Chutzpah, thy name is Michael Bryant

September 4, 2012

 Recently published in the Alberta Street News

By Allan Sheppard

Leo Rosten in The Joys of Yiddish defines chutzpah as “gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible ‘guts,’ presumption plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to.” In this sense, chutzpah expresses both strong disapproval and condemnation. In the same work, Rosten also defined the term as “that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.” –Wikipedia

I’d like to propose an alternative definition (or example) of chutzpah: that quality enshrined in a man (former Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant) who, having killed a cyclist with his car on a street in Toronto, writes a book—28 Seconds, A TRUE STORY OF ADDICTION TRAGEDY AND HOPE—that, among other things, (a) blames the victim and/or the car for what happened, (b) condemns the police for arresting and detaining him; failing to investigate the case rigorously; and showing bias against him in those and other instances, and (c) chides the media for rushing to judgment and reporting the incident inaccurately.

That is a nutshell summary of some of the points Mr. Bryant makes in his book released on August 21, just in time for my annual trip to Toronto to visit family and friends.

So what’s the point, you may ask. Mr. Bryant got much generous media coverage that gave him friendly opportunities to display his chutzpah and perhaps sell a few more books. Does it really matter?

It matters to me, because the cyclist who died at 33 was my son, Darcy Allan Sheppard, an off-duty bicycle messenger in Toronto. It matters to Darcy Allan’s brother (and my son) David and to the many members of their large adoptive and birth families. Our reasons should need no further explanation.

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Evidence contradicts Bryant

September 4, 2012

Bryant Watch, September 3, 2012

The media have allowed Michael Bryant to rewrite the facts and evidence of his case to support his version of the events. Here are important pieces of evidence ignored by the media.


Sheppard did NOT touch the steering wheel

Bryant writes:

“The car suddenly swerved sharply to the left, almost 45 degrees. I have no recollection how that happened. He must have grabbed the wheel. In wrestling for control of the car, we crossed to the south side of the street, heading westbound into the eastbound lane.”

There is no evidence in the court transcript that suggests Sheppard grabbed the steering wheel. His blood and fingerprints were not found on the steering wheel. Richard Peck tells us where Sheppard’s blood was found:

“Traces of blood were located on the inside of the driver’s windshield, the driver’s side pillar supporting the windshield, and the inside of the driver’s door.”

No witness testimony to support Bryant’s statement that his car stalled

Bryant says his car stalled and he tried to start it 3 times. The police said they took statements from many witnesses. Christie Blatchford reported that witnesses described “a toot of the horn and a shout to get moving from Mr. Bryant” and “Mr. Bryant edging his convertible closer, and by one account, actually hitting Mr. Sheppard’s bike” These statements match the video.

In his executive summary Richard Peck often cites either (but not both) forensic evidence or witness testimony to support Michael Bryant but in most cases he doesn’t allow the reader to know when evidence contradicts or fails to support Bryant’s version of the events. Yet in this case Peck carefully avoids witness testimony even though he cites the testimony to say that Sheppard showed aggressive behaviour after he was hit by the car.

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