One day after two Winnipeg officers were acquitted of perjury and other charges, independent prosecutor Robert Tapper sat down with CBC News and offered his view and explanation of what happened in the abruptly-ended case.
The full transcript of the conversation with CBC reporter Mychaylo Prystupa is what follows. His story is here.
Used with permission.
CBC: You’ve said that what happened in court [the acquittal] hasn’t been portrayed accurately in reports. What happened?
Tapper: There was never any doubt that the civilians— if I can call them that, hotel people — were not going to be able to identify the police officers. I told that to the jury when we started. This case was going to be proved, I said to the jury, like the spokes of a wheel — a piece at a time.
A large part of that was going to be on documents, on GPS entries, on passcard details from the exit and entries of the police station, the notebooks of the accused police officers and their evidence that they had given at the preliminary inquiry into the charges against the drug offender.
As well as the civilians as to what they said happened — even though they couldn’t say who had done what when.
There were some agreed exhibits. The agreed exhibits were the notebooks of the accused — come back to those … The accused are the people who stood up and answered to the charges. Those two officers. The exhibits were agreed to be their notebooks and their cell phone records. At the end of my case, the defence stands up and says, ‘well, you didn’t prove the accused are the accused … and not just people who strangely somehow had the same names.’
To which, I of course said, ‘what are you talking about?,’ but unhappily, the judge bought into that notion so I said that I’m going to seek leave to reopen and call a police officer to ask the very question: ‘point these two gentlemen out — the gentlemen whose names are already there, on their notebooks.’
I had thought, obviously, that with the agreement as to the entry of these exhibits with their names all over … that these were there notebooks, that these in fact, were their notebooks. And I told that to the jury when we started.
So to say the least, the case unfolded in a way I didn’t desire or expect. And we’ll see at the end of the day whether that survives.
CBC: There’s a current of thought that the officers got away on a technicality.
Tapper: Well it is a technicality. It had nothing to do, whatever, with whether they lied under oath or were unlawfully in a dwelling home. It had to do with whether or not the Crown — me — proved their identity — not in the sense of who entered into the particular hotel room, which was the substance of the offence, but their identity in the sense of whose notebooks these were and whose cell phone records that these were.
I took a very different view of that, but that was ultimately what the judge ordered. And that is clearly a technicality.
CBC: So you agree with that sentiment that’s out there?
Tapper: Well yes and no. I mean technicalities form a proper part of the law. And there’s no question about that. A famous American jurist, a hundred years ago, said that the history of liberty has largely been the observance of procedural safeguards. I don’t have any problem with technical defences. I just happen to think this particular one was wrong.
CBC: You have a second prosecution against police officers coming up.
Tapper: I have at least two more.
CBC: How much confidence do you expect the public to have in your ability to prosecute these police officers successfully?
Tapper: Well, you know, that’s a delightful question. I’ve been practicing law for almost four decades. I think I know my way around the law. This shouldn’t of happened.
And I suppose the public could be concerned about that and say: ‘Was he some wet-nosed junior that made a mistake?’ I have to hope not. Do I have the confidence to do it? Yes. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t. I’ve done more trials than most people. I don’t think that this was a mistake. You see, that’s the thing. I don’t think this was a mistake. I think this was a ruling of some interest and that I will do my utmost to overturn.
But, to this moment, As bad as I feel about this, and I do — I still don’t think it was a mistake. The court may tell me otherwise in due course, we’ll have to wait and see on that one.
Let me also tell you that while I have two … you asked about prosecutions that two officers … I have two next week [inaudible]. I’ve done many of these. I’ve obtained many convictions … Most people who know me know that I don’t lack in confidence, to my detriment. Yeah. I mean, I’m not worried about that.
If the powers that be are worried about that, the’ll react accordingly. This should not have happened. When you stand up and say: ‘These are the records of the accused, and the other side agrees … are there two Mychaylo Prystupas out there? I think traditionally, the witness stands up, points out and says: ‘That’s the man that did it,’ right? But not every case is like that. and in this particular case, there was no doubt that the hotel people could not identify … the police officers, five and a half years later. It was an innocuous event, as far as they knew in the middle of the morning, six in the morning.
CBC: So you were using their records…
Tapper: We had all kinds of evidence, including their notebooks.
Tapper previously said he plans to appeal Justice Brenda Keyser’s ruling and may file the necessary paperwork with the Manitoba Court of Appeal this week.