Fri, July 23, 2004

Chief 'over the line'

THE PEEL Region's chief of police "completely disregarded the justice system" yesterday and may have jeopardized a fair trial in the Cecilia Zhang case, charged one of Canada's most prominent criminal lawyers. Toronto lawyer Eddie Greenspan said Police Chief Noel Catney was "way over the line" when he made controversial statements that are sure to have a lasting impact on the case.

"This is not just a murderer, this is the most despicable of criminals, this is a child murderer," Catney said at yesterday's press conference.

The comments were broadcast during TV and radio newscasts all afternoon and evening. None of the chief's statements have been proved in court.

Greenspan said Catney's assertion "crossed every line" and tainted a large part of the potential jury pool.

"It's extraordinary for a chief to say, 'This is the murderer. We don't need a trial, a jury or a judge, the person we arrested should go to jail for the rest of his life,' " Greenspan said.

"The man charged is entitled to the presumption of innocence. It's actually in our constitution but I guess the chief doesn't know that.

"I may be too old to have my jaw drop but it was quite a remarkable statement to be made by the chief law officer in Peel."

Greenspan said the chief is "very influential" and potential jurors are sure to be questioned on whether they heard what Catney said.

"Even if it's two years from now, one day when they have to try and pick a jury they will have to be asked about this," Greenspan said.

"If the chief had said that about Guy Paul Morin or Donald Marshall he would have been way off."