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.