Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth, at the Winnipeg Police Board’s March 2 meeting. (Bartley Kives/CBC) Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth says he did not sleep for a week after a jury declared Raymond Cormier not guilty of killing Tina Fontaine.
In his first comments about the case since last month’s verdict, Chief Smyth said Friday that Winnipeg’s homicide investigators worked very hard on the case and felt good about it going to trial.
"Frankly, we did our best on this one," Smyth told the Winnipeg Police Board on Friday, eight days after a Winnipeg jury found Cormier, 56, not guilty in Fontaine’s 2014 death.
The 15-year-old girl from Sagkeeng First Nation was reported missing before her body was found in the Red River on Aug. 17, 2014, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down with rocks.
Smyth said he was aware the case against Cormier was circumstantial, but remained disappointed with the verdict.
"It’s heartbreaking for the family. I think they expected a different outcome. I’m sure our investigators expected a different outcome. The evidence is what it is," Smyth told reporters following the police board meeting.
"We brought forward the evidence where the Crown was confident and comfortable with laying a charge of murder. But it’s a different standard for the jury," he said.
"Conviction brings a standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt.’ Clearly they didn’t see that." Tina Fontaine’s body was found in Winnipeg’s Red River, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighted down with rocks, on Aug. 17, 2014. She was 15. (Winnipeg Police Service) Smyth said he doesn’t know if the jury would have made a different decision if the Crown raised more details about the "Mr. Big" sting conducted by police.
The chief noted none of the "Mr. Big" evidence was struck from the court proceedings. ‘What we did was the right thing’
Smyth also said the trial allowed the public to see the evidence police had gathered and denied there was pressure to make an arrest in the high-profile case.
"I didn’t feel political pressure at all. I think what we did was the right thing to do for a victim in our community," Smyth said.
"This was a child that was murdered and certainly a child that really wasn’t even from here. She was from Sagkeeng First Nation, so we all felt an obligation to properly investigate this."
Danny Smyth says he is disappointed with the verdict in the Raymond Cormier trial, but he is confident in the police work done. 2:14
In the days before her death, Fontaine was in contact with members of the Winnipeg Police Service, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service and provincial Child and Family Services employees.
Her death drew attention across Canada and inspired more calls for the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Smyth said Fontaine’s death has already resulted in some change, citing the provincial decision to stop using hotels to house children who are in CFS care."When Tina went missing, it wasn’t unusual for kids to be housed in hotels. That doesn’t happen anymore," he said. Limited grounds for appeal: former prosecutor Nonetheless, there remains a strong sentiment within Winnipeg’s Indigenous community that the Fontaine’s killing was not investigated or prosecuted as vigorously as possible.The Crown has 30 days to appeal the verdict. That deadline is March 22.Brian Bell, who worked as a Manitoba Crown prosecutor for 27 years before his retirement in 2016, said because jury deliberations are secret, the only grounds for appeal would involve an error in fact or law in the judge’s charge to the jury."The only … things a Crown can realistically look at are whether or not […]
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