Is Justice Served by a Technical Acquittal?

The news  coverage of Hymie Weinstein and Sheldon Pinx revelling in their  victory over Robert Tapper  brought to mind the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, “This is a court of law young man, not a court of justice”.

The media coverage showed Mr. Weinstein and Mr. Pinx basking in the glow of their victory, unable to hide their unseemly glee.  Their motion for a directed verdict was based on what they argued was a failure on the part of Mr. Tapper to identify the accused in court.  Mr. Tapper’s position is that identification was achieved.  The court disagreed and granted the motion.  The case was dismissed.

What does this mean?  It means that the jury that heard all the evidence was not given the opportunity to render a verdict.  It means that two officers were acquitted not on the merits of the case but rather on a procedural technicality, the type of technicality that normally causes great concern among officers.  It means that in the minds of many Winnipeggers the reputations of  two officers who were not convicted on a crime were none the less tarnished.  It means that if they decide to continue their careers as police officers, every time they appear in court to testify there will be nagging doubts about their testimony in the minds of crowns, defense counsel and judges.

In the world of sports, as in our courts, there is a recognition that referees and judges don’t always get it right the first time around.  Mr. Tapper has indicated that he will be throwing the challenge flag, appealing the case to the Manitoba Court of Appeal.

The role of defense counsel is to represent the best interests of their clients.  At first blush it would appear that Mr. Weinstein and Mr. Pinx did that.  Their clients were acquitted.

If, at the end of the day, an acquittal is the appropriate outcome in this case,  it needs to be an acquittal rendered by a jury based on the evidence; not a technical acquittal that leaves unanswered questions and doubt.

I think a “replay” may be to everyone’s benefit in this case.

5 comments on “Is Justice Served by a Technical Acquittal?

  1. James T says:

    As Tapper said: ‘the paint’s not dry on this wall yet.’



  2. Fat Arse says:

    Wholly agree that a “replay” is needed. These kind of judicial decisions always leave the public with a bad taste on the collective pallette. Though reasonable “technicalities” are important in some cases – in this case, the particular technicality seems unwarranted. While I can’t blame the judge for enforcing the law; maybe it’s time this particular law was changed?


  3. James T says:

    @FA: I’d say Tappers contention that having the officer’s notebooks equals an admission of identity should be argued.


  4. dt1524 says:

    I have to agree that this acquittal will have the unfortunate effect of having all WPS officers painted with the same unflattering brush. And I suspect the officers were only too happy to have the judge render this verdict if the media reports were accurate. Although I think that maybe after the happiness of an acquittal has worn off they may realize that no one will look at them the same way. I further can’t believe that any self respecting police officer would be happy with this outcome.

    What I don’t understand is why the judge didn’t instruct the jury to take into account during their deliberations that identity was in question. If the jury felt confident enough that those at the defense table were the correct people then they should be allowed to render a verdict on their own.

    I don’t think the officers in the court at the time the verdict was given realize what they were actually cheering for.

    Having said all that, if the “rules” are good for the crooks then they should be the same for everyone. This is our “justice” system.

    As a p.s. – let’s hope Corrin gets what he so richly deserves!


  5. […] I checked Friday afternoon, no appeal had been filed yet. The ‘technical’ acquittal had some wondering what police were cheering […]


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