Former attorney-general Michael Bryant has resigned from Invest Toronto, expressed his condolences to the family of Darcy Allan Sheppard and proclaimed his innocence of the allegations he caused the 33-year-old man's death through criminal negligence.
Now it's time to button up, says Toronto criminal lawyer Lenny Hochberg.
With Mr. Bryant expected to hire a defence lawyer today, I asked Mr. Hochberg for his expert opinion on next steps and the legal strategy he'd employ with such a high profile client. His response is enlightening and worth sharing in its entirety:
I think that Mr. Bryant's first order of business is to select his defence team. He would want a prominent lead counsel with a high level of expertise in criminal defence law. This lawyer must also be prepared and able to respond to the great public interest in this prosecution. It will be vital for him to have an accident re-constructionist on the defence team. This person will have to model exactly what took place. This, of course, would be based upon video of Bloor Street, witness statements, Toronto police forensic investigation and Mr. and Mrs. Bryant's recollection of what occurred.
Going forward, Mr. Bryant may wish to retain as part of his legal team a public relations/crisis management professional. In doing so they would secure input into what would be a prudent course of action regarding his employment and possible changes to his lifestyle so as not to offend jurors who will be drawn from the City of Toronto. Although a trial may not take place for two years or more, it is important that preparation begin immediately.
For instance, if Mr. or Mrs. Bryant suffered any injury, no matter how minor, they must be photographed and documented by a physician. Witnesses should be approached and re-interviewed by a defence team investigator. The people Mr. Bryant communicated with prior to the incident, at work or at dinner may be interviewed to provide a narrative into his demeanor before the altercation. Mr. Bryant has now made two public statements. If I were his lawyer I would advise him to refrain from speaking about the matter any further. Additional comments could lead to contradictory statements between what he has told the police, the media and the public. Discrepancies in his statements will not bode well for him during cross examination at trial.
The issues that the lawyer must address in this case are endless. From a defence lawyer's perspective the stakes don't get any higher.