Monday, July 15, 2013


Disappointed and angry, but not surprised by the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case would be the most accurate feeling on Saturday night as I watched the mindless talking heads on HLN reveal the verdict after a six person all female jury deliberated upwards of 17 hours.  

 I wish I could say that I was shocked at the not guilty assessed to George Zimmerman, but a legal system as flawed as Florida's paved the way towards the demise of the prosecution who were up against it from the beginning.  The reluctance to prosecute this case maybe served as foreshadowing to its inevitable conclusion as it took 42 days for charges to to be filed against Zimmerman.  Add in one of the most dangerous, ludicrous law on the books, the "Stand Your Ground Law" and combine that with extremely loose gun laws, and you have the recipe for an acquittal.   

The "Stand Your Ground Law" allows a 29 year old man armed with a gun, and driving a truck to disregard the advice given to him by a 911 Operator and shoot an unarmed 17 year old and claim self defense.  While I hold the office of Neighbourhood Watch Volunteer in the highest esteem possible, I'm not sure when "Neighbourhood Watch" became "Neighbourhood Vigilante".   The defense painted a wonderfully elaborate story of Trayvon Martin, armed with a soft drink and Skittles as an aggressor who lay in wait for the poor unfortunate Zimmerman, a man who obviously did not listen well to this MMA instructors as he somehow ended up ambushed, flat on this back and in a fight to avoid serious harm.    This jury dutifully bought this argument and the interpretation of "Stand Your Ground" which basically allows lethal fire if the one victimized feels that they are in imminent peril.   

It was also a difficult case to prosecute as there were no clear eyewitnesses to the altercation between the two.  Zimmerman, who managed to eliminate the eye witness in young Trayvon Martin was the last man standing.  It was his tale to tell, and to spin and somehow an altercation with two people in the dark consumed 58 witnesses, certainly enough to muddy the legal waters.  

Here is the bottom line:   An unarmed 17 year old black teenager sporting a hoody was walking home in a familiar neighbourhood before being targeted, profiled, and followed by a wannabee 29 year old portly tough guy.  He drove a truck, carried a gun and thought that he could operate independent of the law under the guise of Neighbourhood Watch Volunteer.   At the exact time that George Zimmerman chose to ignore the advice of the 911 Operator to not follow Trayvon was the time he crossed the line to vigilante.   Who was more likely to initiate the confrontation?  The guy with the gun and the truck or the young man on his way home to his father's house?   

Its a sad state of affairs on all fronts, and the worst part is that people can, and are debating civil rights and the laws, but very few are talking about how much power a Stand Your Ground Law can give a citizen of the United States, especially one armed with a gun.   In Canada self-defense is vague, but it legally normally only allows lethal force if someone feels that their life is in danger and there is no other option.  

Here is a comparison of Florida's Stand Your Ground Law and the Canadian Criminal Code's Self-Defense Laws:  

Florida:  776.013 Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.
(1) A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:
(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and
(b) The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.

Defence — use or threat of force
  • 34. (1) A person is not guilty of an offence if
    • (a) they believe on reasonable grounds that force is being used against them or another person or that a threat of force is being made against them or another person;
    • (b) the act that constitutes the offence is committed for the purpose of defending or protecting themselves or the other person from that use or threat of force; and
    • (c) the act committed is reasonable in the circumstances.
  • Marginal note:Factors
    (2) In determining whether the act committed is reasonable in the circumstances, the court shall consider the relevant circumstances of the person, the other parties and the act, including, but not limited to, the following factors:
    • (a) the nature of the force or threat;
    • (b) the extent to which the use of force was imminent and whether there were other means available to respond to the potential use of force;
    • (c) the person’s role in the incident;
    • (d) whether any party to the incident used or threatened to use a weapon;
    • (e) the size, age, gender and physical capabilities of the parties to the incident;
    • (f) the nature, duration and history of any relationship between the parties to the incident, including any prior use or threat of force and the nature of that force or threat;
    • (f.1) any history of interaction or communication between the parties to the incident;
    • (g) the nature and proportionality of the person’s response to the use or threat of force; and
    • (h) whether the act committed was in response to a use or threat of force that the person knew was lawful.

      The key in Canada's law is the fact it considers multiple scenarios and really does not justify any sort of lethal force at all, unlike Florida's in which it is detailed in the law.  An interpretation of  The Stand Your Ground Law appears in the state laws of 31 states with the potential to add three more to the list.  In Florida it got to the point in which someone set up a web-site warning all incoming tourists of the new law when it hit the books back in 2005.   
Take one extreme liberal interpretation of self-defense, add in lax or non-existent gun laws, and you get a verdict that disappoints, rather than shocks. 

RIP Trayvon.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


So many, many questions and so few answers.  This much is known for sure:  a young father has been senselessly taken from his family, murdered over the purchase of a truck.  

From what I've been told Kijiji is a routine way of doing business, an online market where goods can be bought and sold, but it's also a place where you meet and trust strangers to complete a transaction. 

Tim Bosma was selling a truck, a nice truck from how it looked on its online ad.  When two men showed up at Tim's door during the evening of Monday May 5th, Tim did what any responsible seller would do by accompanying the two men on their test drive. Again, seems routine,  as men want to make sure they are purchasing a sound vehicle and Tim wanted to ensure that the men did not heist his truck.   

I wish the rest of the story were as routine as the first part.  

We now know that Tim Bosma did not live past that fateful night.  What happened to him, and how it happened is now clouded in mystery.   Was Tim targeted by these ruthless thugs for murder, or did Tim fight  back when he realized his truck might be hijacked?   Was this a sophisticated group of car thieves? When his truck was spotted in Brantford that Monday night, was Tim still alive?  

 It is alleged the suspects tried to purchase the truck of a man in Toronto. In fact, thanks to the work of the man targeted in Toronto, police were able to glean one key piece of information- a tattoo of the word "Ambition" on Dellan Millard, now accused of 1st degree murder. Millard, a part of a wealthy family that dabbled in aviation among other businesses remains the key link into finding out the rest of the details.  Problem is that he is not talking, has invoked his right to silence and the search for at least two other suspects continues.   

We all hurt for the loss of Tim Bosma.  There are many family and friends who are crushed beyond belief by his loss ,and there are those like myself, like Tim who have a two year old daughter who feel the senseless tragedy in a different way. Others just hurt for his family, his grieving young widow whose emotional televised plea moved us all.  Tim Bosma looked like everyone's friend or neighbour, handsome blue eye, hard working, part of a tight knit social circle of family and friends.  His dog was his best friend.  Perhaps it is the first part of the story that resonates.  How many of us have bought and sold items online without a thought that there was potential danger?    

The story has touched the police and the media.  The police, who have done yeoman's work, have devoted man power and resources stretched across multiple bureaus and continue to execute search warrants at crime scene in Waterloo, Ayr and Ancaster.  Police chief Glen de Caire was particularly haggard and emotional when he announced that the remains of Tim Bosma, burnt beyond recognition, had been located.   The media, sometimes criticized for being over zealous in pursuit of that perfect scoop, remain respectful. CHCH TV in particular has blanket coverage that has not been exploitative in nature.  They have a job to do and they have done it well.  

As for the rest of the Hamilton area, we take this personally.  While given the reputation of a working class, sometimes rough town, murder is a relatively rare phenomenon.  Sure it happens, but not as much as people would think for a city that large.   

We have all taken Tim Bosma into our broken hearts and echo the thoughts of Tim Bosmas widow during her hear twrencing public plea. 

It's just a truck.

Police, justice system: over to you. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Zack Bradley, 20, is a first-year Carleton University journalism student from Oshawa whose anonymous online alias was one of 18 named in a defamation lawsuit filed by former Leaf's general manager Brian Burke.
This is Zack Bradley, 20 years old and student at Carleton University, a fine educational institution known for its journalism program, its CIS basketball domination and soon to be home to a CIS football team.   Zack Bradley might need all of his journalistic acumen, and some of men's basketball coach Dave Smarts' legendary intensity to get out of the pickle that he is currently in for he is in the cross hairs of the the bombastic, curmudgeonly, truculent, belligerent Brian Burke.  Yes, the same Brian Burke who got fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in January, for reasons somewhat unknown, and in a grey area that should be reserved for the latest Crayola Crayon.  

Brian Burke, former Toronto Maple Leafs GM, has launched a lawsuit against 18 anonymous online commenters who he alleges spread untrue sexual gossip about him.

Bradley was one of 18 people who speculated that one of the reasons that Burke got turfed from MLSE was because of an unfounded, and false rumour that Burke was the father of Sportsnets Anchor Hazel Mae's  baby.  Not sure if the baby came out with unbuttoned shirt and a tie, or with a magnificent coif or not.  Its the stuff urban legends are made of. For Leaf fans back in the 80's it was that Wendel Clark was gay or that Gary Leeman was having an affair with Al Iafrate's wife. Same falsehood, same unfounded speculation, different medium.  

While the merits of the lawsuit have yet to be determined and the posts deleted, I heartily endorse Mr Burkes' somewhat zealous pursuit of this 18 alleged perpetrators.   Finally someone who has posted something on the internet under the cloak of anonymity is to be held accountable for their actions.   

Hey, the lawsuit may have absolutely no merit whatsoever, but if it serves the purpose of making those with a poison keyboard think twice before spew nonsense, hatefulness and untruths, then mission accomplished.  Far too many times people grow a set and feel they can post whatever they want under a flimsy pretense of Freedom of Expression because of a lack of Internet accountability.  I've always advocated that people post under their real names, so they can stand behind whatever it was they said and accept the consequences that come with it.  

Zack Bradley, or whatever he was known as on the Internet might think twice about what he is speculating or endorsing and even if he does not have to a dime, the message would be sent and received.  Think of  what Burke is doing  as the legal online version of employing Colton Orr and Fraser MacLaren on the same shift.   

Burke, a lawyer by trade, and an intimidating presence by nature might just be the one to blow the lid off of Internet anonymity. Nothing wrong with a little truculence or belligerence here. 

Steve Clark
some good articles on this case, and what the legal implications can be found here: 

and here: 

Monday, April 22, 2013


The scenes were horrific, almost like a war zone, and the panic was real.   From multiple angles we have seen the horror that was caused by the Boston Marathon bombing.    Blood stained pavements, limbs blown off, tales of amputation and a vivid shot of a 78 year old marathoner knocked over by the sheer magnitude of the bomb.  Now we get the most awe-inspiring form of reality television as with the cameras still in Boston there was a tactical take down and one of the alleged masterminds of the bombing was killed while another one remains on the loose.  Perhaps the visual power of live television was only matched the surreal experience of watching football hero/pseudo actor OJ Simpson lead the LAPD on a slow speed chase when he failed to turn himself in to police after the double slaying of his ex-wife and her friend.

Friday's take down and capture of the second bombing suspect played out like a movie complete with plot lines, heroes and villains.   After the suspect was apprehended, emergency personnel made the slow journey down the main road to cheering crowds and jubilant citizens happy that their streets were safe again.  

Right now we Pray For Boston as even the Red Sox vaunted Rivals the Yankees stood in solidarity with their foe.   The emotion is real, and touches most everyone in some way, shape or form.  Three lives have been lost, 180 or more have been injured, at least 18 critically and families  literally torn apart.  have read at least two stories on family members, or husbands and wives who both lost limbs as a result of the bombing. 

Contrast that with cyber bullying and sexual assault, two themes that I explore in-depth with my Grade 12 Law Classes to the point of exhaustion.   These are two very serious societal problems with long-term consequences. Getting sexually assaulted, or raped is a life long sentences, and we have read far too many stories of those who cannot take the torment of cyber bullying and have taken their own lives.   Many of those stories include the double horror a sexual assault followed by cyber bullying.  Yet in many cases, we do not empathize with these victims even though the consequences are very real and very long term, not unlike those tragic victims of Boston.    The difference is for whatever reason emotional scarring does not resonate with the average person as much as physical scarring.  We can see the real horror of a blameless spectator getting injured by an improvised bomb because of the blood and in some cases the leg that is longer there.   In sexual assault and cyber bullying the physical scarring is not as obvious in many cases, and very likely in a personal and private place.  We are taught that "sticks and stones break bones, but names never hurt", an analogy now seen as anachronistic.  Names do hurt and in the case of Rehateah Parsons, eventually have dire consequences.   We also tend to shine the light on the victim and blame them for putting themselves in certain situations, even though those victims of sexual assault and cyber bullying are as blameless as the spectator at a marathon who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.   

In fact there is sympathy for the alleged perpetrators in the Rehateah Parsons case as now there are supportive posters for the boys circulating in the very neighbourhood Rehateah took her life.   I do not see an outpouring of support for the callous, and cowardly bombers that changed a landmark event forever. Yet "the truth must come out" for four young men who hatcheted a vicious life-changing assault on a defenseless person.  In theory this also sounds like the blue print for the Boston Marathon bombers. 

Powerful visuals resonate and we all feel the hurt, but the unseen remains something difficult to empathize with. Until the legal systems turns the unseen in a powerful empathetic visual that a judge or jury can appreciate, for many victims there will be no justice.

Steve Clark

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Rehtaeh Parsons. (Family photo)

Once again the justice system and the school system has failed a young woman from Cole Harbour Nova Scotia and the results were tragic as a vibrant, intelligent young lady named Rehtaeh Parsons took her own life while her family searches for answers not readily available. 

By now many people have heard the sad saga of Rehtaeh Parsons.  At the age of 15 the young girl was left alone at a family friends house and was sexually assaulted by four young men, one of whom took the time to take a picture and freely distribute it around the school.  It was a despicable crime, furthered by the viciousness of some of the young men in question when they sent it around the school.   The young girl was tormented, harassed and bullied and it continued even after she was driven her out of the school.

 The now 17 year old took her own life by hanging herself in the bathroom of her home while her mother and boyfriend tried frantically to get in and revive her.  Three days after the event her family took her off life support and took to social media to express their outrage at the failings of the justice system.  

Somehow despite a widely circulated photo and a torrent of hate propaganda spread via social media, neither the school administration nor the police saw fit to lay any charges in the case. The school, citing privacy concerns, would not comment on whether or not the perpetrators were suspended,  Ironic that privacy concerns would help out this cruel perpetrators while nothing could be done about a very, very public obscene picture that was taken.  This is the first of many missteps that would plague the investigation, a term some may use lightly in this case.   

The police cited the photo and the volume of social media outrage directed towards young Rehtaeh as more of a community concern than a police matter.   In response to that I present to you the Criminal Code on Harassment, and let you draw your own conclusions as to whether or not any of the principles apply:  

  • calling you over and over again, and perhaps hanging up whenever you answer the phone 
  • contacting you on the Internet or through constant e-mail messages 
  • following you, your family or friends 
  • leaving threatening voice messages 
  • sending you gifts you do not want 
  • watching you or tracking where you go 
  • threatening you, your children, family, pets or friends 
Worth an investigation at least don't you think?   

A rape kit was not available as Rehtaeh did not tell her parents about the incident until a few days after, something that is not uncommon in sexual assault cases.  It is not easy to prove sexual assault beyond a reasonable doubt as there is either a lack of witnesses, or in this case, reluctant witnesses who could very well be incriminated.  That said, no stone should have been left unturned in this case to try and get some form of satisfactory justice for the Parsons family.   

Justice Minister Ross Landry promises a full investigation into the actions of the RCMP, and here is hoping that the wagons are circled and the justice system protecting their own.   I hope that he probes this interview that was done by the CBC with one officer who shows absolutely no empathy or really much of a clue as to how to legally handle social media.   

You can see the video here: 

I commend the mother of Rehtaeh for working through her grief and highlighting the flaws that were apparent in this system and hope that Minister Landry follows through on his promise to look into the laws surrounding sexual assault and distribution of child pornography.   

Here is hoping that something real actually gets down rather than a lot of finger pointing, a battening down of the hatches and a hope that the controversy passes.

Time to educate the youth of the perils of social media, and by educate, I mean punish.   Suspensions and expulsions must be meted out at the school level, charges must be laid, and at the very least, the fear of God must be struck into some of these youngsters who feel that they can get away with this sort of behavior. 

If not, the cycle will continue. 

Steve Clark

You can find the Facebook memorial page here

Friday, April 5, 2013



I am not a lawyer, nor a judge, nor an employee of the court system in any way shape or form. In fact none of my university degrees are in law.  They are in Political Science, Education and History. However,   I teach law at the secondary school level, and therefore profess to have a sound working knowledge of the legal system.  Plus I do a tremendous amount of reading on the subject, often reading Supreme Court decisions in my spare time. 
Somewhere deep down we would like to see justice served in our legal system, keeping in mind that everyone’s notion of justice can be different.   What spurred me to start this blog was the feeling that justice was not served in a recent case originating out of Hamilton involving a disabled man who was confined, tortured and robbed over the course of a 17 day period.  Two of the three perpetrators stand to have their sentence reduced as it was felt that the punishment meted out was unduly harsh.  One person had their sentence reduced six years (13-7) and another will have their 10 year sentence reduced to a length yet to be determined.  The third member did not appeal their 14 year sentence reduced. 
Room where a developmentally disabled Hamilton man was held and tortured for 17 days.
This is the room where a man was held for 17 days
Seems ridiculous to see perpetrators use the term “harsh punishment” when they tortured a  disabled young man in manners too graphic and disturbing to imagine. 
I do not get the reduction in sentence and that seems to be the belief of a number of people according to what was tweeted by CBC Hamilton’s Conrad Collaco.  In fact it can be argued that considering the events the sentences might have been seen as relatively light as there were three serious offenses committed during the course of the 17 days:  robbery, aggravated assault and forcible confinement.
While I take issue with some of the parameters of the US justice system, the fact that they have consecutive sentences rather than Canada’s system of concurrent sentences would seem to be more applicable here.  Three serious crimes should see 3 different punishments.  If you add them all together, that should be your sentence.   Concurrent punishment means all the punishments are served at the same time, essentially meaning that only the crime with the longest prison term is the one that actually plays. 
That in itself does not seem overly fair in this case.  Add in the notion of reducing the sentence and it seems somewhat ludicrous.