Time to end the ‘superjuice’ scourge

(It’s no joke/WinnipegCat)

“A lot of the violence up here is attributed to superjuice. A lot of (people) are drunk when they are fighting each other, especially the gangs.”  — Edwin Wood, an Island Lake probation officer, 2009 ( Winnipeg Sun link)

To my mind, there’s little better indicator of a damaged society than any where so-called “superjuice” is allowed to exist and be sold by the 2-litre.

Slammed and damned for years now given its havoc-wreaking influence on so-called “dry” communities (typically isolated ones) in Manitoba, little has been (or can be) done, apparently, to stem the tide of violence superjuice causes.

I wrote about the alarming influence of superjuice on the Garden Hill First Nation today as part of a sentencing hearing for two kids who bashed a guy to death while hopped up on the homebrew.

[As an aside, note lawyer John Corona has been sounding the same alarm about superjuice now for years.]

It probably won’t surprise any that calls regarding the harm superjuice causes has been ongoing for many years. (link also describes how it’s made and the immense profits from selling it).

It appears nothing has changed in all that time.

A report recently written for the court still describes high prevalence of superjuice in Garden Hill.

Aside from the fact it reinforces my “Manitoba has a drinking problem” beliefs, I’m simply shocked more can’t be done to stem the smuggling of superjuice yeast into northern communities.

They’re not that big. Garden Hill is about 3,300 people.

Until this problem gets dealt with, we’ll continue to see the cycle of extreme violence in communities. And to me, that’s just wrong.

I wonder if the province made interdiction of superjuice a priority when penning the newest municipal policing contract with the RCMP? (It’s in effect for two decades).

Should the aboriginal groups contesting the issuing of the contract without their input win their case, will they?

There are things we can do about out horrific crime issues that don’t require groveling to Ottawa for permission.

Eradicating superjuice would be but one of them.

FURTHER READING:

(Unsurprisingly, I can find no government reports, stats or anything beyond media reports about the superjuice issue)

Reserves plagued by potent superjuice (Toronto Star)

Superjuice linked to Garden Hill First Nation death (CBC)

Aboriginal leaders in Manitoba call for ban on sale of yeast

Leaders brew up law to fight superjuice (WFP)

In Mark Stobbe’s defence, for the record

(Chris Procaylo/Sun Media/QMI Agency)

Mark Stobbe’s lawyer spoke with media following his acquittal on Thursday.

Tim Killeen makes a number of insightful comments about the case and Stobbe’s defence, presented here in full for the record.

On fighting the Crown’s circumstantial murder case

We focused on what had occurred. And the difficulty in this case is it was always clear that there was no motive whatsoever advanced, and there was no connection. She clearly had been killed in the yard and her body moved.

We focused on that and unfortunately, there was a tremendous amount of evidence dealing with the possibility that somebody had ridden a cycle back — sadly disregarded the fact that there was a pretty clear indication right from Oct. 25th that the car wasn’t there until well after the time when all the cyclists were talking about.

The other issue had been always, the DNA was an issue — I don’t know how it was disregarded.

On the decision to prosecute Stobbe after Alberta said ‘no,’ and the false widespread impression something had evolved about the evidence  in the case over the years. 

Frankly, I don’t know why this prosecution proceeded the way it did.

“As some of you know, the original opinions — plural — from prosecutors in Alberta was not to lay a charge and that decision was countermanded, effectively when it was sent to British Columbia for a decision on prosecution.

Nothing whatsoever had changed. The difficulty in deciding to prosecute this case was that you had the entire community left with the impression that there was something new or different or more substantial than there had been before and there wasn’t.

There was never additional evidence.

“Inaccurate, unflattering and disrespectful”

The way in which the case proceeded with the motive left a very inaccurate and unflattering and disrespectful picture that really shouldn’t have been put forward. It wasn’t accurate at all.

 On the decision to have Stobbe testify and lose last word to the jury
 It was pretty clear at the end of the Crown’s case that there really was not anything there that had not been anticipated, and at the end of the day I thought there was a big problem.
The tough decision, always, is when you have somebody who says ‘I didn’t do it,’ and wants to be able to advance that story you have to consider the tactical disadvantage that comes from then having to address the jury first and not have the final word.
Nothing to ‘tie him in’

What we wanted to establish all always was that what occurred here was a horrible tragedy — the most tragic thing that could of occurred.

Clearly whatever had happened it would naturally cause suspicion to be pointed at Mr. Stobbe.

But as you heard after an extraordinarily thorough investigation involving 100s of witnesses, 100s of wiretap conversations … there really was nothing whatsoever to tie him in and at the end of the day that clearly is the way the case ended.

There just was nothing there to tie him into this.

The RCMP and ‘tunnel vision’

As I said, there was a very thorough investigation. Most of the investigation did exactly what it should have done.

There was … some concern — bear in mind that we didn’t know what the case was until Mr. Stobbe was charged many years later.

It, I think it would be fair to say, that the DNA which seemed critical to us really wasn’t given much consideration.

And the fact of this bicycle issue really was important to them but at the time we looked at it seemed to be an absurd issue. It was clear that despite the fact the witnesses said they only saw one cyclist, there were clearly at least four different cyclists out there.

It was also clear … that the car (Rowbotham was found dead in) wasn’t there until after 1 a.m.

An ominous number

Ivan Radocaj, left, in a dated picture. (The Great Canadian Talk Show Podcast)

When Rita Cushnie showed up at the RCMP detachment nearly four years ago and was interviewed in regards to the killing of John Radocaj, she had exactly $1.87 in her purse.

Over the four-year life of the criminal case, she reported to RCMP for bail management exactly 187 times, her lawyer, Mike Cook told Justice Colleen Suche last night.

It was a coincidence revealed just before Suche handed the 57-year-old a life sentence without parole for 25 years after a jury convicted her of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

One-Eight-Seven: The cold irony for Cushnie, I guess, exists in how those digits have also been co-opted by the gangster underworld as a kind of shorthand for the crime of murder.

The slang use stems from the California Penal Code, where capital murder with malice falls under section 187 (a).

Winnipeg has already woken up to the news that Cushnie, her (former?) friend Melody Sanford and her son, Donald Richard were found guilty of the brutal murder of the man once known as “The Croatian Giant” in the wrestler’s ring.

I’m told it’s been a number of years since Radocaj — a large man standing 6’ 8” — ever stepped into the fray. Since the late ‘80’s.

As it is with the media, the ‘ former pro wrestler’ angle became a kind of thin trope to familiarize the public with the case and try to keep their interest (mea culpa).

But at the end of the day, ‘Big John’s’ murder had nothing to do with the faded glare of the spotlight or past athletic acclaim.

Instead, what I can surmise is that Radocaj was just a man who was duped into possibly believing he could have a second chance at love with a woman he had known for years who clearly now hated him for some still-unknown reason.

That’s the story of this trial that largely went untold.

As always, the “why” is elusive when it comes to crime and trials. For prosecutors, the “why” is seldom a question worth delving into, because that’s not really the job. The “who,” “when” and “how” are all that’s needed to secure a conviction, it seems.

It’s probably safe to say Radocaj’s belief in redemption cost him his life in the most brutal way.

A life lost for the promise of a few (and I do mean but a few) bucks and a TV set.

His estranged wife, Sanford and Richard (The orchestrator and executioner) each had the insight to recognize early on that they were culpable in the man’s death.

Their lawyers even admitted as much in closing arguments where they each said in open court manslaughter convictions were probably a foregone conclusion.

In Cushnie’s case, however, she had the most to lose, and obviously felt she was sucked into to something that spun out of any sort of control she may have had over things.

From @deanatwpgsun’s story about the verdict coming down:

Cushnie appeared to break down prior to the jury entering the courtroom. Once the verdict was delivered and the jury had left the room, her tears turned to rage.

“Look what you did to me you little bastard,” Cushnie said while looking at her son as sheriff’s officers moved to handcuff her. “You’re dead to me.”

As the public were escorted out of the gallery and Cushnie was taken into custody for the first time since her arrest, her anxiety spilled over.

“No!” the elderly and frail-looking woman exclaimed, apparently in sheer fright as the female Sheriff approached with the handcuffs.

“Stop it,” the Sheriff barked back at her.

To her credit, Cushnie was the only one of the trio who addressed Radocaj’s grieving mother directly prior to being sentenced:

“I didn’t encourage him,” she said, an obvious reference to her son.

“I feel for you as a mother.”

If her conviction is ultimately upheld (I’d expect a swift appeal) she won’t be eligible for parole until age 82.

Other notes:

At least two jurors — one in particular — were visibly distraught as their decision was read by the foreman last night. By my count, all but two stayed for the sentencing portion and reading of the victim impact statements.

From behind the jury room door upon their exit, loud sobbing could be heard.

Justice Suche declined a request from the defence to poll the individual jurors as to the unanimity of their decision.

It’s in her discretion to do so, and she stated she had no reason to question the verdict.

The decision sparked a short exchange between her and John McAmmond (Richard’s lawyer), who seemed adamant to put the discomfort of the two jurors on the record.

Just moments before the jury portion of the trial got underway roughly two weeks ago, the defence rose to raise a point.

Radocaj’s mother had come to court wearing a photo of her son and either a shirt or a sign stating “Justice for Ivan.”

Suche ordered her to cover it up prior to the jury seeing it, deeming it prejudicial.

I point readers of this blog to this curious story I wrote regarding the case dating back to May 2009.

Even at that time, Sanford was ready to accept responsibility for the conspiracy, possibly explaining the resigned expression she wore during much of the trial that I was able to witness.

From what ever could tell, no abuse of process argument went forward from her lawyers, or it was done in the background.

But we’ll never know what piece of evidence came in that changed the Crown’s position to charge her with the actual killing more than a year after the conspiracy charge was laid.

There are two other accused in the case that have yet to deal with their charges.

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Winnipeg’s deadliest day of the week (So far)

(James Turner)

With 29 homicides [not counting the criminal negligence cases that police don’t officially tally as such] so far this year in Winnipeg, we’re slowly getting to Edmonton levels with four months left to go in the year.

And while culpable killings, naturally, are difficult to predict, one trend stands out.

There’s 2 to 1 odds if someone’s going to kill you, it will happen on a Saturday. 

Of the killing events [not the total number of deaths in the case of multiple victims such as the 5 for 1 arson at the rooming house earlier this summer], seven took place on a Saturday.

The events break down as follows (with one case undetermined as to time of death, so not included in the tally)…

  • Monday: 3
  • Tuesday: 2
  • Wednesday: 3
  • Thursday: 2
  • Friday: 3
  • Saturday: 7
  • Sunday: 3

I can’t say if the Saturday likelihood of violent death speaks to any trend in particular [except for the fact past years follow suit, largely], Many of the deaths happen on a day where people are raring to relax after a long week, perhaps have funds to purchase booze or drugs, and get right ornery when they consume too much as the majority of the circumstances of the killings appear to suggest.

I’m not sure if there’s some policies that could be altered to acknowledge this and perhaps bring some calm to the deadliest day of the year so far: Saturday, but it may be worth a look.

Also, I’d like to point out that the bulk of the homicides are currently cleared by police in terms of their charging of the suspect. At my count, it stands at about 85-90 per cent — a high number and one to be proud of the WPS for.

On the flip side, we’re seeing no reaction from either the city or the WPS regarding plans to combat the violence as was the recent case in Edmonton. 

Should Winnipeg hit 35 homicides this year, it would be a record number — the highest since 2004.

Chief Keith McCaskill said months ago violent-crime reduction targets for the city would be announced as part of a strategic plan the service has been working on — and said recently there have been (unspecified) delays in that plan — but as yet, there’s been no official public announcement about reduction targets. However, to be fair, police can’t predict homicides by and large, so maybe those targets will have no impact on same.

Updated List of homicides, victims and charges

1] Jan 6 (Thursday): Darryl John SINCLAIR, 45, stabbed. Robert Carl PRINCE, 44 charged with 2nd-degree murder.

2] Jan 16 (Sunday): Zenon Sylvester BOZYNSKI, 48 injured, perhaps beaten outside a Redwood Avenue apartment block. Jamie Jossens MORRISSEAU, 27 years of Winnipeg and Gamielle William Harry COURCHENE, 25 years of Fort Alexander, Manitoba have both been charged with 2nd Degree Murder.

3] Jan 28 (Friday): A 16-year-old male stabbed on Allegheny Drive. 28-year-old Matthew Craig KRASNY of Winnipeg has been arrested and charged with 2nd Degree Murder as a result of his alleged involvement.

4 and 5] Feb 5 (Saturday): Darren Joey SWAMPY, 19 years of age and Lee Brady SPENCE, 22 shot on Elgin Avenue. Randy Murray WILLIAMS, 27 years of age was arrested and subsequently charged with 2nd Degree Murder x 2 as a result of his alleged involvement.

6] A 22-year-old man arrested in connection to a criminal negligence cause death case where a man was killed in a snowmobile crash on Jan. 13 (Thursday).

7] Feb 18 (Friday): Casandra Lydia KNOTT, 27 is arrested for the homicide of Orzias Joram KNOTT, 34.

8] Feb 24 (Undetermined): Senior citizen Elizabeth Lafantasie is found dead, stuffed in her trunk. A few days later Thomas Brine is arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

9] March 16 (Wednesday), Abdul Rahim Mah JEMEI 22 is stabbed to death downtown. A 16 year old male is arrested soon after, and Ramsey SWAIN, 24 is charged March 29.

10] March 28 (Monday): Frank Alexander dies after an alleged assault at Parkview Place. Joe McLeod, an alzheimer’s patient, is charged with manslaughter.

11]April 13 (Wednesday): Joanna Storm died crossing Henderson Highway. An 18-year-old man is charged with criminal negligence cause death.

12] April 20 (Wednesday), 42-year-old Sheila Fontaine is killed outside the Merchant’s Hotel on Selkirk. The arrest of Teya Wynter SPENCE, 18 is announced a few days later. She and three other teen girls face manslaughter charges.

13] April 29 (Friday): 20-year-old Trevor Harper is shot in the 500 block of Portage. 15 year old male youth was located and arrested in the area of Pembina Highway and Plaza Drive on May 4 .

14] May 10 (Tuesday): Solomon Joseph Andrew TURNER found dead — stabbed — in his home. The next day, Lloyd Alfred Lindsay is charged with second-degree murder. Wanda Lisa RAHMAN (Bruce), 32 is charged with the same crime May 27.

15] May 14 (Saturday): Gina Swanson, 33 is found dead in her Edderton Avenue home. Schuyler Vanwissen [sometimes van Wissen] Charged with first-degree murder after being arrested in Toronto Aug. 12.

16] IRIS HEALD (GALLANT) dies May 16 (Monday) after hitting her head after an attack in the West End. Cynthia Elaine Thomas, 35, is charged.

17] May 16 (Monday): Gerald Crayford, 54, dies after an apparent assault at a Pizza Hotline outlet. A 15-year-old is charged with second-degree murder. Byron Charlie Bushie, 18 is arrested and charged with the same crime a few days later.

18] May 21 (Saturday): Leslie Alex OKEMOW, 29 is found dead at the St. Regis. Arnold Harper turns himself in to face a manslaughter charge on May 21.

19] June 26 (Sunday): Steven Kyle DODGE, 26, found stabbed on Arlington. Same day: Nathan Allan BRICKLIN, 18 years of age is charged with second-degree murder.

20, 21, 22, 23 and 24] Lulonda Lynn Flett is charged with five counts of second degree murder for the July 16 (Saturday) arson-related deaths of Norman Darius ANDERSON, 22 years Maureen Claire HARPER, 54 years, Kenneth Bradley MONKMAN, 49 years, Dean James STRANDEN, 44 years, and Robert Curtis LAFORTE, 56 years. She also faces three attempted murder charges.

25] Cara Lynn HIEBERT, 31 is found dead in her home July 19 (Tuesday) and her death is considered a homicide. Case as-yet unsolved. Anyone who has information regarding this incident is asked to call investigators at 986-6508 or CrimeStoppers at 786- TIPS (8477).

26] Aug. 5 (Friday), Baljinder Singh Sidhu killed after an incident in Osborne Village. Case still unsolved. Anyone who has information regarding this incident is asked to call investigators at 986-6508 or CrimeStoppers at 786- TIPS (8477).

27] Aug. 20. (Saturday) Marcel Murdock dies after being hit by a vehicle after a street brawl on Garfield Street North. A 17-year-old girl is initally charged with manslaughter, but charges are later upgraded to first-degree murder.

28] Aug. 21 (Sunday), Tim Koostachin dies after hitting his head after a fight. 19 year old Ray Vaughn MUNRO has been charged with Manslaughter due to his alleged involvement.

29] Aug. 27 (Saturday) Robert Rourke, 22, dies after a stabbing a week earlier after a party. Gregory Troy Govereau faces a second-degree murder charge.

30] Aug. 27 (Saturday) April Hornbrook, 24, is found dead on a dirt path near the Main Street train overpass. No arrests yet made.

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24 city homicides, a list:

There’s been some confusion in the twitterverse recently about the number of homicides in Winnipeg so far in 2011. Here’s a quick reference list of victims and suspects. The details of the crimes are not comprehensive.

Updated Friday July 22: Deletes the arrests in Roger Michelle’s death [see below] and adds the criminal-negligence related arrest in a car-person collision in April.

Updated Wednesday July 27: Blogger Rae Butcher makes a point in the comments below: Joe McLeod was charged with manslaughter in connection to the death of a nursing-home patient. 

Updated again, same day: A story from 2008 where WPS asserts Criminal Negligence Cause Death Cases are no longer counted:

I guess the issue is, if I take out the ones below, that leaves us at 22, when the official tally is at 23. Therefore, I leave the Crim Negs for the record.

1] Jan 6: Darryl John SINCLAIR, 45, stabbed. Robert Carl PRINCE, 44 charged with 2nd-degree murder.

2] Jan 16: Zenon Sylvester BOZYNSKI, 48 injured, perhaps beaten outside a Redwood Avenue apartment block. Jamie Jossens MORRISSEAU, 27 years of Winnipeg and Gamielle William Harry COURCHENE, 25 years of Fort Alexander, Manitoba have both been charged with 2nd Degree Murder.

3] Jan 28: A 16-year-old male stabbed on Allegheny Drive. 28 year old Matthew Craig KRASNY of Winnipeg has been arrested and charged with 2nd Degree Murder as a result of his alleged involvement.

4 and 5] Feb 5: Darren Joey SWAMPY, 19 years of age and Lee Brady SPENCE, 22 shot on Elgin Avenue. Randy Murray WILLIAMS, 27 years of age was arrested and subsequently charged with 2nd Degree Murder x 2 as a result of his alleged involvement.

6] A 22-year-old man arrested in connection to a criminal negligence cause death case where a man was killed in a snowmobile crash on Jan. 13.

7] Feb 18: Casandra Lydia KNOTT, 27 is arrested for the homicide of Orzias Joram KNOTT, 34.

8] Feb 24: Senior citizen Elizabeth Lafantasie is found dead, stuffed in her trunk. A few days later Thomas Brine is arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

9] March 16, Abdul Rahim Mah JEMEI 22 is stabbed to death downtown. a 16 year old male is arrested soon after, and Ramsey SWAIN, 24 is charged March 29.

10] March 28: Frank Alexander dies after an alleged assault at Parkview Place. Joe McLeod, an alzheimer’s patient, is charged with manslaughter.

11]April 13: Joanna Storm died crossing Henderson Highway. An 18-year-old man is charged with criminal negligence cause death.

12] April 20, 42-year-old Sheila Fontaine is killed outside the Merchant’s Hotel on Selkirk. The arrest of Teya Wynter SPENCE, 18 is announced a few days later. She and three other teen girls face manslaughter charges.

13] April 29: 20-year-old  Trevor Harper is shot in the 500 block of Portage. 15 year old male youth was located and arrested in the area of Pembina Highway and Plaza Drive on May 4 .

14] May 10: Solomon Joseph Andrew TURNER found dead — stabbed — in his home. The next day, Lloyd Alfred Lindsay is charged with second-degree murder. Wanda Lisa RAHMAN (Bruce), 32 is charged with the same crime May 27.

15] May 14: Gina Swanson, 33 is found dead in her Edderton Avenue home. Case currently unsolved. anyone who may have information regarding this investigation is asked to contact them at 986-6508 or CrimeStoppers at 786-TIPS (8477).

16] May 16: Gerald Crayford, 54, dies after an apparent assault at a Pizza Hotline outlet. A 15-year-old is charged with second-degree murder. Byron Charlie Bushie, 18 is arrested and charged with the same crime a few days later.

17] May 21: Leslie Alex OKEMOW, 29 is found dead at the St. Regis. Arnold Harper turns himself in to face a manslaughter charge on May 21.

18] June 26: Steven Kyle DODGE, 26, found stabbed on Arlington. Same day: Nathan Allan BRICKLIN, 18 years of age is charged with second-degree murder.

19, 20, 21, 22, 23] Lulonda Lynn Flett is charged with five counts of second degree murder for the arson-related deaths of  Norman Darius ANDERSON, 22 years Maureen Claire HARPER, 54 years, Kenneth Bradley MONKMAN, 49 years, Dean James STRANDEN, 44 years, and Robert Curtis LAFORTE, 56 years. She also faces three attempted murder charges.

24] Cara Lynn HIEBERT, 31 is found dead in her home and is considered a homicide. Case as-yet unsolved. Anyone who has information regarding this incident is asked to call investigators at 986-6508 or CrimeStoppers at 786- TIPS (8477).

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Kinda bizarre is how the two as-yet unsolved homicides involve young mothers found dead in their homes.

As well, arrests were made in a 2009 homicide in January. June 13, 2009: Wayne Roger MICHELLE, shot. William Evan LAPORTE, 21 years and an 18 year old male, who was a youth at the time of the offence, have been charged with 1st degree Murder and Attempt Murder with a Weapon.

Homicide: best practices

[Note: For those looking for how to commit the perfect crime as the headline could suggest, this post is not for you.]

There’s been a lot of debate lately over the Winnipeg Police Service homicide unit’s operations, largely driven by a former supervising sergeant’s labour board complaint about how he was treated and how he believes the Winnipeg Police Service’s transfer policy hampers the effectiveness of the unit.

As previously stated, I won’t go into much greater detail about the Labour Board hearing so far, as it’s really Mike McIntyre and the Free Press’ baby (Links hereherehere and here).

But there’s a question I’ve been asking myself and finally dug into a but yesterday.

What, from an operational/internal POV makes for a (quote-unquote) good/effective homicide unit? The rate at which crimes are solved? Convictions? Response times?

Turns out a retired homicide commander in the U.S. wondered the same thing in 2007-08. A rising national homicide rate was worrying him and he began formally asking around among his peers.

Timothy Keel’s study, published by the FBI, is available here.

He sets out the issues as follows:

Nationally, the number of homicides reported by police departments to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program is on the rise.1 Equally disturbing, the clearance rate for those crimes continues to decline.Law enforcement officials are increasingly concerned about the reasons for these statistics and what they can do about them. Although most homicide unit supervisors are confident in their detectives’ abilities to solve cases, they might be asking themselves if, from a management perspective, their current practices and procedures allow for the highest possible clearance rate.

To explore these issues, the author conducted a study of homicide units across the country. He developed a questionnaire that pertained to a variety of operational and management issues and focused on how the well-performing units investigate homicides.3 Departments chosen for this study met two criteria: 1) they have more than 25 HPY (homicides per year) over a 5-year average, and 2) they submit crime data for the UCR Program.4 Eighty-one departments received questionnaires, and 55 completed and returned them.responses.

The finer points of the article break down trends and arrive at some kind of consensus about what ‘best practices’ are for murder police and their bosses. The summary goes as follows, bolded bullet emphasis mine.

Keys to a Successful Homicide Unit

  • No more than five cases per year as a primary for each detective
  • Minimum of two, two-person units responding initially to the crime scene
  • Case review by all involved personnel within the first 24 to 72 hours
  • Computerized case management system with relational capacity
  • Standardized and computerized car-stop and neighborhood-canvass forms
  • Compstat-style format
  • Effective working relationships with medical examiners and prosecutors
  • No rotation policy for homicide detectives
  • Accessibility to work overtime when needed
  • Cold case squads
  • Investigative tools, such as polygraph, bloodstain pattern analysis, criminal investigative analysis, and statement analysis
  • Homicide unit and other personnel work as a team
Personnel Rotation

The issue of rotating detectives out of the homicide unit after a set period of time, regardless of their effectiveness as an investigator, is a relatively new phenomenon plaguing many supervisors. While the concept of a rotation policy may have benefits from a management perspective, this study suggested that chiefs considering implementing such a policy for homicide detectives should proceed cautiously. For example, only 3 of the 55 departments had a rotation policy of any type within their detective division. No department with an average of over 80 HPY (ed: homicides per year) reported having a rotation policy for homicide detectives. Even agencies that currently have a rotation policy extend the period of time that a detective can remain in the unit.

[Aside: interestingly, Keel’s ‘study’ also reports a rise in clearance rates [clearance meaning a suspect was arrested/charged] when a prosecutor visits the homicide scene. But the involvement of prosecutors can also take away from clearing a homicide, likely because the lawyer demands more evidence be gathered prior to officers charging someone.]
Departments that typically involved a prosecutor in the early stages of an investigation had a higher clearance rate on average. The average clearance rate became progressively lower when prosecutors became involved during the later stages of an investigation. Conversely, departments that require detectives to consult prosecutors before issuing an arrest warrant had a 6.6 percent lower clearance rate than those that did not have such a requirement. Perhaps, departments that allow detectives to use their judgment pertaining to prosecutor notification and prosecutors comfortable enough to allow detectives that discretion have a better working relationship.
Typically, the Winnipeg Police Service’s homicide clearance rate has been very good, with — by my counting — roughly four out of five homicides being cleared by charging a suspect.
Annual reports from the WPS say 81 per cent of homicides cleared in 09-10 and 08-09. 
Seventy-seven per cent were cleared in 07-08, up 23 per cent from the year prior. 
Time will only tell how 10-11 and 11-12 pan out.
But no matter what police do in terms of the HR structuring of the unit, the investigators placed there, and the vagaries of their working conditions, Keel’s report is blunt when it comes to the number one thing cops need to solve killings — an aspect desperately lacking in the city when one considers the most recent unsolved murders in Winnipeg.
When questioned about the biggest barrier to achieving higher homicide clearance rates, one common theme occurred among all ranks: the lack of public/witness cooperation.
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Major Crimes: A week in review IV

One thing jumped out at me this week that seemed to kind of fly under the radar.

The fact that Toronto has five so-called ‘Gladue courts’ and Manitoba has yet to implement even one.

What is Gladue? Essentially, it’s a response by the justice system to the fact that aboriginal people are vastly over-represented in Canada’s prison system within the context of the total population.

From Debra Parkes at the University of Manitoba in a backgrounder:

Then [The 1990s] and now, the “grossly disproportionate numbers”are shocking:

fully one quarter of Canadian prisoners are Aboriginal, while Aboriginal people only make up less than 4% of the overall population.

On the prairies, the numbers are even worse. Over 70% of Manitoba prisoners are Aboriginal people.

One might think that Manitoba would be one of the first provinces in Canada to implement the court, given the numbers quoted by Parkes.

Well, why? One might ask. What is this “special” court for? From another backgrounder, this from Ontario:

How is the Gladue Court Different from a Regular Court?

The Gladue court is of more benefit to an Aboriginal offender simply because a judge must consider two things:

• The unique system or background factors which may have played a role in bringing the offender before the court, and

• The types of sentencing procedures and sanctions that may be appropriate in the circumstances to the offender due to his or her Aboriginal heritage, including the examination of alternative justice processes such as Restorative Justice.

…  It is a fact that Aboriginal offenders respond better to a Restorative Justice model which advocates sharing, reparation and a holistic approach rather than the discriminations, adversarial stance and incarceration that is often synonymous with the Criminal Justice system.

What’s interesting to note, as well, is that despite the existence of such courts, it’s appeared to do little to address the reason they were established: gross over-representation. As one of Manitoba’s top judges suggested to The Freep the other day, maybe it’s putting the cart before the horse.

“Do we need to create a specialized Gladue court in Manitoba? We may need to do that here. But it’s not going to be easy,” Chief Judge Ken Champagne of Manitoba’s Provincial Court said.

Poverty is the biggest issue for aboriginal people in Manitoba. Is a Gladue court going to be able to address that? You also need a lot of resources at the front end: in education, training and social services,” Champagne said.

On another note, it’s refreshing to see a judge saying something in a public forum. In my opinion, too often they’re silent on issues the public cares about.

(Thunder Bay Courthouse)

2] Add to the above this story of a murder trial postponed because of underrepresentation of aboriginal people on the jury. Strikes me that this is a problem here in Manitoba too. Take for example the jury trial of a teen Indian Posse gangster who went on a shooting spree at a Weston-area home, killing three. If I remember correctly, there wasn’t one aboriginal person on his jury either.

3] Couple of major criminal cases went forward with resolutions this week. First, the woman who abducted a baby from a home and slammed it into a sidewalk pleaded guilty. And yes, a Gladue report has been ordered to examine the circumstances of Nikita Eaglestick’s background. Second, a boy who brutally murdered a kid he was babysitting on Little Grand Rapids First Nation was sentenced to the maximum allowable under the YCJA.

From Dean Pritchard’s (Twitter: deanatwpgsun) story in the Winnipeg Sun:

Questioned by police, the accused had little explanation for the attack, except to say “he wanted to try it out” and that he “felt nothing” after Tristian was dead.

The accused hauled water from a nearby lake to clean up the murder scene.

“For all the blood-letting that happened … (there was) very little forensic evidence,” Sharma said.

According to a pre-sentence report, the accused told a probation officer “he thought he was going to be able to cover up his crime” and said he “ran out of time and did not do a good enough cleanup job.”

Equally as interesting is the fact the Crown says it was forced to accept a plea deal (and therefore not be able to sentence this guy as an adult) because the investigating officers violated the accused’s rights under youth justice laws by not following proper procedure for young offenders.

I remember a couple of days after the victim was killed I bumped into a Correctional Officer who said the accused had just been brought into Winnipeg. The guard admitted being appalled at what the allegations were against him and indicated the now-convicted murderer was likely insane. I guess now, more than two years later, we have some indication of how true that is.

(winnipegcat.blogspot.com)

4] As Winnipeg mops up it’s 8th homicide of 2011 (in what’s been a very ‘stabby’ week), one realizes gang and drug-riddled Vancouver is only on number 2 of the year.

5] Scared Straight? Teens conducting a break-in and subsequent car theft enter a home where a man was apparently already dead. Maybe they saw him and bolted, maybe they didn’t. A truly bizarre set of circumstances.

6] The more I read over the U.S. court documents regarding the mysterious disappearance of two Winnipeg university students accused of terrorism-related offences, the more it seems like the plot of a spy novel. The most interesting stuff I’ve come across so far are the stories relating to an already arrested co-accused, who the FBI claims travelled to Pakistan and received military weapons and tactical training for jihad from a man named in documents as Yusef. In an unsealed indictment against Ferid Imam, one of the missing students, U.S. prosecutors say he went by the alias Yousef. Lawyers for the arrested man are working to have a long statement he gave to the FBI in January 2010 tossed out on the belief he was represented by counsel and police had no right to question him. No matter what, it’s going to be an interesting case — but one wonders if Imam or Yar will ever be apprehended.

One excerpt from the FBI’s report on a post-arrest interview with the arrested guy [not Imam]:

[He] and the others walked into the hotel, which was about fifteen minutes from the house, and checked themselves in. Again, [he] was asked not to speak to anyone as his English would get them into trouble.

[he] believes this hotel either belonged to, or was associated with the Taliban. [He and two others] were provided with a room that contained only two beds but an additional one was brought in for them. Their room had its own bathroom for their use. There were other men in the twenties who were also staying at this same hotel, but very little talking amongst the men took place.

There was a computer set up in a common area of this hotel where videos of attacks on U.S. troops, different suicide and martyrdom missions, and bombings were shown, During the night, [he and the two others] engaged in an argument. [He] was angry [at them] because they mostly spoke in Pashtun and they did not keep him informed of what was going on, Additionally, they felt as though [he] was a burden on them as his light skin made him stand out and he did not speak the local language. During the night, the three argued loudly in English and [he] punched a wall in anger …

The next day, the group left … and drove for about two to three hours until they arrived at a group of houses. [He] was brought to a house that was owned by a Pashtun man … [He] and the others were introduced to the man, in English as Yusef [ph] … [He] stayed at Yusef’s house for about two weeks, During these two weeks, Yusef provided [him] with both religious and military weapons training. With the assistance of an English speaking Arab, Yusef also provided religious instructions on the rewards of fighting and dying for jihad.

Yusef spoke Pashtu, Arabic and English with a clean American accent. Yusef was approximately 20 years old and was of African descent. In spite of his American accented English, [he] did not know whether Yusef had lived in the west.

A typical day consisted of waking up early to eat since it was Ramadan, praying and receiving classroom-type weapons training. [He] and the others did not spend too much time outdoors in the daytime as there was the fear of a missile strike coming from the unmanned drones that were overhead. These drones could be heard and sometimes seen flying in the skies overhead. They would take shifts throughout the night were each was responsible for guarding the house against an attack.

[He] was trained on the AK-47, the PK machine gun — which [he] referred to as the “peeka” and the rocket propelled grenade launcher. … this weapons training culminated with one day where [he] was brought up in to the mountainous area to fire the weapons. [He] shot thirty rounds from an AK-47 and one rocket propelled grenade at a target on the mountainside. [He] never shot the weapons at U.S. troops, abandoned vehicles, or anything other than the side of the mountain.

(cbc.ca/manitoba)

7] Finally, it looks as if the USA’s decision to drop escape charges against Ian Jackson MacDonald were tactical in nature. Just a few days after they did so, the once burly MacDonald was wheeled onto a jet in the company of RCMP officers and returned to Manitoba to face drug-conspiracy charges. What’s interesting to me about this is that the Canadian warrant for MacDonald was never wiped off the system as part of “the normal justice process” that takes place that the Sun revealed just a few weeks back [note – at least one of the quashed warrants was from the 70s].

Why not? I dunno. The warrant’s a dusty 30 years old, and it’s a non-violent offence. MacDonald, by many accounts, is now a sick old man. What’s the point of prosecuting him?

-30-

The daily deal(s), Wednesday:

Samantha Zeemel (Facebook)

Two killers, each offered plea deals today without Manitoba Justice stating any reasons as to why.

Case #1) Nicole Redhead suffocates and kills her abused baby daughter Jaylene and is charged with second-degree murder. The abuse and killing happens while she’s staying at a North End treatment centre, but no staff ever called police. It was Redhead’s incarcerated boyfriend who called 911. The girl was, by accounts, savagely beaten.

Case history: After a preliminary inquiry, Judge Mary-Kate Harvie rules Redhead should be tried for manslaughter given the evidence the Crown presented. The Crown fights for the reinstatement of the murder charge [and virtual certainty of greater punishment] and wins.

But then on Wednesday (today), Redhead pleads out to manslaughter, which carries no mandatory sentence.

No reason is given.

Case #2) Jason McDowell shoots his girlfriend Samantha Zeemel twice, in the head and the face after a cocaine binge in an East St. Paul home.

[UPDATE]: I should say alleged binge because he went on the run for a bit after the shooting and there was no real way to tell how intoxicated he was at the time.

Case history: Over the life of the file, McDowell and his lawyers try to quash the first-degree murder charge in favour of manslaughter, but the judge says no, goes halfway and allows a second-degree murder trial to go ahead.

But, like Redhead, the Crown allows him to plead to manslaughter at the last minute and he’s handed a 12-year sentence. No parole eligibility, no mandatory supervision for life despite the nature of the crime.

Again, no reason for the plea deal is given, or is at least stated in either The Sun, Free Press or CTV which reported thus:

McDowell had originally been charged with first-degree murder. That charge was later dropped to second-degree murder, before the charge was lowered once more to manslaughter in a plea deal.

[UPDATE:] Freep reporting:

The Crown agreed to drop a more serious charge of second-degree murder, which carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 10 years. They cited his impairment as the main issue.

Not to beat a dead horse, but at the time of the shooting, RCMP believed there was enough evidence to support the most serious Criminal Code charge, and likely a Manitoba Justice Crown had to sign off on it, or was at least consulted prior to it being laid.

I can understand that a judge may see it differently and lessen the charge, but that was — despite McDowell’s lawyer’s fighting it — second-degree murder.

But in the end, there’s a plea to manslaughter.

-30-

Homicide in Lord Roberts II

Mike Allan in an undated photo with his beloved dog. 'It was the happiest he ever was,' his family said Sunday. Family Photo/James Turner/CBC

You can read about what happened to Mike Allan here, so I won’t recount the CBC News story.

But I wanted to point out something that I’m sure will be the subject of much debate over the next week.

Allan’s brother in law, Mervin Forbister, told me today that a Winnipeg homicide detective showed up at his door on Saturday to tell him the bad news and share with him and Allan’s sister, Nancy, what they believed had happened.

Among what Forbister says he was told is the following:

A call came in to 911 regrading a disturbance in the area of Allan’s Nassau Street South home around midnight Saturday. Sources tell me it was more like 1 a.m.

It’s at this point that Allan was believed to have been attacked by his assailant.

That same assailant left the home at some point before 2:15 a.m. and made her way towards the 7-11 on Osborne St. South.

An 18-year-old woman was stabbed and the suspect fled the area.

Police outside the home where Mike Allan lived for the last two years. Prior to this, he had been living in a rooming house in Saskatchewan.

After this, the suspect is said to have then returned to Allan’s home, where police attended at about 5 a.m., according to Forbister.

The suspect is arrested.

Some will wonder – well, why the 4 hour gap between the disturbance call and the arrest at the home? Why didn’t police show up at midnight?

It’s because of a couple of things, I’m going to say.

One – the call that came in was for a disturbance. Not an assault, or gunfire or other pressing threat that the WPS could have immediately known based on the complaint that was made [arguably by a neighbour]. Others in the area told me they heard nothing Saturday morning.

The duty office told CBC today that at points over the weekend, there were as many as 100 calls in the dispatch queue awaiting service. A fair amount, but still down a heck of a lot from summers just a few years ago where sometimes upwards of 250 calls would be waiting to be cleared.

It was busy, crime wise, this weekend – and if you’re looking at the queue of stabbings, assaults [domestic or otherwise] and gun calls – and dealing with a scarce amount of bodies to place at calls across the city, you have to prioritize.

The fact that officers got to Allan’s home when they did is most likely as quick as they could, given the nature of the call — a disturbance.

Forbister was blunt with me: He feels the police are not to be blamed in any way for their response to the incident.

Homicides are, by and large, impossible to predict, and the fact the suspect [a 30-year-old woman] is charged with second, and not first-degree murder is an indication that the killing happened in the heat of the moment, and wasn’t a planned event.

Police guard the rear of Allan's home on Sunday.

Forbister lamented the loss of his relative, but was candid about his lifestyle and the backdrop to the killing.

For many years, Allan battled the bottle and was very ill [he weighed only 120 lbs.] with a contracted lung infection that left him very sick and weak.

Allan and the woman he was with were in a cab from the downtown area and stopped at the Osborne Village Inn to get a case of beer. They headed back to his place.

Forbister said police told him there was a dispute, which lead to Allan being beaten, “he had his face kicked in,” he told me, and was tossed down a flight of stairs and repeatedly stabbed.

The knife used, Forbister said, came from a set Allan recently won for being so productive at a telemarketing gig he was working at.

“I had a premonition [about Mike] three days ago,” Forbister said.

In that vision,  Allan died.

He said he thought the former welder and Mensa member would have died while out riding his bicycle in traffic.

Forbister thought he’d never go in such a violent way.

Rest in peace, Mike Allan.