Waiting for a verdict

The back entrance, steps away from where the Occupy Toronto protesters were brutalized by the police

I hadn’t planned on blogging about Byron Sonne again until after Judge Nancy Spies gave a verdict. I thought I’d just check the #freeByron hashtag today to find out the status of the verdict. Still scheduled for tomorrow at 10:00 am Ontario Superior Court (361 University Ave., Toronto)

I’m actually hopeful, because Judge Spies seems to be a very good judge. Although she wasn’t particularly conversant with the technology involved with Byron’s case, she has clearly made it her business to come to terms with it. Even better, she has clearly not accepted everything the Crown Attorney has put forth as gospel. I’ve come to that conclusion from out here in the cheap seats because she’s been asking good questions.

A few days after the court had adjourned for the Judge’s deliberations, the Toronto Police staged an absurd production of security theatre. News reports indicated that Detective Bui was instrumental in the latest mammoth waste of taxpayer dollars, wherein:

As Mostly Water points out in Tickling the Dragon: Byron Sonne and the Crown’s Prosecution:

The question is: why did police wait so long to excavate the backyard? They had the chat log evidence that they used to justify the search in their possession for years. It is suspicious timing that the chat ‘came to their attention’ only after the trial was done and the judge was deliberating.

The role of the Defence is to obtain the best possible outcome for the defendant. Although ours is an adversarial system, the Crown’s role is not to win at any cost, but to obtain the best possible outcome for the public good. The Crown’s duty is to safeguard the public, which means allowing the innocent to walk free. The presumption of innocence means that the Crown must prove the guilt of the accused.

And I don’t think they did that. Not even close.

The defence case provided far more than reasonable doubt. Even though I’m not a lawyer, I think the reason for staging the security theatre was an attempt to muddy the water because the Crown doesn’t actually have a case.

In a perfect world, the justice system should seek justice. But in the real world, egos and reputation are part of the mix. Perhaps Detective Bui thought injecting a little drama might increase public fear and pressure the judge into convicting Byron in spite of his innocence. In practice the publicity stunt may have backfired since the judge seemed singularly unimpressed.


The entire case has had surreal elements. As far back as 2008, comic novelist Janet Evanovich knew a potato gun wasn’t a serious weapon, but in Canada a potato gun resulted in a weapons charge against Byron.   The Internet isn’t some mystical place, but part of the real world. The rules of hearsay must apply to conversation on Twitter the same way they apply to people having a face to face verbal conversation.


A great deal of the morass of “circumstantial evidence” that Crown Attorney Elizabeth Nadeau offered the court was meaningless. It was almost painful listening to discussion of every digital photograph, every file, every bookmark. In short, every scrap of Byron Sonne’s digital life that was found on his computer. I expect that there would be more chance of finding evidence of wrong doing on the average teenager’s computer.

There has been speculation suggesting Byron’s denial of bail and subsequent incarceration for nearly a year was purely political. But I have to wonder, how much of the whole fiasco is because Detective Bui is determined to come out of it a hero rather than a heel? And how much is because the Crown Attorney simply doesn’t understand that explosions are neat?

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