The media coverage of the killing of Al Sheppard has been intense. There are links to many of them on the Media Articles page. One article in the Toronto Star from September 5 shows the influence of the public relations firm Navigator Ltd. (Spinning the first week of Michael Bryant`s new life)
In the first day after accident media reports focused on the many eyewitnesses of the events.
Comments from the police appearing that day, notably in the Star, suggest a consensus in interviews at the scene. “Based on the circumstances and the evidence we have so far, it was the appropriate charge(s),” says Det. Const. Leslie Lalla. “We have witnesses saying that we have a male hanging on to the driver’s side. Eyewitnesses report he was driving along the curb. The car doesn’t appear to be out of control.”
Michael Bryant is close to Navigator`s Chair Jamie Watt, who is “touted for knowing everybody in Canadian power circles.”
Bryant is said to have called Navigator within a few hours of the initial incident and Navigator went to work quickly.
They arranged for Bryant to receive a suit and tie and hold a press conference immediately to make a statement. The media switched their focus from eyewitnesses to speculation about different possible scenarios that favoured Bryant.
Irwin Isenstein, a criminal lawyer specializing in drinking and driving offences, said some might suggest such scenarios could be construed to favour Bryant and his defence.
“What I would suggest is that it’s unusual for so much information to be disclosed from police,” he said.
But Burrows insists questions about the scenarios – which cast Sheppard in a much harsher light – did not originate with police.
“Where is all this stuff coming from?” Burrows says he asked himself as reporters raised those issues during informal press briefings.
Burrows acknowledges police may have fuelled those suggestions once they arose. Rather than speculating on each reporter’s question, he says, “The most appropriate response would have been just to say, ‘Yeah, we’re looking into every possibility.’ ”
As reported earlier, a report in the Globe and Mail fingers Navigator as the source for many of these speculations.
It`s important to note Burrows acknowledgement above. Police are “looking into every possibility.”
They are not specifically looking into any witness statement regarding Sheppard attacking Bryant.
And that is how Navigator operates. They feed speculation to reporters who then run around attempting to confirm the speculation. Information in a homicide investigation is closely guarded so police are forced to give generally non-committal answers which allows reporters to report the speculation.
As the Star reports:
It’s a reasonable bet you, too, Toronto Star readers, have an opinion. But is it, you might ask, your own? Definitely not, says a veteran Toronto criminal lawyer, loath to have his name published. “Look, the headline on this story should be: `Navigator, changing your perceptions without you even knowing it.'”
Spinning the first week of Michael Bryant`s new life – Toronto Star, September 5, 2009