL.

Wow, Master P is one sick puppy. Apparently he passes for non-white, just like his Daddy. How do you claim meritocracy after excluding white men? LOL.

Posted by: DJ | 2010-07-06 3:32:35 PM


If the only evidence was the confession, dp, then of course I agree, the case should have been thrown out. But from what I understand, Tran refused to confess, so the evidence would have had to come from other avenues.

Furthermore, there's no guarantee that these were the only two officers on the case; physical evidence could easily have been collected by other officers who had no connection to the beating. But even if it was those same two officers, their misconduct only raises the prospect that they falsified physical evidence. It doesn't prove it. Thus any such evidence should be re-examined if possible and viewed with the possibility of taint. That possibility should be a factor, not the deciding factor, trumping all others. All relevant facts must be considered.

As to the cops, I agree, they should be fired at the least and, if possible, prosecuted. The last thing any community needs is a crooked cop. In most cases you're better off with the thugs.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-06 6:48:41 PM


If the evidence was collected independent of the beating, it should be admissable. If it was discovered because of the beating, then it should not.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-07-07 5:20:24 AM


If the evidence proves him guilty, then it must be admitted no matter how it was obtained. Don from B.C. asks, what if he's innocent? If he's innocent, the evidence doesn't prove him guilty, he doesn't get convicted, and we don't have the discussion.

The Court of Appeal did not conclude that he was wrongly convicted. They concluded that he was proven guilty, and they released him anyway. That's wrong.

Posted by: ebt | 2010-07-07 11:57:31 AM


After reading details of the original crime,

http://www.thecourt.ca/2010/07/07/police-brutality-frees-violent-criminal-in-r-v-tran/

I can hardly believe that after being found guilty the sentence was only 28 months - then reduced to 14 because of the police beating. It was the 14 months which was appealed.

Posted by: maggie | 2010-07-07 4:48:29 PM


No, Charles. Evidence does not become not evidence simply because it was illegally obtained. That's like saying a person is clinically dead only if lawfully declared so. You're asking us to shelve the truth in the name of principle. There IS no principle greater than truth, because it is the root of all others.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-07 6:51:32 PM


I don't disagree with your overall analysis, but you are quite wrong to say that the Court of Appeal is not to blame, or that they did their duty. Their duty is to see to it that the justice system is not brought into disrepute. This cannot be done if the system proclaimed as a "justice" system is misused to work injustice. And injustice is done every time the proven guilty are allowed to walk away unpunished, and it's especially grave injustice when they are criminals as dangerous and evil as these. Justice requires that the innocent go free and the guilty be punished.

Posted by: ebt | 2010-07-06 11:46:50 AM

No, Justice requires that checks and balances are in place, only THEN can any punishment be just.

Appeals courts do not deal with cases themselves, they will not find a "guilty" verdict. All they do is evaluating the legal process that lead to a verdict. In this case the court concluded (rightfully so in my opinion) that the entire case was mute due to the abuse by police.

"There is no right to have illegally obtained evidence excluded. The Court had the power to convict these men, and the duty to do so. They failed in their duty."

Posted by: ebt | 2010-07-06 11:46:50 AM

The court DID convict Tran, but the appeals court does not look at evidence per-se. It looks at the process on how the trial went. An appeals court will never hand down a ruling directly related to the accused but only with regards to the proceedings themselves. As such the appeals court DID what it was supposed to do, evaluate the process and then render a verdict. They overruled the verdict because of the way in which Tran was treated. I am glad they ruled this way as it will protect others from the same treatment. I am with Mike here, this is about the fundamentals of the Justice System. Tran is just an example, nothing more.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2010-07-07 10:46:51 PM


If the evidence was collected independent of the beating, it should be admissable. If it was discovered because of the beating, then it should not.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-07-07 5:20:24 AM

And how can you trust the evidence? The cops, as Mike pointed out, already showed that they cannot be trusted. So what makes the physical evidence suddenly trustworthy?

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2010-07-07 10:49:47 PM


No, Justice requires that checks and balances are in place, only THEN can any punishment be just.

Spoken like a true dogmatist, Snowrunner. The punishment is just if it fits the crime (assuming one has taken place). All else is dross. Truth is not dependent on procedure, Leftist convictions to the contrary notwithstanding.

Appeals courts do not deal with cases themselves, they will not find a "guilty" verdict. All they do is evaluating the legal process that lead to a verdict. In this case the court concluded (rightfully so in my opinion) that the entire case was mute due to the abuse by police.

The word is "moot," and the abuse is irrelevant. That is an emotional concern and has no place in a fact-finding process. Tran's guilt or innocence is independent of the arresting officers' guilt or innocence, which is a separate matter.

The court DID convict Tran, but the appeals court does not look at evidence per-se. It looks at the process on how the trial went. An appeals court will never hand down a ruling directly related to the accused but only with regards to the proceedings themselves.

In that sense the appeals court should consider only the trial, and not what happened before the trial. Its job is to consider whether errors in law have been made DURING the trial.

They overruled the verdict because of the way in which Tran was treated.

That is precisely the point--how Tran was treated BEFORE the trial is irrelevant to how he was treated DURING the trial, which is all the appeals courts is supposed to consider.

I am glad they ruled this way as it will protect others from the same treatment.

How do you figure that? The officers in question received no punishment other than to lose a case, which police do all the time even when they stay on the straight and narrow. The next time they think they might lose a case without resorting to a coerced confession, they will have little disincentive to try again.

I am with Mike here, this is about the fundamentals of the Justice System.

The most fundamental tent of any system concerning justice is the truth. The truth of Tran's guilt has been discarded in the name of principle. The principle exists to serve the end, not the other way round. Without truth, there can be no justice.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-08 7:34:52 AM


And how can you trust the evidence? The cops, as Mike pointed out, already showed that they cannot be trusted. So what makes the physical evidence suddenly trustworthy?

Are you saying that a fingerprint becomes not a fingerprint if the cops hit the prisoner? That an arc becomes a whorl simply because the arresting officer is a dick? What about DNA in blood; did the cops corrupt the crime lab too? Exactly how much stuff becomes not stuff simply because the cops abused the accused, Snowrunner?

I detect outraged principles, Snowrunner. There are some people who will persistently deny even facts that stare them in the face, if their moral nerve is tweaked. Are you one of them?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-08 7:40:28 AM


We don't really have a justice system in Canada, we have a legal system. We use the legal system in our quest for justice, but the system itself only applies the law. It must be this way because justice is an abstract noun and is subjective; especially in our multicultural and multiethnic society.

It this case the courts applied the law. It was the violation of the accused basic human rights by state agents that ultimately denied the victims justice.

Posted by: Dan Brydges | 2010-07-08 11:50:12 AM


Most of what you say is true, Dan, but the victims could just as easily have been denied justice owing to an obscure technicality even had the officers' behaviour been exemplary. Such is the law.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-08 12:01:15 PM


Yes justice can be denied because of an obscure technicality, or because a key witness dies before trial, or the accused get hit by a bus, or whatever - there is not much point in exploring what might have happened to deny justice but what did. It this case justice was denied because of police misconduct. I wonder if the officers could be slapped with obstruction charges in addition to assault causing bodily harm.

Posted by: Dan Brydges | 2010-07-08 12:12:51 PM


Shane,

I'm just confounded how a justice system of your design would function. You would allow for criminal prosecutions to continue, even when the rights of the accused are violed, abridged or denied by those prosecuting them.

Basically any violation of due process boils down to a violation of the presumption of innocence. We all have this right. And to have our guilt adjudicated by a fair an impartial tribunal.

To beat the shit out of an alleged criminal, is to punish them, and therefore deny their right to be presumed innocent.

It seems your main concern is getting vengeance for the victims. You're not seeking justice. At least, not the in the way our Western legal philosophy envisions it's definition.

What people like me are simply saying, is that a corrupt process can never be allowed to convict someone of a crime. Rather, the process should be sparkly clean, transparent, and fair.

If some people can have their rights violated in the process of being arrested and prosecuted, while others aren't, then we are not truly equal before and under the law. The entire integrity of the system is in disrepute.

Shane, what you're putting forward is simply an ends justify the means argument. That, when someone is victimized, the priority is punishment of the victimizer, even at the expense of the principles of equality before the law, the right to be presumed innocent, and so and and so forth.

This is, and I'm not trying to be provocative or insulting, a mentality that has the serious potential to allow for tyranny.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2010-07-08 12:21:43 PM


The point, Dan, is that after making the assertion that "it's all about the law"—which is true—you then took a moral tack with that "violation of basic human rights" by "state agents" bit, thus hinting that dropping the charges was not only the law, but justice. That is not true.

The standard of conduct for the public should not be any lower than for public servants. Granted, it should not be any higher, but it should not be any lower, either. However, a lot of people are quite adamant that it should be, a position that incidentally lets those people get away with more.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-08 12:27:37 PM


I'm just confounded how a justice system of your design would function. You would allow for criminal prosecutions to continue, even when the rights of the accused are violed, abridged or denied by those prosecuting them.

Yes, unless you can show me that the damage done by the accused to society is somehow repaired by official mistreatment of the accused, or that a whack on the head with a nightstick can be considered fair payment for murder, savage home invasions, or indeed anything more serious than a whack on the head with a nightstick. That the penny should be deemed the equal of the pound because the pound has a nick in the edge.

Basically any violation of due process boils down to a violation of the presumption of innocence. We all have this right. And to have our guilt adjudicated by a fair an impartial tribunal. To beat the shit out of an alleged criminal, is to punish them, and therefore deny their right to be presumed innocent.

Not necessarily. A torturer sent to extract information from a prisoner knows going in that his subject may not know anything. He performs his task anyway because the prisoner might know something. Incidentally, we also have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, a right severely imperiled by the release of known criminals.

It seems your main concern is getting vengeance for the victims. You're not seeking justice. At least, not the in the way our Western legal philosophy envisions it's definition.

Justice is inherently retributive towards the guilty, Mike. That doesn't make it unjust. Justice is based on truth. Contemporary Western legal philosophy is based on ideals which, like all ideals, need have no grounding in reality.

What people like me are simply saying, is that a corrupt process can never be allowed to convict someone of a crime. Rather, the process should be sparkly clean, transparent, and fair.

No process is completely free of flaws or corruption, no tribunal absolutely fair or free from bias, so using this logic, no one would ever be convicted of anything. If those who process a criminal themselves commit crimes, they should be locked up with the criminal. But that doesn't make the criminal no longer a criminal. What people like you are saying is that it does.

If some people can have their rights violated in the process of being arrested and prosecuted, while others aren't, then we are not truly equal before and under the law. The entire integrity of the system is in disrepute.

Given how incredibly difficult the system has made it to secure convictions, and thus protect the public, even in slam-dunk cases, the system is already in disrepute. Three-fourths of Canadians think the courts are doing a poor job, while a similar number think the police are doing a good job. So I suppose it boils down to whom you would rather hold the justice system in low regard—the people whom it serves and who pay for it, or criminals and legal philosophers.

Shane, what you're putting forward is simply an ends justify the means argument. That, when someone is victimized, the priority is punishment of the victimizer, even at the expense of the principles of equality before the law, the right to be presumed innocent, and so and and so forth.

Wrong. If I were saying that, I would not be urging that the abusive officers face trial for their crimes, because if the ends justify the means, then the officers' means are justified. What I am saying is that two wrongs don't make a right, and that truth does not become falsehood on the strength of outraged principle.

This is, and I'm not trying to be provocative or insulting, a mentality that has the serious potential to allow for tyranny.

As does a doctrinaire adherence to the rule book while totally losing sight of the objective whose ends the rules are intended to serve. I am considering all the pertinent facts, whereas the other camp is pretending not to see some of them as a matter of principle. Who therefore is more objective, honest, and just?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-08 12:51:29 PM


Canadian cops do this over and over and over and over and inquiry after inquiry does nothing NEws laws need to be passed. Canada is a racist hell hole.

Posted by: CC | 2010-07-31 9:48:29 PM



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