It’s been one year since the brutal slaying of Don Dunphy in his home on Easter Sunday, 2015 by RNC Const. (then Sgt.) Joe Smyth.
There’s a saying in the law: Justice Delayed is Justice Denied. It’s pretty self-explanatory but basically it means that the longer the course of justice takes the less actual justice is delivered.
For Don Dunphy the only real and complete justice would be to somehow restore his life to him and his loved ones. So that won’t happen in the real world, then what would justice look like?
The sequence of tweets in question
First of all, it would include the public acknowledgement that Don did nothing wrong. It wasn’t even a bad judgment call on his part. His tweets were, as they always were, direct, to the point and, in general, aimed at injustices as he saw them. So step one: a clear and unequivocal statement by Justice Minister Andrew Parsons, with acknowledgement by the police, that a visit to his home to question him about the tweets was not warranted; was inappropriately conducted and those that made the decision must be held to account. At the very least they should be publicly censured for bad judgement leading to a wrongful death.
Two: most importantly there needs to be a detailed, transparent and public accounting of exactly what happened at Don Dunphy’s home the day he was shot. Here and now, Easter Sunday one year on, we have only rumours and speculation as to what happened. That in itself perpetuates the injustice. The delay has compromised the integrity of the investigation. How badly? That remains to be seen. That is another sense in which a delay is injustice itself: the longer it takes the more opportunity for evidence to be misplaced, mismanaged and even maliciously destroyed or “lost.” There is no recent history anywhere and especially with the RNC and RCMP that investigations can be counted on to be full, fair and impartial.
Justice Minister Andrew Parsons
Who are the victims? Obviously Don himself. Secondly and most important now is his daughter Meghan, 28. The justice delayed is torture for her. She has had to wait exactly one year now with no word from the police or government. Yes, Andrew Parsons has promised an inquiry and he did call in the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT). He is to be commended for that and is not to blame for the delays so far. But the ball is in his court and it needs to be played fairly and fairly quickly.
Don and Meghan were close in a way that only a single parent and child can be. They were each other’s main support. And Don did that with the handicap of his workplace injury.
Don was a fighter but a gentle one. His weapons were words but he never espoused violence. He advocated relentlessly for those the system left behind or outright discarded. An injured worker himself he helped others do battle with a bureaucracy determined to save money at their expense.
Don’s other family and friends have suffered his loss as well but the person most affected is Meghan and she deserves a full, open, truthful accounting of what happened to her dad. It won’t restore what she’s lost but it will at least begin to restore some but not all justice for Don.
So let’s light a fire under them (no, not literally for any police, social-media “experts” tuning in) and get this fully and transparently investigated and reported to Meghan, Don’s family, friends, community and the public. If there are wrong doers let them know that slaps on the wrists aren’t good enough.
It is time for #Justice4Don.
Link to request from NL Justice Minister requesting ASIRT do a review of the RCMP investigation of the Don Dunphy shooting.
A week after
Don Dunphy was shot, on the day of his funeral in fact, an email was leaked to the press. It was from the RNC officer who shot him, Joe E. Smyth. It was redolent of superiority and contempt for the public, especially those on social media. He said people can't be expected to "get" the work of the police.
Read the letter from Andrew Parsons to the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (linked above) requesting that they, in effect, investigate the investigation of the Dunphy shooting by the RCMP and you will see that the Minister "gets it."
The public must
have confidence and trust in the work of the police. Justice must be done and it must be seen to be done. Otherwise there is serious disconnect in the social contract between government and the people.
The case of Don Dunphy a disabled man, shot in his own home, a man living on a meager income from a workplace injury, an activist, shot over a tweet, was a case that created waves of mistrust in Newfoundland-Labrador and around the country.
That mistrust will not be alleviated by the independent review, nor by a public inquiry but it's a necessary first step in reestablishing it.
So far the
Justice Minister, Andrew Parsons has shown a laudable commitment to asserting a greater degree of transparency and accountability over policing in NL. He should know however that people are watching with hope but also an understandable degree of suspicion that justice will not prevail.
Prove us wrong, sir.
CBC News has reported
that the RCMP have completed their investigation. But NO you can't see it because it needs to be reviewed by another, outside police agency first. And after that will they say that they can't reveal anything because it might compromise the public inquiry? And then will ... and so it goes. If democracy and transparency are synonymous you can draw your own conclusions about what this is. Just why is it that the public is not allowed to know at this point what their conclusions are? Because the outside agency might contradict them? So what? Aren't we the public entitled to know, to say nothing of Meghan Dunphy?
Let's look for comparison
at the James Forcillo case in Toronto that recently resulted in his acquittal on 2nd degree murder charges and manslaughter but a guilty verdict on attempted murder. An abbreviated timeline:
July 27, 2013 Const. James Forcillo shoots Sammy Yetim 9 times after a 50 second stand-off.
July 30, 2013 Forcillo is publicly named.
August 19, 2013 Forcillo is charged with 2nd degree murder, less than a month after the shooting.
June 17, 2014 Forcillo is committed to stand trial.
Obviously there are big differences in the two cases, the most significant being that the police actually had a reason to be on scene in the case of Sammy Yetim. The other was that there was a publicly released video.
However, Forcillo was publicly named just 3 days after the shooting; why not Sgt. (now Const.) Joe E. Smyth? What compelling reason was there to keep his name secret, even after an email he wrote a week after the shooting was "leaked" to the public?
Secondly Forcillo was charged with the very serious crime of 2nd degree murder less than one month after the shooting. Of course it will be said, but the forensics were more complicated in the Dunphy case. Really 10-11 months more complicated? And Forcillo had a preliminary hearing and was committed to stand trial in roughly the same amount of time that the Dunphy case has dragged on with no reported conclusions.
All the public has ever been told
about this case was the unsubstantiated allegation that Don Dunphy pointed a gun at Smyth, that Dunphy was shot and killed and of course the so-called leaked email.
And why are the Newfoundland-Labrador media so meek and mild on this case? Are there no investigative reporters there? Do they all do journalism by email, such as when Const. Joe Smyth sent the CBC an email to tell them the "news" that he was the shooter? Information that had been circulated, accurately, on Twitter for weeks.
So no, Meghan you
and Don's friends his community and his literally thousands of supporters will just have to wait, and no we're not going to tell you how long for. But oh, by the way, Happy Birthday.
Nothing for 8 months
and now the news is flowing on the Don Dunphy shooting. First, the RCMP announced they will complete their investigation by the end of January. What's the rush guys?
Consider the following
comparison of timing. The killing by Baltimore PD of 25 year-old African-American Freddy Grey, occurred on April 12, 2015, literally a week after Sgt. (now Const.) Joe Smyth shot Don Dunphy. The circumstances around the Grey killing were arguably as complicated, probably more so. Yet, the trial of the first officer charged in Grey's death just concluded today in a hung jury (that's a whole other story).
Then the RCMP
announced, presumably with a straight face, that when they complete their investigation an outside police force--the OPP?-- will do another investigation. You would be forgiven for not knowing that was the way it was supposed to be from the git-go. Both the RNC and the RCMP skirted their own regulations in allowing the RCMP to handle the investigation. This was pointed out in the House by then Justice critic Andrew Parsons but somehow the local media missed it.
The RNC has
and had at the time a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the OPP which was supposed to be activated in the event of a serious incident involving an RNC officer and a civilian. They used it for a sexual assault but must not have considered the un-witnessed shooting of a civilian to be that serious.
In a related
story former Sgt., now Const., Joe Smyth outed himself as the shooter in an email to CBC. He stated that he welcomes a public inquiry. If it wasn't so tragic it would be laughable. This site reported--backed by at least 5 sources--the name of the shooter on Oct. 27. And it was on Twitter a day or two before that.
their rigorous journalism by "confirming" that the rifle found at the scene of the shooting was in fact "loaded." But who loaded it? Meghan Dunphy found a live round in the house days after it was released to her. She contacted the RCMP who told her it was of "no evidenciary value." If it was a .22 round it certainly would have been. It could have had fingerprints on it. Anything. Has the CBC been so cowed by the Harper years that they've forgotten what a follow-up question is?
for the Dunphy family and friends that the man in charge of putting the inquiry into motion, Justice Minister Andrew Parsons, has proved himself nobody's fool so far.
Less than 24 hours
after being sworn in as the Minister for Justice and Public Safety, Andrew Parsons committed to a public inquiry into the police shooting of Donald Dunphy last Easter Sunday, April 5th. An inquiry has been actively sought for the past 8 months by Don's daughter Meghan and hundreds of his family, friends and supporters.
Parsons noted that there is an ongoing RCMP investigation so that a public inquiry will have to wait for the results of that. However he was unequivocal that it would happen. Meghan Dunphy has not yet commented.
knew the politicians and they knew him. So why was he being “investigated” for a tweet--when many of them had previously engaged him on Twitter? Was that just the cover story for an intended intimidation gone fatally wrong?
what you may have heard from his supporters Don Dunphy did threaten politicians. He was not some harmless old man who because of his work-injury-induced poverty could do nothing. He could and did do plenty. Therein lies the threat he posed.
He absolutely never threatened violence of any kind to any politician, their families or anyone else.
But he threatened
their hold on power by exposing their lies and telling the truth about the mistreatment of injured workers and others the politicians abandoned, like the homeless.
After killing him
they tried to take away Dunphy’s good name, portraying him as mentally unbalanced, suggesting, not too subtly, that he was responsible for his own death. But right from the day the news broke, the man who the pols thought was a nobody turned out to have a legion of friends. These people on Twitter, in his community, his family, especially his daughter Meghan and his colleagues in the injured workers associations cried foul. They knew him as funny, acerbic, opinionated and blunt but not crazy. They knew and said, from day one: something stinks about this killing:
@Patondabak “he loved animals, he loved our country, he hated politicians and the system.”
@maritimemaggie it doesn't make sense. None of it. U wouldn't pull out rifle with someone w handgun
@PoliticalPetard just spoke on the phone a friend of his, said he never would have pointed a gun at anyone, looks like BAD SHOOTING
@CanadianGlen so so sorry to hear of the loss of Don. His voice will be missed. Those responsible will pay for their lethal choices.
Since the shooting
many people have said that NL politicians knew who Don was and what his issues were. If this were true then the justification that a member of the Premier’s security detail had to go investigate him seems ...well bogus.
To review what led up to the shooting:
On Good Friday
Apr 3, 2015, Sandy Collins MHA, Minister for Workplace Health and Safety was travelling with Premier Paul Davis, in the premier’s official car. He sent a tweet saying they were listening to The Sun in Your Eyes by Sherman Downey. Dunphy shot back a series of 5 tweets calling out Collins, Davis and other politicians for their lack of concern for the poor. It included the final tweet which was later claimed to be a threat.
the media left and the way the politicians reacted was that these tweets came “out of the blue.” By implication they were saying, we don’t know this man or what he might do. But what if they did know him? What if they thought he was a supreme pain in the ass to them for always going on in public with views that embarrassed them? What if Sgt. Joe Smyth the head of the Premier’s security detail was actually in the Premier's SUV that day--listening?
Which is more likely
that someone was in the Premier's office monitoring twitter on the Easter holiday weekend, or the above?
that the RNC says on their Twitter website that "Twitter NOT monitored 24/7" but we're to believe that it was being monitored on the Easter Holiday weekend.
Here are some people
who knew very well who Don Dunphy was: Sandy Collins, minister in charge of the department that frequently dealt with Dunphy. The RCMP deleted Dunphy’s twitter account 2 days after he was killed but here are tweets from Collins to Dunphy in the year before the shooting. @SCulpen was Don Dunphy's Twitter handle.
the deputy Premier, also knew Dunphy and some folks said Kent sought Dunphy’s political support at one time due to his influence with injured workers and their families. Tweets to Dunphy from Steve Kent.
Even Pady Daly
VOCM open line host seems to have known Dunphy well.
An election was approaching. The PC party was nervous about its chances. Sparked by Dunphy’s Good Friday tweets, someone Davis, Collins or perhaps even Sgt. Smyth decided that he should go to Dunphy’s home and tell him to shut up--or else. It would not be the first time the RNC were accused of being used for political intimidation. We don’t know what transpired inside Dunphy’s house with Smyth but we have circumstantial evidence that Dunphy did not point a gun at Smyth. So what then did happen?
Because of the
absolute lid on information by the RNC, RCMP and the NL government we don’t know. One could guess that Don Dunphy who was known to be good at pushing buttons, pushed Smyth’s and that was a fatal choice.
Sgt. Joe E Smyth who took a family vacation literally days after killing Don Dunphy.
So we await
the results of the investigation. Will they tell us anything? Erin Breen, Meghan Dunphy’s lawyer doesn’t believe they will. She says all they have to do is announce whether charges will be laid or not in the case.
And this raises
another point that Davis and his ministers have played fast and loose with the obligatory procedures and protocols in the investigation. It has the taint of cover-up on many levels.
like Global News dutifully reported that the Dunphy family repeatedly and strenuously requested an outside force be brought in to investigate the shooting. What they failed to cover as well, if at all, was the efforts of the then Liberal opposition to achieve the same result.
April 27, 2015
question period in the House of Assembly Liberal Justice critic Andrew Parsons repeatedly questioned Minister of Justice Darin King about why an outside force, the OPP, was not brought in to investigate Dunphy’s death at the hands of an RNC officer.
The exchange has been edited for brevity but the essence has been kept:
Darin King who has a Ph.D in education and presumably understands English well, repeatedly chose to interpret Parsons’s questions as criticism of both himself and the RCMP, the chosen investigating body instead of a call for outside investigation.
Former NL Justice Minister Darin King PC
At one point
Andrew Parsons notes that the government seems to have specified that the investigation will begin with the day of the shooting and seeks assurance from Minister King that the investigation will include the events (the so-called "interpretation" of the tweet as a threat). Could it be that Premier Davis and company were going to let that slide by because it never happened?
of, as Parsons called it, obfuscation obscured an important issue. That is, both the RNC and the RCMP are required by their policies and procedures to call in an outside force in the case of extreme use of force on non-police. The RNC has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) which lays out the terms of the *required* OPP involvement. That MOU was and is in effect from March 2015, to March 2019. I.e. it covers the period of the Dunphy shooting. In fact it was used for the investigation of RNC Const. Douglas Snelgrove in 2015, who was accused of sexual assault. He was charged July 15, 2015 as a result of the investigation. His case raises the possibility of political interference with the process in the Dunphy case. Link to MOU.
Premier Paul Davis’s PC government had a serious problem with lack of public trust in the fairness of local RCMP investigating an RNC officer, one who was close to the Premier. So a retired judge David Riche was brought in to oversee the investigation. This wasn’t satisfactory to either the Dunphy family or the Liberal opposition in the House. Andrew Parsons spoke out about “conflict of interest” in July when the government gave a lucrative contract to Judge Riche to oversee long-term care contracts for the province.
So why did
the former government so vigorously oppose bringing in outside investigators? And why have they been so reluctant to have a public inquiry, which Andrew Parsons calls “inevitable?” Do they have something to hide? Was Paul Davis in the loop on the decision for Sgt. Smyth to confront Don Dunphy? Did the premier use his influence in Ottawa to delay the investigation until after the election? One source says yes and suggests that one of Davis’s former ministers is under investigation for doing just that. That is unconfirmed.
What is confirm
is that there is that Newfoundland-Labrador has elected a new Liberal government. And Andrew Parsons, MHA, the former Justice critic has opposed the government’s handling of the Dunphy case from the beginning. What will this mean?
Will there be an inquiry into the death of Don Dunphy?
If so how broad will the terms be? Will they, if not completely satisfied with the RCMP investigation, call in an outside force to reinvestigate? Nothing is really certain. We can’t know all the inputs into this decision especially as Dwight Ball and his new government are just taking their first steps and putting together a cabinet. But if they stay true to what they said in opposition there may be some very fat chickens coming home to roost.
Little I can add except that Josh expresses what we all feel even if we didn't know Don.