5 reports: more ? than answers

So what to make of the mess that comprises the 5 reports that the Commission of Inquiry Respecting the Death of Donald Dunphy CIDDD? If, as was stated, the overarching purpose of the inquiry is to restore faith in the administration of justice in Newfoundland they’re off to a very shaky start. Note: I am implying no fault of Commissioner Barry, staff counsel or administrators. It’s what they have to work with that’s the problem.


A few of the headlines

  1. Joe Smyth has made contradictory statements as to the purpose of the visits to Donald Dunphy’s home. In September of 2016 he revised the narrative to say that Dunphy’s tweets were not threatening and that he was there to “establish rapport” with Dunphy and to work on his “grievances.”
    Note: there is much to be concerned about on this issue and I intend to address it in detail in a subsequent  post. In the months leading up to the shooting Dunphy was having an ongoing dispute with WCB and Deputy-Premier Stephen Kent. Dunphy’s twitter account was being monitored by WCB and possibly Donna Ivey the Communications Director for the Premier.

  2. Smyth refused the offer to accompany him to visit Dunphy by the local Holyrod Detachment of the RCMP. (They knew Dunphy and had a rapport with him.)

  3. There were no fingerprints found on the gun Dunphy allegedly pointed at Smyth. The RCMP report says this was because the gun was covered in “dust and grime” but that seems questionable.  

  4. The videotaped interview with Const. Joe Smyth regarding his shooting of Dunphy was not recorded due to a faulty tape recorder. Smyth was not re-interviewed. There was no “monitor” (another police officer) present, as is considered best practice, to provide back-up notes.

  5. Smyth was not questioned at the scene, had no tests done for substance or alcohol in his system. Meghan Dunphy was questioned intensively 5 hours after the shooting. Smyth wasn’t questioned until 24 hours later.

  6. Smyth changed his account of where the rifle was; first he said beside the sofa, then in the chair with Dunphy. Question: if as Smyth says, Dunphy came in sat down and stayed in his chair then how is it that Smyth would not have seen the rifle if it was there in the chair?
    “The mounties are inclined· to believe that the statement of Smyth was accurate that the gun came from the side of the chair but I find that difficult to accept because the last time the gun was seen was behind the couch on the floor.” JR pg 14.

  7. Dunphy’s rifle was found on the floor facing him, i.e. not consistent with Smyth’s version of events.

  8. Smyth shot Dunphy from close range, the last shot approximately 3-4 feet, hit Dunphy in the left side of the head exiting his right temple.
    I further conclude that the last shot fired by Smyth indicates that he intended to fatally injure Dunphy. ...Smyth said he is an accurate shot and after having already fired three shots at Dunphy he adds a fourth when Dunphy was probably motionless.” JR pg 15 (Emphasis mine.) This conclusion is basically a charge of attempted murder according to the precedent set in the Sammy Yatim shooting by Toronto police officer James Forcillo, July 2013.

  9. Smyth failed to call for backup and/or first responders for a full 12 minutes. By the time they arrived Smyth had been alone with Dunphy for 40 minutes.

  10. Smyth made no attempt to render aid to the fallen Dunphy.
    “I also note from the RNC Guidelines that following the shooting, a victim is to be attended to and given prompt medical attention.” Judge Riche, pg 16

  11. Smyth was treated as a colleague and Premier Davis even called him to pass on his “best regards” the night of the shooting. At no time apparently was he treated as if he may have committed manslaughter or murder as required by RNC regulations.
    “The RNC states that all reportable deaths shall be treated as criminal until determined to be otherwise by the major case manager.” Judge David Riche  pg 16

  12. The reviews by ASIRT and the Saskatoon PD were cursory at best and even though they found fault they minimized its importance and passed it off as not being significant.


On April 22, 2015, less than 3 weeks after Dunphy was killed, Erin Breen, Meghan Dunphy's lawyer, expressed concerns to local CBC about "red flags" and "tunnel vision" if the local RCMP were to carry out the investigation into the fatal shooting. It seems her fears have been realized and then some. The question now is, can the harm be undone? 

It’s all there in the reports. Paul Davis, premier and ex-cop, calls the shooter to pass on best wishes; the shooters reports in his leaked email that many colleagues came up to him to offer their support; a fellow officer sees him at the airport in Florida where he’d gone on holiday shortly after the shooting and offers her support. This was all done before any facts were in evidence. The message from government and the police: We support you Joe Smyth, no matter what you may have done and before any evidence is in. How much more do we need to conclude that the investigation would be compromised consciously or not?

more than one scenario

Of course questioning the reports and their conclusions will be called a “conspiracy theory.” But even the forensic examiner Darryl Barr in his report said that there is often more “than one scenario that the physical evidence may support. IT is not the intent of this report ··to offer a definitive scenario of the events relating to the shooting death of Dunphy." Judge Riche pg. 11.

There are several inconsistencies in Smyth’s account that cast doubt on his version of the encounter. An equally valid interpretation of the evidence could be that Smyth shot Dunphy, recovered the rifle after the shooting and placed it on the floor in front of Dunphy in the ample time he had before he made the call (12 minutes) for first responders and their arrival (40 minutes).  


As for Smyth’s account of the actual shooting Brad Cabana made this disturbing observation on his blog ROCK SOLID POLITICS based on his own experience and training with small arms as a military officer:

I’ve always found this to be totally unbelievable

I've always found this to be totally unbelievable from my training and experience, there is no way that Dunphy could have pointed a rifle at Smyth first and Smyth just responded. First of all, and importantly, Smyth's pistol would have been holstered, uncocked, and perhaps not even having a bullet in the chamber. It takes time to unholster, cock, and aim a weapon. If Dunphy had a rifle pointed at Smyth before Smyth reacted, well Smyth would have no chance. Instead, we are left to believe that Smyth simply reacted. That is almost impossible. Especially considering not one round was fired off by Dunphy first. The timing of this draw for weapons makes absolutely no sense, and really belongs in some kind of western movie. It's not reality."

So for the RCMP it’s case closed. But is it? Will it stay that way? That will depend on the thoroughness of the inquiry. We have yet to see any of the actual evidence and apparently the RCMP is trying to make sure we don’t. There have been so many opportunities lost already the truth or our best approximation of it may be lost for good. Let’s hope not.

Note on the comments:

I have copied and pasted 3 comments because the posters put their comments at the end of the whole section instead of just after this post. So when you want to comment make sure it's at the end of the post you've been reading. Thanks. 


CIDDD RELEASEs 5 Reports to public

Reports released today include: RCMP (undated investigative report), Alberta's ASIRT review of the RCMP investigation, Saskatoon PD report on adherence or lack of by Const. Smyth to procedures, Judge David Riche's report on his overview of the RCMP investigation, and Chief Bill Janes' decision on whether or not to discipline Const. Smyth for breach of protocols. (He didn't.)

I have read all 5 reports, once and plan to read them again more carefully. So have a lot of people on Twitter (#DonDunphy) and a lot of holes have been identified. I don't see any evidence of a cover-up or any deliberate tampering with evidence. What I do see though is something Meghan Dunphy's lawyer Erin Breen warned of: That is a closeness, collegiality and "tunnel vision" on the part of investigators and even those tasked with examining the investigation.

Unfortunately, many of these problems are too late to correct. For instance, RCMP investigators took no pictures of Smyth at the scene. He was not questioned at the scene and when he was questioned 24 hours later he was treated as a colleague. The RCMP report paints the Symths as an upper middle-class couple with "ridiculous" amounts of money and Dunphy as living in squalor. It's not hard to see where their sympathies lie. RCMP interviewed Smyth on video but had no officer monitoring the interview, a "best practice." Then the tape was faulty and they were left with no interview and no back up. The interview itself was conducted in a "sympathetic" fashion. Bottom line; opportunities were missed to probe deeper into the incident. 

Will the inquiry be able to redress what's already lost? I'm not so sure it will but I do think the doubt and disbelief in Joe Smyth's account or the shooting is palpable and will only grow. 

Comments welcomed.