On this date six years ago Special Prosecutor and experienced defence attorney, Richard Peck withdrew charges against former Attorney General Michael Bryant in the death of Darcy Allan Sheppard. Bryant was charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death. Bryant’s actions were captured on surveillance video and witnessed by several people, and subject to forensic evidence.
Over the past six years most people have forgotten the events of that night and the evidence surrounding those events. Here are 28 Forgotten Facts about the case:
1 One month before he killed Darcy Allan Sheppard in a road rage attack, Michael Bryant told the Toronto Star’s Jennifer Wells that “road rage is back in my life”
2 Michael Bryant admitted that the months leading up to the death of Darcy Allan Sheppard were a difficult time for him:“I was usually in the dog house that summer. Somehow I wasn’t engaged with the same human race of which my wife was a member. I was a distracted presence in my own marriage, my mind usually somewhere else. I was going through the pressure of a career change, a significant reorientation, maybe even something of a small mid-life crisis.” (28 Seconds, p. 6)
3 Even though it was their anniversary, Bryant admitted that the night of August 31, 2009 was filled with tension , noting that he and his wife argued. “We talked about our marriage – part debate, part monologue, part argument.” “Our marriage is in trouble. We know it. We’ve been in counseling since the spring. It’s our second counselor. A (anniversary) gift that strikes the wrong note could wreck the night…tension that’s become the new normal.”
4 Bryant was unhappy with the anniversary gift he got for his wife. In a last-ditch attempt to salvage the night Bryant raced to Bay and Bloor to buy his wife the anniversary present that she really wanted. He made excellent time until his path to redemption was stopped dead by a traffic jam for which Michael Bryant blamed Darcy Allan Sheppard.
5 In court Special Prosecutor Richard Peck characterized the Bryants’ “celebration” of their twelfth wedding anniversary as a special evening for the couple. He said “the mood was warm, it was nostalgic, it was reminiscing, like many couples do over their years together, and of course, what you always talk about, your children.”
6 Michael Bryant claimed that he thought Sheppard took a swing at him as Sheppard passed his car. There is surveillance video that does not show Sheppard taking a swing. Peck: “The video does not confirm that Mr. Sheppard did take a swing. ” Police reconstruction report: “Cyclist drove down center of roadway past Saab with hands on handlebars”
7 In his book Bryant claimed that Sheppard stopped his bike facing toward Bryant. “His front wheel was within a couple of feet of the Saab’s front bumper.” Eyewitnesses stated Sheppard’s bike was facing West (away) from Bryant’s car. Video and forensic prove Bryant’s car hit the back of Sheppard’s bike
8 Only two witnesses saw what happened before Sheppard was knocked on to the hood of Michael Bryant’s car. Both of them made 911 calls. They both were questioned by the police on video within hours of Darcy Allan Sheppard’s death
9 The statements by these two witnesses match the surveillance video of the events that night. Both of these eyewitness describe events that clearly portray Michael Bryant as the aggressor who intentionally rammed Sheppard with his car.
10 Witnesses called 911 the moment Bryant rammed his car in to Sheppard
11 Police reconstruction report: “Mr. BRYANT struck Mr. SHEPPARD not once, but twice from a stopped position on Bloor Street West east of the pedestrian signalized intersection which was captured on a building security cameras at#102 Bloor Street West.”
12 Michael Bryant made no claim of his car stalling in his 911 call. He said “I slammed on the brakes and I tried to get away,”
13 According to Special Prosecutor Richard Peck: Bryant went from 0 to 13 km/hr and travelled 30 feet when he rammed into Sheppard and knocked him on the hood. He left a 22 foot scrape in the road from Sheppard’s bike. In court Peck dismissed these moments as “a flash.”
14 Several witnesses reported when Sheppard got up after falling from the hood of the car on to the road, he pointed at all of the bystanders and said what may have been his last words: “You are all witnesses!”
15 After Michael Bryant claimed his car stalled, Richard Peck and his Toronto defence agent, Mark Sandler never asked eyewitnesses if they saw Bryant’s car stall. In Jennifer Wells’ “Lost Boy” Sandler said, “The interviews I conducted at Rick’s (Peck’s) direction were of Mr. Bryant, Mr. Bryant’s wife, and interviews and information we were given by the defence.”
16 Darcy Allan Sheppard did not touch nor affect the steering wheel of Bryant’s Saab. Police reconstruction report: “There was no physical evidence, or independent witness statements suggesting Mr. SHEPPARD affected the steering of the Saab, or anything to suggest he physically attacked Mr. BRYANT.”
17 Darcy Allan Sheppard was bleeding from the hands. Police found his blood on various places in the car where he touched but nowhere near the steering wheel. Police reconstruction report : “Blood was not located on the steering wheel, passenger side or on the tires of the vehicle”
18 Michael Bryant claims he did not have control of the car when he drove on the wrong side of the road but his lawyer Marie Henein implied in Court that Bryant intentionally drove on wrong side of the road. She said, “at this point there were only two options, stop the vehicle and be attacked by Darcy Sheppard, or risk driving into oncoming traffic, driving into oncoming traffic, exposing himself and his wife to a head-on collision”
19 Police reconstruction report: “Mr. BRYANT’s final actions in the third collision sequence led to the death of Mr. SHEPPARD. Mr. BRYANT’s failure to stop the Saab when Mr. SHEPPARD deliberately hung on to the side of the Saab, and driving his vehicle on the opposite side of the road in an attempt to dislodge Mr. SHEPPARD from his vehicle gave the appearance of a deliberate act according to witnesses.”
20 A construction worker who witnessed Bryant knock Sheppard off the car by hitting a fire hydrant, then a tree and a mail box told a TV reporter, “Oh yeah! He meant to knock him off”
21 Another construction worker told the TV reporter, “all I saw was the car speeding up the wrong side with the injured man on the driver’s side of the car holding on as tight as he could. And then the driver of the car pushing up against the curb trying to knock him off on the poles as he went down the opposite side of the road.”
22 The construction worker also said “He [Michael Bryant] was yelling pretty loud and he sounded very very angry, kind of road rage but , honestly someone that was kind of, I don’t think all there.”
23 The construction worker also said “he [Sheppard] was definitely holding on for dear life”
24 After Michael Bryant drove to the Hyatt Hotel, in what he described as a state of fear, he did not call 911 right away. He waited three minutes! Richard Peck in the court transcripts “Mr. Bryant used his wife’s cell phone to call 911. This occurred approximately three minutes after he arrived.” Even though Michael Bryant’s ex-wife Susan Abramovitch had her cell phone with her she never called 911 at any time during the incident
25 The “independent” men brought in to act as Special Prosecutors were not prosecutors. They were Criminal Defence Attorneys with deep ties to the various groups supporting the profession
26 In his book Michael Bryant praised the criminal defence bar: “But I learned something about the criminal defence bar in Toronto. They stick together and work together to help each other, even if they’re not retained on the case. This doesn’t apply to every lawyer, but amongst those who reciprocate, there is a small group of colleagues who advance the interests of the accused, at large.”
27 In her essay “Split Seconds Matter”, Marie Henein wrote “I couldn’t get away from the legal community’s oft-expressed sentiment. The truth is that Michael Bryant was well-loved by the legal community. Many identified with him, many knew him personally, and many were utterly grief-stricken over his situation. The pressure to get the right result was, to be honest, overwhelming at times. Nothing in law school gets one ready for this amount of scrutiny. One’s failure will be as notorious as one’s success, and the legal community, just like the public, loves both stories equally voraciously.”
28 After dropping the charges against Michael Bryant, both Richard Peck and Mark Sandler were awarded the G. Arthur Martin Criminal Justice Medal by the criminal defence bar. Michael Bryant’s defence attorney Marie Henein has never been awarded the G. Arthur Martin Criminal Justice Medal.