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Bryant Gets Away With Killing Bicyclist
May 25, 2010 1:59 PM   Subscribe

Charges dropped against the former Attorney General of Ontario despite video evidence showing Bryant first striking the bicyclist with his car and then attempting to get away. Previously

Bryant didn't even have to take a breathalyzer test.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent in a similar case, the defendents got the maximum sentence.
posted by GregorWill (152 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm really surprised that they wouldn't even put him up on a charge with a low burden of proof like involuntary manslaughter or at least assault or something.
posted by GuyZero at 2:01 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


We know.
posted by ardgedee at 2:01 PM on May 25, 2010


Jesus, what a travesty. That video and the descriptions of what happened are gut-wrenching.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:01 PM on May 25, 2010


If you want to get away with crushing a cyclist underneath your car, this will be textbook material for how it gets done:

1. Buy the services of a high-priced PR firm to run a smear campaign against your victim.
2. Call in favors from your high-placed friends in government.
3. Cry tearfully to the tabloids about how you were really the victim.

The rich and powerful can get away with a lot. So it goes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:02 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


As long as we're cutting-and-pasting comments from the closed and deleted threads:

Honestly, it feels to me like a situation where enough people were involved in the original thread that I can see people appreciating an update, but an actual thread about it (either here or on the blue) seems more like an invitation for another argument without there being a whole lot of new substance, so I think we'll just close this off here.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 2:04 PM on May 25, 2010


this is the first i'd heard about this incident. the video sure doesn't look good. that's all i know.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:07 PM on May 25, 2010


Jesus, I didn't see this when it happened, I guess. Absolutely horrible.
posted by Damn That Television at 2:09 PM on May 25, 2010


The things that surprises me about the responses to this story are the self-identification and the vivid imagination. Half the comments on the newspapers begin with if...

If some drunk thug was lunged at my wife...

If some angry cyclist grabbed my steering wheel...

If some crazy punk attacked me...

Bryant becomes 'me', Sheppard 'the other'. The actual sequence of events (documented by video evidence) is nowhere to be found.

The video evidence is no secret - it was broadcast by two TV networks. However, it was never shown as a continuous sequence.
posted by anthill at 2:12 PM on May 25, 2010


Pesky bicyclists get in the way. Bikes are toys. Roads are for cars.

For years, drunk driving was seen as 'there but for the grace of God goes I' and judges and juries were lenient because that was them on the stand. Then we had a huge paradigm shift. MADD, etc made it not funny. Eventually cyclists will be see as real bona fide road users. The question is how many more deaths will it take?
posted by fixedgear at 2:13 PM on May 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


As a rule, if your response to accidentally hitting someone is to get out, pry them out of your windshield, then dump them on the road and drive away -- yeah, you pretty much fail as a human being. (Here, I am referring to the case in Los Angeles linked above.)
posted by davejay at 2:14 PM on May 25, 2010



I have one question:

Do Saab's not have reverse?

If such is the case, then full exoneration is in order. Otherwise, this guy deserves vehicular manslaughter, at the least.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 2:15 PM on May 25, 2010


In the criminal justice system, the people are divided into two separate yet unequal groups: the elite whose lives and livelihoods are protected at all costs and the worthless proles who are presumed to be the offenders. These are their stories.

...and guess which group you belong to?
posted by rocket88 at 2:16 PM on May 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


OK, I'm an avid cyclist –a "lifestyle" cyclist—and I was and continue to be upset about this crime, but what does it have to do with the LA case?
posted by Mister_A at 2:17 PM on May 25, 2010


Do Saab's not have reverse?

My recollection is that not only do they have it, in older models you needed to be able to get the car into reverse to get your keys out.

I'd like people to make an effort to have this be a thread about something other than who is the bigger total fucking asshole, if at all possible.
posted by jessamyn at 2:20 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bryant becomes 'me', Sheppard 'the other'. The actual sequence of events (documented by video evidence) is nowhere to be found.

Funny, I would say exactly the same thing about how bicyclists are responding to this. Bryant reacted to a bad situation, he shouldn't go to jail for it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:25 PM on May 25, 2010


> "The system worked with excruciating independence," he [Bryant] said.

"Excruciating"? What an odd choice of word.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:26 PM on May 25, 2010


If was driving the car and some guy jumped onto the side of my car, I might drive on.
If some guy crashed into me on my bike, I might jump onto the side of their car.

Really horrible story...
posted by knapah at 2:26 PM on May 25, 2010


Wait a sec.

Is it true Bryant was on the wrong side of the street? I can't tell from the video.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 2:31 PM on May 25, 2010


So his car "lurched forward" as he was trying to restart it? It's called a clutch you moron. He decided to intentionally hit a cyclist who in turn reacted in a crazy manner. Shouldn't he still be charged for the initial contact?
posted by nestor_makhno at 2:31 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bryant reacted to a bad situation, he shouldn't go to jail for it.

Generally if you kill someone, even by accident and even if justified, you at least go to trial to prove your innocence before they let you go.
posted by GuyZero at 2:32 PM on May 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


How on earth do you not notice that you've run over a bicycle with a person on it?

But then, I ask this after watching someone run into the same tree two houses down my block THREE TIMES in under 60 seconds, for reasons which remain unclear.

I guess my years working as an auto courier in hellish urban traffic (the Phoenix metroplex, if you have to know) have trained me to be ultra-vigilant about knowing what is going on around my vehicle at all times. I just find it unfathomable that people are so unaware, especially behind the wheel.
posted by hippybear at 2:32 PM on May 25, 2010


Bryant reacted to a bad situation, he shouldn't go to jail for it.

People react to bad situations all the time. They're poor and undernourished, unemployed and uneducated, so they get into selling drugs or holding up a liquor stores. Just a reaction to a bad situation, you see, and in such circumstances people really shouldn't be sent ot jail. Or even prosecuted, apparently.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:36 PM on May 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


This article contains a detailed description from the independent prosecutor of the incident, explaining why he dropped the charges.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:37 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not sure why the "dropped" link goes to the comments on that newspaper.
posted by smackfu at 2:37 PM on May 25, 2010


I'd like people to make an effort to have this be a thread about something other than who is the bigger total fucking asshole, if at all possible.

</thread>
posted by clarknova at 2:39 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Generally if you kill someone, even by accident and even if justified, you at least go to trial to prove your innocence before they let you go.

Even if this were true, which its not, it's still bullshit. If the prosecutor is convinced that there isn't sufficient evidence, they cannot press charges; it's completely unethical of them to do so. Here, the evidence was that Shepperd attacked Bryant after a minor traffic incident and Bryant tried to get away from someone who was attacking him. That's not a crime.

They're poor and undernourished, unemployed and uneducated, so they get into selling drugs or holding up a liquor stores. Just a reaction to a bad situation, you see, and in such circumstances people really shouldn't be sent ot jail. Or even prosecuted, apparently.

I'm a public defender, so I'm glad we agree.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:40 PM on May 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Huh. So only US-destination Saabs have a clutch interlock to prevent the vehicle from starting if the clutch pedal isn't depressed? That seems kind of weak.
posted by maxwelton at 2:42 PM on May 25, 2010


Well obviously the moral of the story is that if you hit someone with your car, and then try to get away, but that person tries to stop you and you kill them in your escape, no harm no foul.
posted by mullingitover at 2:42 PM on May 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


The video is like a Rorschach test.
posted by a young man in spats at 2:43 PM on May 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'd like people to make an effort to have this be a thread about something other than who is the bigger total fucking asshole

Exactly. That's what MetaTalk is for.
posted by rocket88 at 2:45 PM on May 25, 2010


Quoting a comment at the Globe's current poll on this topic:

At the end of the day someone is dead, by definition in Canadian law, "Manslaughter constitutes an unlawful killing of another person without malice, either express or implied. The unlawful killing may be either voluntary by virtue of acting upon a sudden impulse, or involuntary."

Any way you slice it Mr. Bryant is guilty of this.

posted by stinkycheese at 2:48 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


posted by mullingitover Well obviously the moral of the story is that if you hit someone with your car, and then try to get away, but that person tries to stop you and you kill them in your escape, no harm no foul.

Actually, the moral of the story is if you're an angry drunk and you attack someone after a minor traffic incident, don't be surprised when they react by getting away from you as quickly as possible.
posted by mattdidthat at 2:48 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eyewitness testimony doesn't paint a pretty picture.
posted by mullingitover at 2:49 PM on May 25, 2010


If the prosecutor is convinced that there isn't sufficient evidence, they cannot press charges; it's completely unethical of them to do so.

THis is hardly a case of trumped-up charges.
posted by GuyZero at 2:53 PM on May 25, 2010


"Peck said outside court police rightfully laid the charges at the time of the Aug. 31, 2009 incident on Bloor St. W. near Avenue Rd., but if they had known information gathered from further investigation and disclosure then Bryant wouldn’t have been charged."
posted by smackfu at 2:54 PM on May 25, 2010


At the end of the day someone is dead, by definition in Canadian law, "Manslaughter constitutes an unlawful killing of another person without malice, either express or implied. The unlawful killing may be either voluntary by virtue of acting upon a sudden impulse, or involuntary."

Any way you slice it Mr. Bryant is guilty of this.


While this may be technically true -- killing is generally unlawful -- just because you unlawfully kill someone doesn't mean you can be convicted of a crime. Usually if you can't be convicted, it's because the unlawful killing was justified as in, for instance, self-defense.
posted by devinemissk at 2:55 PM on May 25, 2010


While this may be technically true -- killing is generally unlawful -- just because you unlawfully kill someone doesn't mean you can be convicted of a crime. Usually if you can't be convicted, it's because the unlawful killing was justified as in, for instance, self-defense.

Not to nitpick, but that's not true. If you kill in legitimate self defense, that's not unlawful. That's why this wasn't manslaughter, because Bryant was lawfully permitted to do what he did, namely flee from an attacker.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:57 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


but if they had known information gathered from further investigation and disclosure then Bryant wouldn’t have been charged.

I have to assume this is true, but it does stretch belief a bit. And for whatever reason the police haven't been quoted in the media as to what this evidence is.
posted by GuyZero at 2:58 PM on May 25, 2010


Actually, the moral of the story is if you're an angry drunk and you attack someone after a minor traffic incident, don't be surprised when they react by getting away from you as quickly as possible.

I'm unfamiliar with the law, so I'm asking in earnest: do these circumstances, according to law, exonerate someone in a hit and run? Or am I mistaken in thinking that's what this was? either the initial contact and the attempt to flee, or the subsequent flight after shephard clung to the car.
posted by shmegegge at 3:00 PM on May 25, 2010


If you kill in legitimate self defense, that's not unlawful. That's why this wasn't manslaughter, because Bryant was lawfully permitted to do what he did, namely flee from an attacker.

My understanding (though my criminal law classes were several years ago) is that justification is a defense. Just because your actions were justified doesn't make them lawful.

In any case, we agree that in this case Bryant wasn't prosecuted because of (presumably) self-defense. (It's not explicit in any of the articles, and I, again, don't know much about the specific Canadian law here.)
posted by devinemissk at 3:01 PM on May 25, 2010


Eyewitness testimony doesn't paint a pretty picture.

Unfortunately for the victim, that testimony will never be heard. I can only imagine what Sheppard's girlfriend probably feels right now. Perhaps something like the de Menezes' family, after the tragedy of the Wright inquest.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:02 PM on May 25, 2010


So hypothetical question: suppose Mr. Sheppard had a firearm. He's hanging onto the hood of Mr. Bryant's car for dear life. Mr. Bryant is accelerating to a reported 90 kph and appears to be heading for roadside obstacles with the intent of killing Mr. Shppard. Would Mr. Sheppard be justified in pulling out his gun and shooting Mr. Bryant in self defense?
posted by mullingitover at 3:05 PM on May 25, 2010


Bryant was lawfully permitted to ... flee from an attacker

I just don't get it. How was Sheppard an attacker? Please cite the video evidence or explain why the video evidence is irrelevant.
posted by anthill at 3:05 PM on May 25, 2010


do these circumstances, according to law, exonerate someone in a hit and run?

If you believe the story that is presented in the "why they dropped the charges" article Bryant was actively being attacked. That's the alternative narrative they appear to be going with. Doesn't seem to match the video, but the video mostly looks like two frogs spawning to me so I'm not quite sure what I'm seeing there.

The thing that's so crazy about this, to me, is that it takes it from a "well how much of a dick was the guy driving to the cyclist? how much of a dick was the cyclist" in car/bike altercations where people weigh in on each side to a totally lateral "he did nothing wrong, he was under attack from the get-go" sort of story. I mean I know there's a long history to how these things go down that does tend to skew this way generally, but this is a whole new level of chutzpah even though I have to admit as someone basically reading all this for the first time, the alterna-narrative sounds compelling. Not saying I buy it, but it's really a piece of work, right down to the Dad "he deserved it" quote. Brrrr
posted by jessamyn at 3:07 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mr. Sheppard was drunk, and appears to have acted quite aggressively. Mr. Bryant was nervous, and appears to have hit the gas to shake his assailant. What would you have done in that situation?
posted by setanor at 3:08 PM on May 25, 2010


He jumped on someone's car while drunk, screaming, and enraged. That's an attacker.

Maybe he had good reason, given all that had happened, but he wasn't jumping on the car to deliver flowers.
posted by Mid at 3:09 PM on May 25, 2010


The video is like a Rorschach test.

This kind of Rorschach test.
posted by dirigibleman at 3:11 PM on May 25, 2010


Mid, where did this "jumping on someone's car" come from? Where does the video show that?
posted by anthill at 3:12 PM on May 25, 2010


He jumped on someone's car while drunk, screaming, and enraged. That's an attacker.

And if Bryant hit him first?

You might be right but the available news doesn't make it very clear.
posted by GuyZero at 3:12 PM on May 25, 2010


From this article, it sure sounds like the dead guy was in kamikaze mode. It's a shame he's dead, but not surprising.
posted by pracowity at 3:14 PM on May 25, 2010


I was going from this article.
posted by Mid at 3:14 PM on May 25, 2010


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by dhammond at 3:16 PM on May 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


Where's Dexter Morgan when you need him?
posted by Memo at 3:19 PM on May 25, 2010


Please cite the video evidence or explain why the video evidence is irrelevant.

That video is terrible, I don't see it showing anything at all. The police and prosecutors who interviewed the witnesses say that the evidence shows that Shepperd attacked the car; it also looks like he has a history of doing this sort of thing.

It also totally doesn't matter if Bryant hit him first. This was a traffic accident, that Shepperd (apparently) escalated into a physical confrontation, Bryant's reaction was completely understandable.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:20 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


dhammond: "Christ, what an asshole."

Ok I'm going to shut up now. No jury would've convicted Bryant with Shepperd pulling stunts like that.
posted by mullingitover at 3:23 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I really wish I knew how the original poster of this thread felt about these recent developments. If only there was some subtext in either the post body or title.
posted by setanor at 3:25 PM on May 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


The lesson is that taking the law into your own hands can be fatal. I used to get all pissed at cars that would cut off me as a pedestrian in the crosswalk. Got so frustrated one day I kicked the side of a pickup that nearly hit me....and got my boot hooked in the wheelwell. It's sheer dumb luck that it only spun me on the other foot like a ballerina, it could have just as easily have ended with me dragging on the pavement. Sure the truck was stupid and wrong to fail to yield to a pedestrian, but righteousness does not trump physics.

I've been relearning this lesson as I drive a underpowered scooter around downtown Seattle. I'd rather be late, right, and alive, than permanently-late, right, and dead.
posted by nomisxid at 3:30 PM on May 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


To be clear -- if I am following the articles correctly, the crash shown in the video is not the one that killed Shepperd. Rather, Bryant's car first bumps the bike from behind with a sort of tap, it looks like there is some yelling at that point, then the car lurches forward and throws Shepperd on to the hood, then Bryant puts it in reverse and throws Shepperd to the ground, then the car shoots forward (to escape) and, when it leaves the frame, Shepperd is no longer in the picture, because he is holding on to the driver's side of the car.

I should say - I am a bike commuter and do not reflexively support drivers. And the whole lead up to Shepperd jumping on the car looks very much like Bryant's fault. But I think it is not so clear-cut once you have Shepperd jumping onto/into the car, whatever the provocation and prior fault.
posted by Mid at 3:31 PM on May 25, 2010


I really wish I knew how the original poster of this thread felt about these recent developments. If only there was some subtext in either the post body or title.

Trust me, we're not happy about it either but it was better than playing whack-a-mole with three other progressively worse threads.
posted by jessamyn at 3:31 PM on May 25, 2010


Former city bike commuter here. If I were on this jury, and the cyclist had never done something like this, I am pretty sure I'd vote to convict the driver. But with a history of jumping on cars and assaulting drivers, I think I would have a hard time believing, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the driver wasn't simply fleeing in fear of a beating.

I do think that this particular case, with this evidence, would be better handled by the civil court as a lawsuit.
posted by zippy at 3:35 PM on May 25, 2010


zippy: "But with a history of jumping on cars and assaulting drivers, I think I would have a hard time believing, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the driver wasn't simply fleeing in fear of a beating."

I'm a cyclist too, and I'd be unable to convict him if the person in the car in this article testified for the defense. I'm guessing Bryant's defense had other examples like this lined up.
posted by mullingitover at 3:40 PM on May 25, 2010


Ok I'm going to shut up now. No jury would've convicted Bryant with Shepperd pulling stunts like that.

Yup. I find the video pretty damning against Bryant yet I think the Prosecutor's assessment is probably the right one.

The story has extra resonance for me as I read it this morning just after getting into a heated exchange with the driver of a van that decided to pass too close for my liking.

Bleh.
posted by mazola at 3:41 PM on May 25, 2010


[A couple comments removed, it would be great not to add in a "how do we feel about the Jews" sidebar to an already kind of tough discussion.]
posted by cortex at 3:49 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


zippy wrote: "that the driver wasn't simply fleeing in fear of a beating."

Do cars not have locks on the doors in Canada?

I'm just trying to figure out how someone in a reasonably well defended position, barring the attacker having a firearm or proceeding to break out the windshield, is justified in first reversing to remove the attacker from the car's hood, then driving forward directly into the space you left the attacker to fall to the ground.

Sure, it's probably not murder, but it does seem that some penalty is appropriate. It simply isn't reasonable to be in fear for your life if you're in a locked car and your attacker doesn't have a gun or even a heavy object.
posted by wierdo at 4:13 PM on May 25, 2010


It doesn't matter if the bicyclist is a dick: you don't have a right to "tap" him or his bike, you don't have a right to try flee the scene after doing it, and you don't have a right to kill him and flee without rendering aid.

Unless you're pals with the prosecutor, that is. Then you can do whatever you want.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 4:16 PM on May 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Do cars not have locks on the doors in Canada?

I believe Bryant's car is a convertible and the top was down.
posted by devinemissk at 4:18 PM on May 25, 2010


Wow, I think the recent developments more than prove that Shepperd was the aggressor. The pics with the BMW are damning.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 4:21 PM on May 25, 2010


This video is a lot clearer Certainly looks an awful lot like the car hits the bike first, then a second time - knocking the cyclist down - then speeds off. Sheppard may well have grabbed hold of the car before it sped off, but surely Bryant can be prosecuted for twice hitting Sheppard first?
posted by silence at 4:24 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"For years, drunk driving was seen as 'there but for the grace of God goes I' and judges and juries were lenient because that was them on the stand. Then we had a huge paradigm shift. MADD, etc made it not funny. Eventually cyclists will be see as real bona fide road users. The question is how many more deaths will it take?"

The irony being Sheppard was riding his bike on a public street with a blood alcohol level of .183; better than 2X the legal limit in Ontario. Cyclists are held to the same standard as drivers on this issue and Sheppard, if he had survived, probably would have been prohibited from operating his bike or any motor vehicle on the street for some time.
posted by Mitheral at 4:26 PM on May 25, 2010


devinemissk wrote: "I believe Bryant's car is a convertible and the top was down."

I don't know how I failed to see that in the video. That makes it slightly more defensible, although my question about how you can cast someone to the ground and then run over them with your car and not be guilty of at least manslaughter still stands.

Not that I should be asking too many questions about Canadian criminal law. God knows the law in my own area is stupid enough for the entire hemisphere.
posted by wierdo at 4:27 PM on May 25, 2010


Certainly looks an awful lot like the car hits the bike first, then a second time - knocking the cyclist down - then speeds off. Sheppard may well have grabbed hold of the car before it sped off, but surely Bryant can be prosecuted for twice hitting Sheppard first?

I think any such charges would be minor, in the nature of a traffic ticket.
posted by devinemissk at 4:29 PM on May 25, 2010


how you can cast someone to the ground and then run over them with your car and not be guilty of at least manslaughter still stands.

But he didn't run Sheppard over. Sheppard grabbed onto his car and was killed when his body struck a fire hydrant, causing him to fall off the car and hit his head either on the curb or on the street. The blow to the head is what killed him.

(Source: "A fire hydrant was located close to the south curb in the area if 131 Bloor St. The distance from the fire hydrant cap to the curb was one foot. This fire hydrant caught Mr. Sheppard on the left side of his torso,” Peck said.

“This caused Mr. Sheppard to dislodge from the car, ultimately striking his head, either on the curb or a raised portion of the roadway. The impact was fatal.”")
posted by devinemissk at 4:32 PM on May 25, 2010


Sheppard, if he had survived

Right, he was drunk and acting stupidly. Therefore, he deserved to die. It's another idiot Metafilter bike v car thread. Me, I'm almost 50 years old so my days of arguing with motorists are long over. The cyclist always loses in these confrontations. Sometimes the cyclist loses a little skin. In this case it cost him his life. Carry on.
posted by fixedgear at 4:34 PM on May 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Mid, Pracowity, the narrative in the Star article mixes conjecture and opinion, and may not be a good sole source to understand what exactly happened.

Keep in mind the video evidence's unequivocal order of events:

0:08 - Sheppard cuts in front of Bryant at red light.
0:12 - Bryant surges car at Sheppard (or 're starts stalled car'). Sheppard does not move.
0:18 - Bryant accelerates into Sheppard, throwing him on the hood/windshield for at least two car lengths.
0:20 - Bryant brakes, dumping Sheppard onto street (technically, making him a pedestrian).
0:23 - Bryant shifts into reverse, backs up 3/4 car length. Sheppard still lying on street.
0:26 - Bryant turns, accelerates around (now standing) Sheppard.
0:30 - Bryant's car accelerates out of camera view (no brake lights) - Sheppard not visible after car passes in front of him.

Now, contrast it with the article's version of events.

First of all it confuses the order of events by beginning in the middle of the altercation, with Sheppard "latching onto" Bryant's car.

Second, when going through the events, Bryant's version of events is presented verbatim, with him as a passive victim. The car stalls. It lurches forward. It accelerates into Sheppard. The only thing Bryant does is (compassionately) hit the brakes.

Third, the article describes that Sheppard 'stood up' and 'did not appear to be seriously injured' before Bryant reversed. This is not true - Bryant reversed before Sheppard even picked himself off the pavement.

Fourthly, the three seconds between Sheppard regaining his feet and Bryant accelerating past him are stretched out. Sheppard has time to throw his backpack, and the car (passive voice again) has time to respond by "driving away".

As for traveling at a maximum 34 km/h, the video shows nothing and I can't contradict the forensics team. But, I did a little high school physics on the video - Bryant's car accelerated at about 4.3km/h per second. So after traveling 18m across the intersection and out of view of the camera he was going 18km/h. How much longer he accelerated is unknown, the police did not check the on-board computer in Bryant's car. However, if Bryant was driving 34km/h, the whole 380m drive between collision and fatality would have taken 37 seconds. That's 1/4 of an amateur boxing round. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi.

On preview: more passive voice. The fire hydrant on the opposite side of the road killed sheppard, by colliding with him at 34km/h.
posted by anthill at 4:36 PM on May 25, 2010 [14 favorites]


There's a pretty good explanation of what happened here, including a walkthrough of the circumstances and expert testimony involved, leading up to the decision, though I wanted to bring attention to one thing in that article.

Despite the frothing about injustice and vague accusations of conspiracies that put the rich, privileged and well-connected above the law (despite the hiring of an independent special investigator with no connection to the person or the act), this quote from the victim's father is, I think, relevant.
Allan Sheppard, the dead man’s adoptive father, said after that if he had been presented with the same evidence he wouldn’t have insisted on a trial. “I’m content with the result as it came,” he said on the steps outside Old City Hall.

He was asked if justice was done. “I don’t know what justice is in this circumstance. I’m not happy with the result. I’m not sure what would have made me happy.”

He said that he genuinely believes that the people who made the decision to withdraw the charges listened to him. “They talked to me with great respect and they reached a decision and I’ll accept it.”

I'm not saying that the system of justice isn't a work in progress - there's no question about that - but when a guy on the non-rich, non-powerful end of the spectrum who's far more invested in this case than I am says he was content with the outcome, it's hard for me to think I should act like I care more about justice than he does.
posted by mhoye at 4:42 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't really know how to feel about this case. Sheppard was pretty crazy and I think the driver was probably right to think his life was in danger. On the other hand... Bryant blatantly rammed him with his car. The first surge forward was a threat, and the second was the realization of that threat. If you believe it was any kind of mechanical issue or driving problem, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. After being rammed with a car, I think Sheppard was pretty justified in his homicidal rage.

Honestly I don't think the bike and car are really relevant here. Sheppard provoked Bryant, Bryant hit him, Sheppard was enraged and ready to start a real fight, so Bryant killed him in the act of trying to get away. Both parties are pretty guilty here. I wouldn't call it murder, but that blatant ramming action is totally unacceptable on any level - I'd probably accept assault with a deadly weapon and manslaughter as reasonable charges.

It's very much like a situation in which some guy calls another guy a name, the second guy sucker-punches the first, the first guy pulls a knife, and the second guy shoots him. Yes, the second guy could reasonably think his life was in danger when he fired the shot - however, he's still culpable for helping to start the fight he was in.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:48 PM on May 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Right, he was drunk and acting stupidly. Therefore, he deserved to die.

Right. Thank you.

Let's say I have a gun on me. Let's say you're being a drunken, albeit unarmed, idiot. You start being aggressive toward me and I shoot you. I still have to go to court and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I seriously feared for my life and was justified in taking YOUR life. That's justice. This isn't justice.

Fuck you internet tough guys "the drunk deserved to die." Seriously.

Oh he has a history of being aggressive with drivers? Cry me a fucking river. You're in. a. fucking. car. Anyone who rides their bike in the city for longer than a year either has a history of being aggressive with drivers or a zen attitude that makes Jesus look like Ty Cobb. 90% of the time some tough guy in a Lexus takes you within an inch of your life and there's nothing you can do but pick your bike off the side of the street and watch impotently as they speed away in the five ton machine that they just used as a deadly weapon against you and get off scott free.

I've had to re-write this comment three times and it'll never express what I'm feeling right now. What. the. fuck.
posted by johnnybeggs at 5:10 PM on May 25, 2010 [11 favorites]


devinemissk wrote: "But he didn't run Sheppard over. Sheppard grabbed onto his car and was killed when his body struck a fire hydrant, causing him to fall off the car and hit his head either on the curb or on the street. The blow to the head is what killed him. "

As the car was being reversed, Sheppard stood up and moved camera left. The driver of the car then steered the car in Sheppard's direction, not straight ahead or to the right.

As I said before, it's not straight up murder, but it could easily be manslaughter and almost certainly should be assault with a deadly weapon or something similar, as was mentioned above.

<house type=glass>
 <stone velocity=high>

The only reason it's not is because the guy on the bike was a) drunk and b) a dick. The prosecutor, and apparently quite a few members of the public, seem to think that the victim being agitated after being struck by a car is enough to excuse the crime, or at least muddy it up enough to not bother prosecuting.
 </stone>
</house>

posted by wierdo at 5:11 PM on May 25, 2010


UGH never thought I'd ever find myself agreeing with someone whose username is "fixedgear"
posted by johnnybeggs at 5:12 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Right, he was drunk and acting stupidly. Therefore, he deserved to die.

If a drunk and aggressive person latches onto a convertible and starts yelling and threatening the occupants, a swift death is about the greatest mercy he should expect.

The evidence is that Bryant's ramming was accidental. The law is that it is reasonable to flee an accident if being attacked by the victim. The evidence is that the car was going 34 km/h. The video evidence is several brown blobs and not particularly useful or damning. The Vancouver prosecutor had no relationship of any kind with Bryant. Folks can disagree all they like, but I'm inclined to believe the experts.

And the experts have found that the evidence that Bryant committed a crime was so slim that it wasn't worth going to trial. It's a damn shame that this cost Bryant his political career. Although I'd probably vote for him out of sympathy.

And I don't even drive.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 5:13 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


If a drunk and aggressive person latches onto a convertible and starts yelling and threatening the occupants, a swift death is about the greatest mercy he should expect.

Right. Touching another man's piece of metal and yelling is grounds for execution. I'm so happy I live in a civilized society.
posted by johnnybeggs at 5:15 PM on May 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


As has been linked upthread, I have a lot of trouble sympathizing with a man with history of unprovoked assaults against motorists.

Michael Bryant was one of the most honest and hard-working politicians in the province. He is not the sort of person who behaves in self-entitled or aggressive ways because of his position in society - he's a genuinely nice guy.

Sheppard is pretty clearly someone with a grudge against drivers (and people who have more money than him), not uncommon amongst bike couriers. It's now obvious that he has a history of violent crime (am I the only one doubtful that the altercation with the BMW is the only other time he's done this sort of thing?), and seems to like hanging onto and reaching into cars when he's angry, for whatever reason, at their driver.

So, drunk violent criminal meets upstanding citizen. They have an altercation. Instead of exchanging phone numbers for any damage done to his bike, violent criminal, as in past, attacks upstanding citizen in vehicle. Upstanding citizen tries to get away. Violent criminal hangs on, drunkenly, stupidly, and falls to his death. The only injustice here is that Bryant had his life ruined for the better part of a year because the police pressed charges without all the evidence being in.
posted by Dasein at 5:17 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mitrovarr: "Honestly I don't think the bike and car are really relevant here. Sheppard provoked Bryant, Bryant hit him, Sheppard was enraged and ready to start a real fight, so Bryant killed him in the act of trying to get away."

Pretty much this. I mentioned upthread that a jury would never convict Bryant because Shepperd has a documented history of being a fighty asshole hooligan, but Bryant certainly has blood on his hands.
posted by mullingitover at 5:17 PM on May 25, 2010


Right, he was drunk and acting stupidly. Therefore, he deserved to die.

Not many people are saying this and I don't think this is what anyone really means.

He was drunk and acting stupidly and.... while doing so contributed to an escalating situation that unfortunately cost him his life. He didn't "deserve" death for it, but his death is nevertheless in part a direct consequence of at least one mistaken choice he made. It's absolutely understandable that he was angry over what Bryant did, but if he hadn't lost it and grabbed the car, he would be alive, just as sure as he would have been if Bryant had kept a cooler head.

There's certainly enough contributions to the escalation from Bryant, though, that I understand the conclusion that justice hasn't been served here. I don't really understand how he could have fairly escaped without at a minimum some kind of assault charge for initially muscling in on Sheppard with his car, even if manslaughter doesn't stick.
posted by weston at 5:24 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


[some back and forth grar removed - go to metatalk or take it to email, please]
posted by jessamyn at 5:35 PM on May 25, 2010


I don't really understand how he could have fairly escaped without at a minimum some kind of assault charge for initially muscling in on Sheppard with his car, even if manslaughter doesn't stick.

I could be wrong about this, but the video I saw has all the look of someone who's just slightly messing up a crawl on a manual transmission - it's not at all clear to me that he meant to muscle him. On the other hand, I recall reading accounts that suggest Sheppard parked himself in front of Bryant and refused to move, again because he seemed to have some sort of a hate-on for drivers.
posted by Dasein at 5:35 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dasein: So, drunk violent criminal meets upstanding citizen. They have an altercation.

An altercation in which Bryant initiates the violence, and with a deadly weapon no less. There's no way that ramming was accidental. The surge forward was clearly a threat, meant to get Sheppard to move, and then he rammed him when he didn't.

The alternate explanation, that he accidentally went forward instead of backward twice, is just insane. You might do it once but after you do (and nearly run someone over) you're going to be very careful the second time. And the odds of him doing so well - going fast yet stopping just a hair short - are also low. On the other hand, that is exactly how you say 'Get the fuck out of my way before I ram you' with your car.

It is entirely possible for them both to be the bad guy here, and that is the feeling I am getting with the case.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:35 PM on May 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hey Dasein, I hate to interrupt your narrative, but you seem to be making a lot of assumptions.

First, your narrative has an 'altercation'. Unless you mean verbal exchanges, Sheppard never approached Bryant until he was thrown onto the windshield of the Saab and dumped about two car lengths forward into the intersection. Your word choice seems a bit... equivocal.

Next, your narrative has Sheppard attacking Bryant, leading Bryant to reasonably try to flee. Look at the tape - Sheppard was lying in the pavement for three seconds, and only got to his feet after Bryant had finished backing away. Bryant then immediately started accelerating past Sheppard, before he had taken one step.
posted by anthill at 5:37 PM on May 25, 2010


I agree that that Sheppard cut Bryant off and refused to move. Perhaps he was saying some profane things about Bryant's mother. Is it relevant?
posted by anthill at 5:40 PM on May 25, 2010


If Bryant had tried to ram Shepard, then I agree he would be in the wrong - but the charge would be assault (or assault with a weapon, the car). Given that the Crown hasn't laid that charge, I can only assume that they don't think they'd be able to prove that Bryant's hitting Shepard was deliberate. Again, it looks to me like he revved the engine and let the clutch out too fast, but I don't know that his car was a manual, so that theory could be wrong.
posted by Dasein at 5:51 PM on May 25, 2010


FWIW, the version of events laid out by the prosecutor is that Bryant's contact with Sheppard (sorry for the previous misspelling) was the result of the car stalling when he was trying to move away, after Sheppard had cut in front of him and deliberately blocked his way.
posted by Dasein at 5:59 PM on May 25, 2010


The National just reported that six other motorists were prepared to testify that Sheppard was an aggressive cyclist, as the reporter put it, "looking for trouble."
posted by Dasein at 6:07 PM on May 25, 2010


Dasein, that version of events is Bryant's uncorroborated testimony.

Also, which contact with Sheppard do you think he's excusing - the small bump at 0:12 or the 'lurch' at 0:18 that puts Sheppard on the windshield and dumps him onto the pavement two car lengths down at 0:20?

As for the rest, I don't understand how Sheppard's character is relevant to the facts of the case.
posted by anthill at 6:10 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are many questions in this case that I was hoping to have resolved in trial.

First: After killing Sheppard, Bryant left the scene of the accident. (He continued along Bloor Street, took a right at Avenue Road and then turned left into the Hyatt hotel and started making phone calls.) Bryant is a lawyer - the former district attorney - so he knows the correct response after a fatal accident. Why was he never charged with leaving the scene?

Second: It sounds as if a forensic analysis of his car and the onboard embedded systems was never done. Basic facts as to how fast he was driving, how he braked, etc. could have been established.

Now there won't be a trial. But, it seems that if someone dies (asshole or not) there should be an official, public inquiry into the death since that person is no longer around to tell their side of the story. For the crown to decide on their own that they don't want to bother with a prosecution that they *might* lose doesn't further a just and civil society in Ontario. Present the evidence to a judge or jury and let them decide if it adequate to convict.
posted by kamelhoecker at 6:14 PM on May 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


Dasein: FWIW, the version of events laid out by the prosecutor is that Bryant's contact with Sheppard (sorry for the previous misspelling) was the result of the car stalling when he was trying to move away, after Sheppard had cut in front of him and deliberately blocked his way.

I've seen that, but I find it improbable. I've screwed up starting a stickshift countless times, particularly when learning how to drive, and it never surged forward that far. Also, your car doesn't surge when you drop the clutch unless the brake is out, which it shouldn't be if someone is right in front of your car - and it doesn't surge forward if the car isn't in a forward gear, which it shouldn't be if you're trying to go backward. Unless this guy just barely knows how to drive a stick or there's something odd or wrong with his car, I find this relatively unbelievable.

Maybe there's evidence, though. Either the car's black box (if it has one) or witnesses might know if he started his car a bunch of times or it made stalling noises. So maybe there's evidence that it was accidental.

Just from the video and his word, though, I don't buy it for a second.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:14 PM on May 25, 2010


While I'm not terribly surprised he got off, I am a little stunned it was completely dropped. Maybe a million different maybes, but just on what's out there you would at least expect a trial.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:15 PM on May 25, 2010


The National just reported that six other motorists were prepared to testify that Sheppard was an aggressive cyclist, as the reporter put it, "looking for trouble."

Well, that settles it then. Case closed.
posted by fixedgear at 6:16 PM on May 25, 2010


Dasein: "FWIW, the version of events laid out by the prosecutor is that Bryant's contact with Sheppard (sorry for the previous misspelling) was the result of the car stalling when he was trying to move away, after Sheppard had cut in front of him and deliberately blocked his way."


That would be this part:
When Bryant hit his brakes, the vehicle stalled. Peck said Bryant was trying to get away and attempted to get his car started when it stalled again, causing it to lurch forward. That was when “Mr. Bryant’s vehicle came close to or in contact with the rear wheel of Mr. Sheppard’s bike,” Peck said.
This of course makes little sense if we're talking about a modern manual transmission vehicle, since these generally require the clutch to be engaged before the car will start. The whole lurching forward is something that happened with older cars that allowed you to crank the starter while the car was in gear. It's hard to see this as anything but a fabrication.

The video is also pretty damning. I've seen people trying to cork intersections where drivers have gotten full-blown road rage and decide to use their vehicle in a threatening manner. That's exactly what I see in the video, only it wasn't a threat, the car really hit the cyclist.

But in the end none of this matters. Shepperd's prior behavior would sway any jury against him. Only the most incompetent defense could screw up his acquittal when they can call up witnesses to testify, "Yes, that's the cyclist who randomly hit my car with his U-lock and punched me."
posted by mullingitover at 6:18 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why was he never charged with leaving the scene?

Well, he drove about 150m at most, pulling over and then both he and his wife phoned police. No judge would convict based on that. I imagine that (a) he really did want to get away from this guy who was attacking him and (b) he was panicking - it took him 100m to think straight. That seems alright to me.

Second: It sounds as if a forensic analysis of his car and the onboard embedded systems was never done. Basic facts as to how fast he was driving, how he braked, etc. could have been established.

My understanding is that most cars, certainly of that vintage, don't actually have such systems. Even the systems being discussed today would wipe data within about 60 seconds if there hasn't been a crash.
posted by Dasein at 6:28 PM on May 25, 2010


I still have to go to court and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I seriously feared for my life and was justified in taking YOUR life.

Ugh. This gets stated sometimes, but it's absolute horseshit. You never, ever, have to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that you are not a criminal; the state has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are. In some places, there's burden shifting when you raise an affirmative defense, but it usually means that you have to provide sufficient evidence to raise a claim of self defense, then the state has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are NOT entitled to the defense. Some places you have to show by a preponderance of the evidence that you are entitled to the defense, but never beyond a reasonable doubt.

Maybe the law is different in Canada, but I hope not, a "beyond a reasonable doubt" burden on the defendant is insane.

Second: It sounds as if a forensic analysis of his car and the onboard embedded systems was never done. Basic facts as to how fast he was driving, how he braked, etc. could have been established.

Read the linked articles, they did forensic examinations.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:33 PM on May 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Even if Shepperd provoked Bryant in some incredibly offensive way, and Bryant was trying to get away, once Shepperd was killed, why did Bryant not stop, call the police, and calmly tell them what happened? If he was supposedly fleeing Shepperd, once the threat was gone, what is his excuse for continuing on? I would think that there would be some, at least slap-on-the-hand penalty for leaving the scene.

Also, on the one hand we have an eyewitness saying the car was going "ninety" on the wrong side of the road, while in the thread the speed is just 34 km, according to forensics. Eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable, but the dichotomy there is really striking. I'm having trouble parsing that.
posted by misha at 6:36 PM on May 25, 2010


why did Bryant not stop, call the police, and calmly tell them what happened? If he was supposedly fleeing Shepperd, once the threat was gone, what is his excuse for continuing on?

He stopped 150 m down the road.

But more importantly, if you had just been through that event, do you think you'd be able to pull over immediately and "calmly" call the police? The man was freaked out, high on adrenaline (and likely fear). In point of fact, he pulled over within 150 m (only 50 m more than the distance traveled from the stoplight to where Sheppard was killed) he and was one of the first to call the police.

Also:

As for the rest, I don't understand how Sheppard's character is relevant to the facts of the case.

It is relevant if Sheppard was picking a fight. Which is not to say that Bryant was right if he did anything intentionally (if he rammed Sheppard intentionally, for instance, which is highly disputed in this thread, of course), but Sheppard's provocation of a fight is certainly relevant.
posted by devinemissk at 6:45 PM on May 25, 2010


"Right, he was drunk and acting stupidly. Therefore, he deserved to die."

That's not even remotely what I said.

If this was two cars instead of a car and a bike little probably would change. The guy driving the car in the back would get, in BC anyways, a ticket for "driving without due care and attention" and ICBC would judge him 100% at fault for running into the car in front. If the grossly drunk driver of the rear ended car then hopped out and started assaulting (in the legal sense) the driver of the rear car there ain't no way the rear car's driver is going to be charged with anything if the assaulter is killed by the assaulted while they are fleeing. And the assaulter would have been charged with impaired driving and they would have automatically, again in BC, lost their license for 90 days, faced a $3750 fine and surcharges, and possibly faced impounding of their vehicle. The drunk being on a bike doesn't change that in anyway.

Finally in Canada if the AG doesn't think there is a valid provable case they aren't supposed to go forward. This is in apparent contrast to the US where prosecutors often appear to use charges as punishment.
posted by Mitheral at 6:55 PM on May 25, 2010


Okay, I just took the time to read the complete .pdf on the findings, and I see, as devinemissk says, that Bryant did stop down the road.

And the 34 km was the "average speed," but the conclusion appears to be that the car was never moved out of first gear, so it would follow that the car was going much slower than the eyewitnesses thought (though how that was determined after the fact, about the car not going above first gear, I don't know. I didn't know forensic evidence could determine that).

I DO think that Bryant was obviously panicked by Sheppard, and probably did fear Sheppard was going to do them some kind of harm if he got into the car.

But I still wish they had given Bryant a breathalyzer test, too. I mean, he says he had nothing to drink and maybe he didn't, but it was an anniversary, and lots of people drink a little on their anniversaries. Maybe, if he was impaired, his reactions were not as good as they might have been.
posted by misha at 6:57 PM on May 25, 2010


If this was two cars instead of a car and a bike little probably would change.

C'mon, this is ridiculous. If it were two cars both drivers would be very much alive.
posted by fixedgear at 7:04 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Right, he was drunk and acting stupidly. Therefore, he deserved to die.

You do realize the question here is not whether or not anyone deserved to die, but rather whether or not Bryant deserved to go to prison, don't you?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:07 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I mean, he says he had nothing to drink and maybe he didn't, but it was an anniversary, and lots of people drink a little on their anniversaries.

This, I think, is one of the easiest things to prove -- all the police would have to do is check with the restaurant, and I imagine they did.
posted by devinemissk at 7:09 PM on May 25, 2010


And for those interested, here's a direct link to the pdf of the findings. This document addresses a lot of the questions raised in this thread, particularly as to legal standards.
posted by devinemissk at 7:11 PM on May 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hard call. A lot depends on the reasonableness of Bryant's alleged fear for his safety. You can't just claim you're acting to preserve your bodily integrity and it's carte blanche to do as you please, including kill people. There's an objective component.

Looking at those pictures? Yeah, I imagine that dude was scared. As a matter of fact, had he just sat there, considering how Sheppard treated motorists who didn't hit him, I wonder if Bryant was right to think he was about to be attacked. So... because he did in fact hit the guy, if accidentally (stupidly/negligently)... he should do what? Take a beating? Or whatever this raving dude feels like and is capable of dishing out?

Tough call by the prosecutor, but they make them all the time and we seldom hear about it. Unfortunate all around.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:19 PM on May 25, 2010


If it were two cars both drivers would be very much alive.

I don't see how that follows.

The only tenuous argument I can think of is that the behavior would have been different if they'd both been in cars -- that Sheppard wouldn't have parked in front of Bryant, that Bryant wouldn't have been either inept or an asshole (depending on which version of the story you believe) to another driver, that Sheppard wouldn't have been drunk or belligerent, wouldn't have gotten out of his car and been confrontational, wouldn't have grabbed the car, and that Bryant wouldn't have taken off.

The problem with this argument is that these kinds of confrontations happen between drivers all the time. You have to have at least heard of road rage, and the dynamics of shared escalation with frequently tragic endings have an awful lot in common with this episode.
posted by weston at 7:37 PM on May 25, 2010


After reading through this thread all afternoon I decided to try to be a little more mindful of my place on the road as a biker on my commute home through downtown Edmonton, Alberta (not the most bike friendly city). Usually I'm not the best when it comes to bike/car relations (I have a bad habit of using the sidewalk/skipping red lights when convienent), although I think I try pretty hard to make sure I avoid any dangerous situations (avoiding driver blind spots, cautious around intersections, not crowding pedestrians, etc.).

I decided to act more as a vehicle: I stuck to the right hand lane, stopped at all lights and used my hand signals. I did position my bike a bit more into the lane rather than close to the parked car lane, since it can sometimes be a little gravelly at this time of the year.

Dontcha know it, but a white SUV pulls behind me, and the driver lays on the horn until I pull over, and points to the side of the road (maybe at the sidewalk?) as she goes by. I'm going to see if there's any "defensive biking" courses, but for the next while at least I'm going to stick to sidewalks and trails.

Anyway, hope that's not too much of a derail. It's hard to cast judgement on either party as a random commenter on the internet, but man-- when a giant hulk of metal with an angry person in control of it comes up behind me, some sort of animal fear kicked in. Not condoning either party in this tragic incident, but it's definitely different for bikers.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 7:46 PM on May 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


beepbeepboopboop: "Dontcha know it, but a white SUV pulls behind me, and the driver lays on the horn until I pull over, and points to the side of the road (maybe at the sidewalk?) as she goes by. I'm going to see if there's any "defensive biking" courses, but for the next while at least I'm going to stick to sidewalks and trails. "

The correct action in this scenario is to smile and salute the driver with middle finger extended.

Don't ride on the sidewalk, you're harder to see that way and even more likely to be hit by a car in intersections.
posted by mullingitover at 7:54 PM on May 25, 2010


I know people are upset about the Breathalyzer not being administered, but I'm not actually sure what the standard is on that—I think you may have to believe someone is impaired.

The whole lay-then-drop charges dynamic in Ontario is interesting. In BC, where Peck is from, the police make recommendations and then the Crown decides whether or not to lay charges. People still complain, but it's perhaps perceived differently. As someone wrote earlier, Peck didn't fault the police based on the information available at the time, but the Crown ought to take their quasi-judicial role to heart, and based on taking a class with him I would say he does.
posted by maledictory at 7:55 PM on May 25, 2010


very disgusted and saddened by this....how can this possibly not go to trial
posted by lonelid at 8:48 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think it's important to consider the literal power and weight imbalance between the guy in a. fucking. car. and the guy on a bicycle. They are both responsible for their actions on the road. But the guy in the fucking car has to fucking well be aware that in an altercation between the two, for whatever fucking reason, he's likely to end up: a) alive, and b) feeling like shit (for the rest of his life) for hurting someone.

Yeah people get pissed off at one another on the road, but for shit's sake, think of the consequences - for both of you. I'm sure that Bryant will pay for this emotionally for the rest of his life, so I'm okay with the outcome for him. But I'm not okay with the way this is spinning in the media. Most cyclists don't act like Sheppard. And when they do, they're more annoyance than anything. But there are one or two too many motorists who react like Bryant (or the person in the white SUV), and they are in. a. fucking. car and they are dangerous to me on my bike. They don't need to feel more self-righteous about their position on the road in relation to mine as a cyclist. They need to be sobered by it. Sobered by the possibility that a simple twist of the steering wheel could kill me - whether I deserve it or not (and frankly, we all deserve it at one time or another) - and ruin their lives.
posted by kneecapped at 8:52 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here, the evidence was that Shepperd attacked Bryant after a minor traffic incident and Bryant tried to get away from someone who was attacking him. That's not a crime.

If he'd reversed out of there, I'd agree. But he didn't just flee his attacker, he fled through his attacker, using several tons of metal to do so. That's killin', not fleein'.
posted by palliser at 8:57 PM on May 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


"C'mon, this is ridiculous. If it were two cars both drivers would be very much alive."

weston pretty well covered my response. Road raging assholes routinely get injured or even killed when they exit their vehicle and confront the other driver. The middle of the street is not a safe place for pedestrians.

However my point was more that in the case of two cars where the situation unfolded as it is described in the article it is unlikely that the surviving driver would receive much more punishment than a moving violation or two same as what happened here.
posted by Mitheral at 9:00 PM on May 25, 2010


The take away for me here is that - no matter what happens in the car, to try to keep calm and not escalate the situation. It's way way too easy to depersonalize both the driver of the car, and those outside of the car. I once rear ended someone (not badly) - and I got out of the car all babbling and hyped up ready for a confrontation. The other driver calmed the situation right down and asked me if I was okay. He said his car was fine - and told me to take it easy and then drove off. What a lesson this stranger taught me. It's just a fucking car - if anything happens, that's what insurance for. When I learned how to drive, we were not taught to keep a closer eye for bikers (mostly keep track other cars). Obviously this must change.

Was Sheppard a jerk? Probably. But if cooler heads had prevailed with even just one of the parties involved - he wouldn't be a dead jerk.
posted by helmutdog at 9:22 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's some pretty solid demonizing of the dead guy in this thread, with prior bad acts being elevated to an effective carte-blanche for his eventual death.

Well here's the good former AG's press conference:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/toronto/michael-bryant-speaks-to-media/article1580477/

I'll take the lunatic cyclist over that self-serving and self-satisfied cunt in a heart-beat. He has "grieved this loss"? he's "very familiar with sorrow and humility - the opposite of [his] sometimes manically cheerful and audacious past"?!? are you fucking kidding? after skating on vehicular homicide?

Also, I understand that some people may hate whatever specter Darcy Sheppard brings to life in their mind, but he's dead - and Michael Bryant controlled the vehicle that killed him.

I believe we have attempted to move beyond "looking for trouble" and "asking for it" as justifications for heinous acts in most areas of criminal justice - the exception being granted here is confusing and troubling to me.

note: I understand the prosecutor may have felt it necessary to drop the charges because such evidence - if allowed - would kill the case, but the readiness by which the "pro" camp is accepting this pragmatic decision as a full exoneration of Bryant's actions that night is disturbing.
posted by sloe at 10:41 PM on May 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


This was framed far better than the original update FPP. Going swimmingly, too.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:47 PM on May 25, 2010


I have a lot of trouble sympathizing with a man with history of unprovoked assaults against motorists.

Even when he's deliberately hit by a driver.

After which he committed another one of those unprovoked assaults.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:57 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Okay, I've followed this case from the get go and viewed that video a lot (though not as much as Crown Counsel). It seems to me:
(1) Sheppard delberately blocked Bryant;
(2) According to reports, Sheppard threw something (a pack?) at Bryant's windshield -- though I cannot prove or disprove this from the video;
(3) Sheppard was a scary guy.
All that being said, yes, Bryant should have faced trial. You just can't go around killing people without being charged. The Crown thinks conviction is unlikely. That's okay in a case where you think new evidence may surface, but in this instance a trial was necessary if for no other reason than to allay fears that justice can be bought.

Even though, of course, that it can.
posted by CCBC at 11:43 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Has there been any evidence of impropriety on the part of Bryant or the prosecutors, beyond the appearance based on the result?
posted by fatbird at 11:46 PM on May 25, 2010


CCBC: If he was acquitted people would still be mad. I'm not sure the marginal increase in public confidence is worth subjecting a certain-to-be-acquitted defendant to a trial.

Fatbird: Bryant hired a PR firm, who everyone takes as sleazy because of astroturfing. Peck is fairly high profile, probably the most lawyerly lawyer I ever met in all of law school (for instance, he only wears three piece suits, and teaches advanced trial advocacy), and pretty much the obvious choice for a case like this. Some people suggested that Bryant is originally from BC, like Peck, or that they're both lawyers, but that's all, and it shows how thin the charges of bias are. Incidentally, the last time Peck wouldn't lay charges as a special prosecutor (in BC the police only recommend laying them) it was against the wishes of the Liberal BC AG.
posted by maledictory at 12:27 AM on May 26, 2010


So the lesson I've taken away from this is that if you're a violent drunk thug who likes to attack people, sooner or later you'll pick a fight you'll lose.
posted by rodgerd at 12:44 AM on May 26, 2010


maledictory: If he was acquitted people would still be mad.
Maybe. But we wouldn't have the notion that he got off due to his money or influence or whatever. FWIW, given the evidence I've seen, I would have gone for Not Guilty on many counts, but not necessarilly all. Not Guilty on Manslaughter but maybe Guilty on a traffic offense. At best, his defense is that he slipped up in controlling his vehicle. Whether or not people would be mad isn't the point. The question is whether most people see justice being done.
I am sure Peck did his job properly -- diiferent provinces, different rules -- but, in BC, don't you think Bryant would have been charged with something?
posted by CCBC at 1:14 AM on May 26, 2010


BTW, your Peck link is blank. I suppose you meant to link to his recommendations in the Bountiful Case. Here, I think he is correct. If there is no case for sexual exploitation of minors (however the charge is framed), then everything comes down to marriage and its legal meaning. Now that the AG is going forward with this case we may see some useful debate on this topic.

Or not.
posted by CCBC at 1:21 AM on May 26, 2010


Keep in mind the video evidence's unequivocal order of events:

0:08 - Sheppard cuts in front of Bryant at red light.
0:12 - Bryant surges car at Sheppard (or 're starts stalled car').


The timing of the first is a bit off. I see the first seconds in that video as:

0:05 - Bryant creeps forward from stop as Sheppard pulls up on left to left front fender
0.05.5 Sheppard cuts in front of Bryant
0:05 - 0:07 - Sheppard continues to creep forward, the stops


The timing of these initial events is important. Defense might argue that at 0.05 Bryant was startled by rapid movement from an unexpected direction, his left side, resulting in unintentional forward creep. Prosecution might argue Bryant was attempting to deny Sheppard's merge.

In this case, Defense might lay the foundation for an argument that their client had no intent to strike Sheppard, but did lose control of vehicle due to distraction or surprise. "My client saw an object approaching rapidly from an unexpected direction and panicked."

Prosecution might use their alternate explanation to establish road rage case. "The defendant wanted to block the cyclist in a righteous rage ..."

posted by zippy at 1:36 AM on May 26, 2010


if you're a violent drunk thug ...

Please don't do this.
posted by zippy at 1:37 AM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a couple of other people have pointed out, it may be useful to read the PDF of the findings before reaching a conclusion and passing judgement. Unless, of course, your mind is already made up.

Full disclosure: I am a cyclist who sometimes drives.
posted by showmethecalvino at 1:39 AM on May 26, 2010


The part in the report about the dimming headlights was interesting. I went to the videos looking for it, but all the annotations & slow-mo effects that people have added actually got in the way. Besides that, the youtube videos seem to be filmed off of LCDs (/ TVs), and so it's hard to know what the original video in the possession of the Crown showed.
posted by maledictory at 1:54 AM on May 26, 2010


Surely eyewitnesses would be able to confirm if the car stalled and restarted several times..
posted by Chuckles at 4:13 AM on May 26, 2010


More likely some will say it stalled and some won't, because eyewitnesses are fairly useless.
posted by smackfu at 5:32 AM on May 26, 2010


Surely eyewitnesses would be able to confirm if the car stalled and restarted several times..

Yes, just as reliably as when some said the vehicle went up on the curb (forensics found it didn't) and that it was going 60-90km/h (forensics found it was going about 35km/h). Eyewitnesses are SOOOO reliable.
posted by splice at 5:32 AM on May 26, 2010


This is an eye-opener for me. When I read the headline FPP I thought wow, what an outrage but then I read that the cyclist was involved in six previous fights with motorists, one case where he reached into someone's car to grab the keys.

The story we see on the video is not the full story. Thank God for the justice system because I would have been part of the lynch mob.
posted by storybored at 6:30 AM on May 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Okay. I was a bicycle courier in Toronto for four years. I knew Darcy to see him, though we had never spoken. He worked for a different company and we didn't hang out in the same circles.

I've been struck by cars more than once myself. Sometimes the drivers were assholes. Usually they were good people who just failed for a second in the total awareness required by city driving. Fender benders happen all the time and no one gets outraged. The difference is that it's never a fender bender when one of the vehicles is a fragile human atop 25 pounds of aluminum.

Something really needs to change in Toronto to make cycling safer. Darcy was far from the first cyclist to be killed by a motor vehicle, nor will he be the last.

Toronto needs more bike lanes, and maybe a driver education program. Hell, a cyclist education program wouldn't hurt either.

Anyway, I feel the need to say something here, because this story is close to home for me. I have a strong emotional response to this and it's hard to sort through it all. I'm sad and I'm angry. I think it's unspeakably tragic that Darcy is dead. I've done stupid things while drunk. Most of us have. He didn't deserve to die for it.

But I also feel relieved that Michael Bryant isn't going to jail for this. I can't imagine him as a threat to anyone else, except perhaps as a skittish driver. I could see a case for him losing his license. But I can't see a case for painting him as a murderer.

Darcy's death was a crime. But not all crimes have perpetrators.

Fuck, I don't know.
posted by 256 at 7:17 AM on May 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


"But I can't see a case for painting him as a murderer. "

It's not only cold blooded killers that have to face consequences for actions resulting in the death of another person.

How about:

Vehicular Manslaughter
When-a-Drivers-Actions-Amount-to-Manslaughter

"but then I read that the cyclist was involved in six previous fights with motorists, one case where he reached into someone's car to grab the keys."

During a physical altercation with a neighbour, the neighbour kills me. Does finding out that I have had previous altercations with other neighbours point-blank exhonerate the killer? The implicit argument would seem to be that this history confirms that the killer was acting in self-defense. Watch the video - listen to the eye-witness accounts - I don't buy it.

What I do buy is that there is no sympathy for a dead, crazy, urban cyclist - and so no chance of conviction. And if you doubt the lack of sympathy for dead cyclists, look up the comments on the stories concerning the horrific accidents killing several cyclists out of a pack in Quebec recently and Ontario a year ago; many paint the cyclists - and cyclists in general - as asking for it simply by being on a road.

On the roads, might still makes right - and that's not right.
(where I live, as a pedestrian, I get the finger for crossing an intersection with the light)

Also, more info from the press conference, Bryant not ruling out returning to politics.
posted by sloe at 8:02 AM on May 26, 2010


During a physical altercation with a neighbour, the neighbour kills me. Does finding out that I have had previous altercations with other neighbours point-blank exhonerate the killer?

First, there was nothing point-blank about it. A prosecutor was brought in from another province and carried out his own investigation. They spoke to witness, they watched the videos, they reconstructed the whole event.

If your neighbour is claiming self-defense, or that your death was a result of him fleeing in fear of his life, then the reasonableness of his claim that he was scared becomes an issue. And if your other neighbours come forward to say "I've been scared by him too", and they have pictures of you waving a tire iron around, or chasing them through the yard, or banging on their door and screaming, then the killer's claim to have been in fear of his health or life becomes pretty plausible, and likely a big factor in whether or not the prosecutor actually takes it to trial.

Sheppard's history doesn't exonerate Bryant, as if Bryant might know that history, or that we're all better off without that crazy dude around. But it does make Bryant's claim that he was fleeing a crazy person much more plausible.
posted by fatbird at 8:22 AM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oops, I made a mistake above - the collision happened at a pedestrian intersection between Bay and Avenue, so the distance from hit-and-run to fatality was only 150m - 18 seconds at 30km/h.
posted by anthill at 8:45 AM on May 26, 2010


More likely some will say it stalled and some won't, because eyewitnesses are fairly useless.

Fair enough, did they? Did ANY of them notice this stalling? It just reads more like PR than an account of something that might actually have happened. I do see the headlights almost completely go out after the first "stall", but no change after the second..
posted by Chuckles at 11:16 AM on May 26, 2010


the collision happened at a pedestrian intersection between Bay and Avenue

It is funny, for a while I've felt that all these extra traffic lights on Bloor cause more trouble than they solve. The one at Bloor and Walmer Road seems like a huge problem to me. Pedestrians and cars got along just fine at that intersection before the addition of the control. Not "legally", of course, it was all J-walking and blending and sensible downtown living. Then they stick the light in and it turns into waiting and waiting and waiting for all road users. But it also turns into racing yellow lights and Drag strip launch control for some drivers, daring 20m sprints for some pedestrians, and not even worthy of an Ohio stop for some cyclists--seriously dangerous stuff.
posted by Chuckles at 11:28 AM on May 26, 2010


Toronto needs more bike lanes, and maybe a driver education program. Hell, a cyclist education program wouldn't hurt either.

Do most couriers favour bike lanes?

Just the other day I was riding eastbound on Davenport from Bathurst, through Yonge where it turns into Church, and further. It is a very fast stretch for a good cyclist, like 35km/h. The speed limit is only 40km/h. It also has this joke of a bike lane beside parked cars--way too narrow for 20km/h let alone 35km/h. So, I was riding about a foot to the left of the bike lane boundary and a City of Toronto pickup came within 6" of me. I yelled out "a little close".. Then I manoeuvred past a right turning truck, so I was way ahead of the city workers again. They pulled up a little later and the passenger worker started lecturing me about how "you mean your own lane isn't enough for you anymore, you need to take our lane too now."

I'm convinced that bike lanes are a hazard.. Good politics, maybe a good mechanism to encourage cycling, but not actually offering any real safety at all. Just make curb lanes a reasonable width for shared use and forget the labels.
posted by Chuckles at 11:39 AM on May 26, 2010


Chuckles - the biking lanes in Vancouver will have concrete barriers to separate cars and bikes. As a car driver - losing precious driving lanes down key streets are a bit a pain in the ass (Dunsmuir down to two lanes!?). However - if bike lanes are to be created - then I think this is the best way to do it. The possibility of accidents should be reduced as much as possible. I don't want my daily commute into work to include potential run-in's with bicyclists.
posted by helmutdog at 2:12 PM on May 26, 2010


On the Bryant-panicking side, I just returned from a day-long car trip on two-lane western Minnesota roads. I was passing other cars routinely - as I was going a little faster than the speed limit - but safely. I came up behind a souped-up car driven by a young male, waited until the left lane was clear, and proceeded to pass. The car ahead sped up as I approached it and matched my speed, preventing me from passing. I continued for a while, hoping he would tire of his game, but eventually just dropped back and resumed my usual speed. At this point, he slowed down as well and, since opposing traffic was now present, I slowed down to wait another opportunity. Eventually, when I tried to pass again, he waited until I was alongside him before pulling his trick, and at this point I turned an scowled at him. My wife was sitting in the passenger seat and she looked over as well. I think he realized what a dick he was being and slowed down to let me get around him.

Now, this is a fairly mild occurrence of road intimidation. But my heart was pumping and I was shaky for another hour or so after this incident. I can imagine how high the blood was in both Sheppard and Bryant during this incident. Those of you who condemn Sheppard for jumping on the car in anger while trying to get to Bryant and Bryant for trying to flee any way he could are missing this aspect emotional content of the incident. Although Sheppard's character is in no way relevant here, his behavior precipitating and during the incident is and the official story is certainly consistent with his previously reported behavior, documented (much more clearly than in this incident) by surveillance cameras. Bryant also acted like an asshole, if his lurches were not the result of panicky killing and restarting of the car (and I don't find him entirely credible). I, too, would find it difficult to make a solid case against Bryant given the facts, but everyone should note that he wasn't exonerated by any stretch of the imagination. The prosecutor only said there is insufficient evidence to try him. Part of the reason may be that it is difficult for a jury not to sympathize with panicky behavior when confronted with aggressively physical behavior, knowing as we all do that it leads to emotional, rather than reasonable reaction.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:18 PM on May 26, 2010


aspect
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:19 PM on May 26, 2010


Vancouver will have concrete barriers to separate cars and bikes.

I really doubt this is an improvement, I can think of lots of drawbacks (cycling speed varies a lot, so boxing them in causes problems, cars don't pay attention to cycling traffic when crossing bike paths), but I don't have a lot of experience on that kind of lane..

I don't want my daily commute into work to include potential run-in's with bicyclists.

It really isn't about 'want' though, is it? We are sharing the road..
posted by Chuckles at 2:38 PM on May 26, 2010


Do most couriers favour bike lanes?

Bike lines aren't created for the aid of couriers and people who ride city streets at 35kph. They're to make cycling safe and accessible to everyone. Of course they aren't perfect, as conflicts between modes of traffic still occur at intersections, but those conflicts could be mitigated in most instances through a combination of engineering, patience and civility. The confrontational approach that Shepperd practiced hurts all cyclists, but maybe the hardened bike warriors have no more tolerance than drivers for regular pokey timid riders. I was completely surprised that Bryant got away without even driving charges against him, and I view the stall excuse with a lot of scepticism, but this whole story is about two people mutually acting with tragic foolishness. This is not the person to be made poster boy for cyclist's rights.
posted by TimTypeZed at 2:46 PM on May 26, 2010


That should say bike lanes, not bike lines, but since we're talking Toronto maybe bike lines describes better what is here. That is until sharrows are painted all over city streets because that's all that the cycling committee is able to do without getting approval from council.
posted by TimTypeZed at 2:50 PM on May 26, 2010


Do most couriers favour bike lanes?

Kind of like asking UPS drivers what they'd like from the roads. Bike couriers, I almost guarantee, would prefer to ride in traffic and at speed, with maximum maneuverability.

In my neighborhood, they've done something sane. Instead of bike lanes, the city has designated routes that run parallel to all the busy streets as bike lanes. They've also put barriers and speed bumps on these alternate routes to prevent or discourage high-speed car traffic.

So if you want to ride on the busy street, you can, and if you want to ride just as fast or as slow as you like on a pleasant parallel route, you can do that too.

When I'm in bike commuter mode, I choose the former. Other times, I like the latter. I think these are both preferable to bike lanes except for the most suicidal of streets (the non-downtown four lane high speed commuter surface road with lots of stoplight-less intersections).
posted by zippy at 12:51 AM on May 27, 2010


War on cyclists takes its toll.
posted by mazola at 6:17 AM on May 28, 2010


From mazola's link: Most of the time, we are not aggressors.

No matter how obnoxious or drunk Sheppard was, he wasn't the aggressor. He was hit by Bryant, not just once, but several times. If I was sober and someone did that to me, I'd be on them like a shot.

When you hit someone by accident, you stop your car and get out to make sure they are OK. When you hit someone on purpose, you flee the scene.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:18 PM on May 28, 2010


Cop walks as DUI charges dropped in fatal '07 crash - evidence supressed and ignored.
posted by Artw at 12:53 PM on June 5, 2010


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