Monday, March 1, 2010

This Is Old City Hall, Day 19

It's the day after reading week. I've been on the Olympic Tourist diet for two weeks: nachos, wings, caesars and beer, some of the foregoing items recurring more frequently than others. My suit feels more ill-fitting than usual as a result, and I was already half way to looking like Columbo as it was.

My browser thinks that "caesar" is spelled wrong, because the world outside Canada is missing out on that sensational beverage.

I'm with a new judge this week: Judge C-----. She is a recent appointment; prior to this she was a crown in Scarborough. She says Scarborough is a better place to prosecute than downtown, because you get thrown into the deep end faster. I don't know why everybody likes the deep end so much.

She hasn't quite mastered the corridors of Old City Hall yet: she doesn't know where all the secret stairwells go. She does know that there used to be a morgue in the attic, to accommodate the men who were hanged in the central courtyard. The pipes that fed the tubs are still visible, she says. I don't know what morgues use tubs for and I don't ask Her Honour. Still though: why would anyone want to work elsewhere than here?

This morning I watched the trial of an individual charged with assault. The charge arises from a brawl in front of a nightclub -- the same one mentioned in the prosecution of the MMA fighter two weeks ago. It must be a bad news place.

The alleged victim showed the court pictures of his injuries. According to him, just as he was leaving the club, he was punched in the back of the head by unknown aggressors. Outside the establishment some time later, he flagged down a taxi, but before he could get into it a group of young toughs beckoned to him and showed him their rings, which were caked with blood from the back of his head.

The young toughs (see composite at left) challenged the complainant and his friend to a duel, noting that their numbers were even-strength. The complainant alleges that he did not accept this challenge but the accused and his friends began raining blows on him nonetheless. One of these blows resulted in a scratch on his cornea. His friend tried to intervene on the complainant's behalf and likewise went down.

I used to be a bouncer. Not a strong bouncer or one who was at all effectual, but a bouncer nonetheless. I have heard this song-and-dance before: the victim, just trying to make his way home, stymied in his efforts by a persistent aggressor whose only apparent motivation is bloodlust. It has never rung true for me and it does not ring true here. If you wanted to get into a cab and peace out, could the accused really have stopped you? Or did you turn back and defend your honour from some drunk idiot whom you have never seen before and will never see again?

Some young men (and some old men -- see below) ascribe much importance to not backing down from fights.


The justice system doesn't care that you were defending your own honour, your buddy's honour, your girlfriend's honour or the honour of your Stacy Adams shoes. If two people apply force to each other without consent, they have both committed assault.

Worse: no matter who started it, the party who wins the fight is the party against whom it is most expedient to lay charges. Had he been a better fighter, the complainant might have been the accused.

Observations
  • The lead investigating officer looks just like Idris Elba. The crown looks just like Sam Waterston. They make a good team.
  • A question for defence counsel: do you ever advise your clients about proper court attire? Maybe recommend to a young client that he shave his teen 'stache before leaving home, and pick a shirt with buttons over his black housebreaking-issue hoodie? The court is composed of people, for better or worse. Mightn't those people be more inclined to leniency if the accused before them doesn't tickle their prejudices by dressing the part? By bringing this up, am I being classist and/or racist, or just pragmatic? Either way, aren't I keeping the best interests of my client at heart?
A word that the crown made up?
  • "concertation"

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