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"BAP" 2003 Obituary


BAPTISTE o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-12-30 published
witnesses: are silent as the slain weep
By Christie BLATCHFORD, Tuesday, December 30, 2003 - Page A1
Even on its face, what unfolded in two parts of the Beechwood Cemetery at noon yesterday is a gripping story.
There, in Section 7, the family of Godfrey "Junior" DUNBAR -- including his three astonishingly beautiful children, aged 12, 8 and 7 -- were holding a vigil for their lost son, brother and father at his grave. Mr. DUNBAR and Richard BROWN, respectively 27 and 29 years old, were gunned down precisely four years earlier at a North York nightclub jammed with upward of 800 people.
The case went cold and has stayed that way -- Toronto police offered a $50,000 reward yesterday as a last resort -- not because it isn't solvable, not for a lack of potential witnesses, but rather because none of those witnesses, including many Friends of the two men, is talking.
Among those who were at the Connections II club that night and who would not tell detectives what they saw was one Kirk SWEENEY.
And who was being buried yesterday in Section 17 of the cemetery, about 400 metres away from the vigil? None other than young Mr. SWEENEY, himself the victim of an execution-style killing just before Christmas at a downtown club called the G Spot.
There was a big crowd of mourners at the mound of fresh earth by his grave. Funerals for the young black men who form the city's largest single group of homicide victims are always well attended, as Mr. DUNBAR's terrific older sister, Trisha, noted yesterday. At her brother's, for instance, she remembered, people did what they could to console the family. "But money is not what we wanted," she said. "We wanted for one of them to come forward." It is the cruellest irony, she said, that her brother, who so "valued Friendship," should have been betrayed by those who were with him the night he died.
At the vigil, the crowd was tiny, composed only of relatives, media (invited because the DUNBARs are hoping renewed publicity will see someone belatedly speak up) and other black mothers who have lost sons to gun violence.
One of them was Yvonne BEASLEY. I'd been told her son had been killed, and after introducing myself, asked if the case had been solved. She looked at me as though I was mad. "Oh," she said, "they're all unsolved."
"What was your son's name?" I asked, apologizing for not remembering. "I don't blame you," she said. "There have been so many."
Her boy was Sydney HEMMANS. One day shy of his 19th birthday, in July, 2001, he was shot and killed in his old downtown neighbourhood. "Were there witnesses?" I asked Ms. BEASLEY. " There are always witnesses," she said. "That's why all us moms are here."
Another was Julia FARQUHARSON, whose 24-year-old son, Segun, was shot and killed on May 17, 2001, the victim of what began as an attempted robbery and ended in an utterly senseless murder.
Mr. FARQUHARSON was carrying his basketball at the time of his death, and, realizing the gravity of the situation he was in, had called his own cellphone's voicemail to secretly record the voices of the two men wanting to rob him. That two-minute call, played publicly by homicide detectives not long after Mr. FARQUHARSON's murder, is a terrifying mélange of Mr. FARQUHARSON clutching his basketball and pleading for his life, and one of his attackers shrieking, "Yo, let me fucking kill you, dude."
Police were hoping someone would recognize the voices on the tape, and call them. That was more than two years ago. They continue to wait, and despite a recent $50,000 reward, Mr. FARQUHARSON's slaying remains unsolved.
That is one of the other stories here -- that police, despite dogged work and the fact that so many of these killings take place in public places, cannot successfully close these cases without witnesses: willing to testify and that, on the rare occasion they are able to get a case to court, the witnesses: are by then demonstrably unreliable, having given several versions of what they saw before belatedly telling the truth.
All of this goes to undermine the administration of justice.
But the other, broader story is that because of the intimate connections that often exist among the slain and their killers and the mute witnesses: to their deaths -- and the fact that so much of the gun violence in Toronto is committed by young black men upon other young black men -- there is a growing cynicism, captured in an e-mail I got yesterday.
In Monday's paper, I'd written about the case of Adrian Roy BAPTISTE, a handsome 21-year-old who was shot five times, in broad daylight, last Saturday, just eight days after he was found not guilty by a properly constituted jury, and freed, in another shooting in Hamilton almost two years previous.
This is what the note said: "Let them all shoot each other. Leave the rest of us in peace. And let God sort it all out. Enough said."
I understand the weariness there, but strongly disagree.
The killing spree now going on in the city -- not the first one, merely the latest -- is not a problem confined to the lawless, and it ought not to be left to the black community to solve.
There are often perfectly innocent victims, and even those with lengthy criminal records die so young that they never get the proverbial second chance that ought to be a given in a civilized society.
Junior DUNBAR's mother, Jamela, bent low in the rain yesterday and whispered to her son's tombstone, "You had so many Friends. None of them came forward to speak on your behalf; no one has the decency. Where are your Friends now?" His older son, Marquel, left a little drawing of him and his dad holding hands.
The baby son, D'angelo, stood with his small face utterly stricken, his big sister, Deondra, keeping an arm around him.
Aside from a few reporters, the only white face at the vigil belonged to Gary BRENNAN, the detective who was one of the original investigators of Mr. DUNBAR's killing; he has moved to another squad now, but still was good enough to show up.
It's rarely the cops who have to be motivated to give a damn. It's the rest of us.

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BAPTISTE o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-12-31 published
Slain man was central to case that altered confession rule
By Christie BLATCHFORD, Wednesday, December 31, 2003 - Page A7
The late Kirk Alexander SWEENEY, who was buried just this week, may be best remembered by the general public as one of a number of young black men gunned down over the Christmas holidays.
Toronto homicide detectives may think instead of how crude street justice got Mr. SWEENEY in the end: He was, they say, essentially executed at the G-Spot nightclub in the early-morning hours of December 22.
The handsome 26-year-old allegedly had been a witness, four years ago, to a double murder that took place at another crowded club.
But Mr. SWEENEY, like dozens and dozens of others who were within an arm's length of the victims, refused to tell police what he knew of the shooting of Godfrey (Junior) DUNBAR and Richard BROWN.
The result of their collective silence has been that those two slayings remain unsolved, the killer or killers still at large.
And now, of course, the same hear-, see-, and speak-no-evil rule appears to be applying to the investigation of Mr. SWEENEY's slaying. Detectives find few people who were within eyeshot, among the crowd of 150, willing to co-operate.
But Mr. SWEENEY made a rather more lasting contribution to Canadian criminal law -- aside, that is, from compiling a not unimpressive record of his own on various weapons-related offences.
In the fall of 2000, he was the person at the centre of an important legal case, the outcome of which made it far more difficult for police to get suspects to talk and virtually impossible for prosecutors to take any resulting confessions to court if even a hint of a whiff of a threat had been used to obtain them.
The background goes like this.
On December 31, 1996, a taxi driver -- a hard-working new immigrant picked up two men and drove them to a townhouse complex in Toronto.
One man, allegedly Mr. SWEENEY, was in the front passenger seat, the other in the rear. Once they reached their destination, the man in the front switched off the ignition, while the rear passenger purportedly put his arm around the driver's neck.
The man in the front then allegedly pointed a gun at the driver, threatened to kill him, and demanded his money.
As the driver was reaching to get it, he told police later, the man in the front pistol-whipped him about the head.
The two men fled with the money; the police were called, and within an hour, a police dog was tracking a scent from the cab to the rear entrance of the townhouse of Mr. SWEENEY's family.
As Mr. SWEENEY left the home, he was arrested, along with another suspect.
Mr. SWEENEY subsequently made two statements to police.
One officer said if Mr. SWEENEY could tell them where the gun was, they would not have to execute a search warrant on his mother's home.
Mr. SWEENEY told the detective he had thrown the weapon out a window, but police still couldn't find it.
At Mr. SWEENEY's original trial, Judge David HUMPHREY disallowed the statement on the grounds that it was the product of "an inducement" by the detective.
But Mr. SWEENEY gave another statement.
A second officer said police had prepared a search warrant for the house -- this was true -- and told Mr. SWEENEY that officers would "trash" the house, looking for the gun, if he didn't tell them where it was. Mr. SWEENEY apparently hesitated, and the officer added, "Your mom is already upset. Just be a man and make this easier for her." Mr. SWEENEY told the officer the gun was in a box in his mother's closet, and even drew a little diagram for him.
The police executed the warrant and, as sure as cats like litter, found the gun, right where Mr. SWEENEY said it was.
At trial, Judge HUMPHREY concluded -- sensibly, I'd argue, to the average Joe -- that this statement was also the result of an inducement, and thus involuntary, but found it admissible under what's called the St. Lawrence rule. That rule, taken from an old case of the same name, held that even involuntary statements are admissible if they are reliable -- if, in other words, the suspect is proved to have been telling the truth. In this way, those who make false confessions are still protected.
As Judge HUMPHREY wrote with considerable understatement of the purported inducement, "There was no aura of oppression, no torture it was almost a gentlemen's agreement, if you will."
Mr. SWEENEY was duly convicted by a judge and jury of robbery, assault while using a weapon and two other weapons offences, and sentenced to six years in prison.
Fast forward to the Ontario Court of Appeal, where Mr. SWEENEY's new lawyer, Howard BORENSTEIN, successfully argued that his client's Charter right to remain silent had been violated by the police having held over his head the "threat" of the raucous search.
In a September 25, 2000, decision, Mr. Justice Marc ROSENBERG, writing for the unanimous court, threw out the involuntary confession, thundered that "a threat to destroy the property of a family member by abusing the authority given to the police by the search warrant is not properly characterized as a technical threat" and said that if the confession were allowed, "it would be condoning the use of threats to abuse judicial process" and would "raise serious concerns for the administration of justice."
More broadly, Judge ROSENBERG said that the old St. Lawrence rule was now so undermined by the Charter that it "would only be in highly exceptional circumstances" that a trial judge would be entitled to admit a confession like Mr. SWEENEY's.
And because the poor cab driver -- remember him? -- had had only a glimpse of his attacker, and there was virtually no other evidence against Mr. SWEENEY, the Court of Appeal set aside the conviction and entered an acquittal.
Mr. SWEENEY went on to compile his lengthy criminal record, allegedly witness a double murder about which he remained mute, and die on the floor of the G-Spot. I wonder what all that does for the glory of the administration of justice.
Clarification Due to my inability to read my own notes, I wrote the other day that Adrian BAPTISTE, gunned down last Saturday in a North York parking lot and only eight days out of jail after being acquitted of second-degree murder, had been talking of straightening out his life, and thinking of going into law enforcement. In fact, as his lawyer David BAYLISS told me, Mr. BAPTISTE had dreamed of becoming a lawyer.

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