Full video and transcript of Amanda Lang's Michael Bryant interview
- August 20, 2012 9:00 PM |
- By THE NATIONAL
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LANG: I THINK THE MOST LOGICAL PLACE TO START IS THAT NIGHT.
LANG: AND LET'S START WITH, IT WAS A PLEASANT NIGHT OUT. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A FUN NIGHT. TALK US THROUGH THAT.
BRYANT: Yeah we wanted to be celebrating ah and um it wasn't ah, a ah, um - but it wasn't. It was um pleasant and we were trying hard to um - um - you know, make it um a better - you know, there was good days and bad days at that time in our marriage and we wanted to make it a good one.
And um you know, so you know, on paper it looked ah fun. We go to a place that had a lot of meaning to us sentimentally, not a lot, some meaning to us sentimentally. Ah go for a walk on the beach, ah and then afterwards um somewhat spontaneously decided to get some baklava on the Danforth.
Ah and the coming back from it, it was um it was nice. The feeling was pleasant and it was um - but it wasn't ah - We weren't on a big high at the time.
LANG: WITH EVENTS LIKE THIS, SOME PEOPLE, AND I THINK IT'S TRUE OF SUSAN YOUR WIFE, THAT SOME PEOPLE FORGET, OTHERS WILL REMEMBER. DO YOU REMEMBER HOW WARM IT WAS OUT, WHAT THE AIR SMELLED LIKE, HOW IT FELT TO BE IN YOUR CAR ON BLOOR STREET THAT NIGHT?
BRYANT: Yeah. I remember getting in the car ah and thinking I'm definitely going to leave the top up because it was nice out. And ah it was ah - just felt, you know, the air was beautiful. And ah the um, the drive along Bloor Street, it was nice.
And then it slowed down near Yonge. And then from the on it just - it got more ah - it just got - went from sort of clear and beautiful to intense.
LANG: SO JUST DESCRIBE THE FIRST MOMENT YOU LAID EYES ON DARCY SHEPHERD.
BRYANT: The traffic had slowed down and I couldn't figure out why. I assumed it was construction. It was that time of the year where there's a lot of construction. And I could see some construction pylons out there. But we didn't seem to be moving and then we'd move erratically and then we got closer and I could see the pylons, the way they were set up didn't make any sense.
Like it was as if someone had created an obstacle course for the cars. And then ah I looked beyond that to the corner of Yonge and Bloor and there he was. And my first thought was, so there's - there's - I know, I know what he is. He's like me, he's an alcoholic, maybe an alcoholic addict, but you know, I could tell that he was intoxicated and he was - he was raging and ah he was throwing garbage on the street and he was screaming at someone through his car window, just screaming at someone. And I assumed that he'd moved the pylons as well.
And traffic wasn't moving and so I wanted to get it moving. And I thought I'll fix this. Um so I got out of the car and moved the pylons and then drove on by. And then he ah - at some point traffic went past him.
He had gotten on his bike and ah and drove ahead. But we were all driving behind him because he was doing figure 8s up and down Bloor Street. And it was sunny. I'd never seen anything like it. I mean it was - he was weaving in and out of ongoing traffic and ah - and ah - and laughing and he seemed to be enjoying ah that moment.
And you know, he seemed to be ah, he was ah a frightening figure from my perspective because he ah, you know, I knew that he was um - ah - that he was acting very erratically.
LANG: WERE YOU AFRAID AT THAT POINT FOR YOURSELF OR FOR SUSAN?
BRYANT: No. Ah um, no I was just a little perplexed as to, you know, what was going to happen. Um but things were moving along. Traffic was moving along. It's the city of Toronto. It's an urban moment, an unexpected but urban moment. And ah you know, some version of it I'd, you know, experienced before in my life.
I had people stop traffic before. I hadn't seen any cycling feat like that and it turned out he used to be a professional cyclist and he's - no matter how intoxicated he was he was able to do that.
And then at some point we passed him. I don't remember exactly when. I just remember the car that was behind him and him seemed to move to the side. And we passed him and I thought that was it.
And I was aware of him being back there maybe and um - ah was going to keep an eye out for him. But you know, he was on his bike so I didn't think - like he didn't seem like an imminent harm at the time, not until he surprised me. Ah I had been watching this side because I thought he was coming on this side because that's the last time I'd seen him was on the north side of the street, and ah - the north side.
And um I was looking at the side view mirror and then he came around this side. Um and ah took a swing at me, startled me. And then, and then - but then the 20 seconds started.
LANG: TOOK A SWING AT YOU WHY?
BRYANT: I don't know, I don't know. And I've thought about and talked about it ah with you know, with my criminal lawyer at the time, a million times. Like what - it might have just been as simple as I was the last car at the end of a row of cars at the head of a traffic light. And my, and my ah and the top was down. And ah you know it was more like a biff than a punch.
Um and I just remember a hand being my face um and the swooping by because he was on a bike. And ah so I don't know. You know, I don't know if it was that, if it was that he saw me move the pylons and he took offence to that. I don't know what it was.
LANG: AFTER THE SWING YOU FOUND HIM AT THE FRONT OF YOUR CAR?
BRYANT: Yeah. He's in front of the car. Um - um - the light had turned green. I stopped and the car stalled. I was - I must have been doing something with my left foot on the ah, on the clutch and the gas. I must have been doing something wrong because it stalled.
And um, ah, and I looked at him and ah Susan said, um, later, after it was all over. She said she felt like he was growing before our eyes and it seemed that way. He seemed ah menacing and ah and angry and a little hysterical too. Ah but ah, ah just crazy. He was just acting crazy. And ah, um - ah sort of growling, ah -
Anyway it was such that I wouldn't take my eyes off him. I was afraid that he ah - I thought he was going to just clop up the car and come in the car and so I was watching him to see if he'd move forward. I looked behind me, I couldn't see how I could get out from behind. In the front I was too close to him. And so I wanted to get out but I didn't know how so I thought I'll just - I'll start the car and then I'll figure it out.
And I couldn't start it, couldn't start it and then it stalled. And it was - so it was bumping. When I stalled the car it would like, like this a bit. And um and he was reacting to it. He was laughing. I couldn't tell if he was like angry about it or, or thought it was funny that I was ah so um sort of paralyzed by his presence, and I was.
Then I looked down to see what was the matter. Ike I don't know why I thought that looking down was going to make a difference but I - maybe I'm not putting my foot on the clutch. What am I doing wrong? It's like I forgot how to start this standard car that I'd started a million times. But I just felt like I couldn't start it.
LANG: IS IT BECAUSE YOU WERE AT THAT POINT TERRIFIED?
BRYANT: Yeah. I mean yeah - no-no, I was - I was in ah sort of shock almost. Like I just was frozen. I just remember being frozen. Trying to watch him and look down and look down. So the I just gave up. I'll look down and see what's going on.
And then I look up and the car had started and moved forward. And later the engineers were able to figure out from the video - was able to figure out that the car was moving forward for a second, so one-thousand-and-one. And then hit the brakes.
So he wasn't um harmed by the car moving forward but he was um agitated, enraged. He just - he just - that was it. Um something was triggered and he ah went to a whole other level of rage. Ah and I just - I was going to get out. I didn't care if I had to back up and smash the car and push my way back to Yonge Street again. It didn't matter to me.
Somehow I was able to back up. I don't know how but I backed up. And the pulled around to the left so I didn't touch his bike which was on the ground. So missed his bike and I missed him and I ah tried to drive off.
And but then he started ah - he started running at the car, at the car. And ah I don't remember exactly what Susan said but the volume went up. Her volume went up and I just - I - what is he doing? And then he jumped on the car.
And ah swung himself around to the side. And I'm driving and he's there. Like right there. And his right hand was behind me and his left hand was at different points in the car and I guess on the wheel. But I was at this point driving.
And then, I didn't know what to do. I mean he's on the car. He's trying to get in the car. And ah I'm not thinking like - this is not a calm moment. I'm pretty panicked. Um so I just hit the brakes, I don't know why. Just hit the brakes.
And um you know, this was the timeframe to get off the car. He got on the car, I was driving away. And he started climbing in the car and tried -
LANG: HOW FAST WERE YOU DRIVING AT THIS POINT?
BRYANT: Somewhere between - that was probably like 10 kilometres an hour, 15 kilometres an hour or something. Um you know, not fast enough that when I hit the brakes he fell off. Um and um - so there was like pushing but I couldn't - he was way too strong and I was below him. He was above me so there was just the leverage. He had all the leverage and was coming in the car.
Um and so I just started driving and I thought - I didn't think anything, I just started driving. Um and ah (takes a drink of water) then um I - you know, I didn't know where I was on the road. I thought I was on the north side of the road heading west. I thought I was heading toward Avenue on the right side of the road. Apparently I wasn't. I was on the wrong side of the road.
I ah had this experience that I've never had before but I've heard about, tunnel vision where - and the tunnel closes slowly. And it was like there was darkness and it closes and there's light at the end of the tunnel. Ah but um I couldn't see any - it seemed like the streets were empty. There was no cars coming and there was no people there.
And afterwards when I talked to my lawyer I said, it's so weird that at 9:45 p.m. in Toronto on Bloor Street between Bay and Avenue there would be nobody there. So we've got no witnesses.
And ah she said, no Michael, there was a lot of people there and you almost hit a car. You just missed a car. Um there was a car coming towards me. So I, whatever, I - I, but that was my perspective.
So the tunnel is closing. He's there. I'm trying to hang on to the wheel and then he's gone. Ah and that last stretch is I don't know how long. It's 3 seconds or 7 seconds or whatever it is. But it's - it's short and I didn't hear anything. He was just gone.
And ah - and ah - it took like a second or two for that to - for me to realize that and the tunnel was gone. And ah I thought, oh I better stop because I don't want to leave the scene of the accident. I knew that.
But I, I just assumed he was coming after me. I mean I - the assumption was that he would just keep coming. I couldn't - you know, I couldn't drive away from him, I couldn't stop the car and get him off the car. He finally got off the car, I was not going to let him back in the car or on the car again. So I um I saw the hotel, the Hyatt and I'd been there a million times because that's the building that Susan and I were going to marriage therapy at. And so I was there every week, literally every week. And so it seemed like a safe place.
Maybe the valet would recognize me or something. At least there would be some people there. Because I, I wasn't seeing anybody on the street. So I drove in and called 911 and ah said, help, bring police.
LANG: THERE'S A MOMENT THAT YOU DETAIL IN THE BOOK WHERE THE CAR TURNED, THE WHEEL TURNED. IN THE BOOK YOU SAY YOU STILL DON'T KNOW WHO TURNED IT.
LANG: WHETHER IT WAS DARCY OR YOU.
BRYANT: Yeah. I mean I'm assuming um, I mean it was one of two things. Either I turned for reasons I can't figure out why I would do that or he grabbed the wheel and turned it. And um - you know, look ah if I could have distinctly remembered him grabbing the wheel I would have said so. But I don't want to make it up. So ah I just assumed that he'd grabbed the wheel and turned it.
LANG: DOES IT MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE TO YOU TO KNOW WHETHER YOU TURNED IT?
BRYANT: You know, you know, no because um ah that, that part of it wasn't um - ah - you know definitive. The definitive parts for me are when he, you know, the moment where I try and get away and he jumps on the car. Ah and you know, could I have swerved more south away from him so he couldn't have jumped on the car? Ah maybe.
Um and then at the end, but I don't remember what happened at the end. Not that I don't remember. I don't know what happened. I mean I now know what happened, but I was just trying to control the car. And he - we subsequently found out - I subsequently found out that his hip hit the fire hydrant that was sticking out from the street and ah tragically his um ah - skull hit ah the curb. And um and he died.
Now ah I also found out he'd had by his own account about ten concussions in the past and I don't know if that had an impact on him dying from that. But ah, in any event ah when I called 911 ah you know, I didn't - people - Other people calling 911 for an ambulance for him. I had, you know, I didn't know that he was harmed and didn't ah - and there's a point in the 911 call where I - where it occurs to me for the first time that, that he's hurt.
Um and ah which um - ah - in the call you can hear there's this pause on the tape. And the I say, okay you know, what happened?
LANG: THERE'S A TEST IN LAW. YOU HELPED WRITE IT.
LANG: WHEN YOU CLERKED AT THE SUPREME COURT.
LANG: THE REASONABLE PERSON'S - WOULD A REASONABLE PERSON HAVE BEHAVED THIS WAY.
BRYANT: Yeah. I mean I, I knew the - the criminal test I knew. Ah it wasn't close to meeting the criminal test. It had to be a marked departure from what a, from what most people would do.
Now my experience has ah changed my perspective of an objective test within the law in that, you know, I don't know if most of us who have not lived through um a life threatening situation - if not a life threatening situation then somewhere where violence is ever present, ah appreciates the full range of human experience and capacity for human behaviour.
Um you know, like I didn't say a word during the whole thing as far as I know. And that's what the witnesses said and that's Susan's recollection. I didn't say a weir- a word.
Um that's - I mean to me that strikes me as odd. I mean I didn't want to provoke him which is why I didn't say anything, I think. Um but you know, having gone through it, I mean whether I was babbling or yelling or silent, until you live through that you don't really know. So I, you know, I think that those who ah argued in dissent on that case that was written, that a subjective test is better because you need to know what's going through a person's mind, I, you know, I've obviously learned that that's - that's ah a better reflection of ah a test that looks at culpability.
LANG: THESE 28 SECONDS THAT CHANGED SO MUCH, YOU MUST HAVE THOUGHT IN THE TIME SINCE -
BRYANT: Right yeah.
LANG: MANY MANY TIMES -
LANG: WHAT COULD I HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY.
LANG: WHAT'S ON THAT LIST?
BRYANT: Yeah well one is you get out of the car and you fight him. Ah, ah two is I do nothing, I just sit there. And ah I think I still would have tried to get away. Um have I - there are times where I thought I should have maybe just sat there. Um but the - it seemed to me as if the threat was escalating, not - it didn't seem to have plateaued.
And ah, ah, in terms of getting out and fighting him, I mean that's an option. But ah either of those might have ended up poorly ah for somebody. Ah and so I don't - I think I would have done the same thing, ah although I mean I obviously wish - I wish I ne- I wish I'd never left the house and that - I had you know, put the top up and those kind of things.
But I - if you put me in exactly the same circumstances I don't know what I'd do differently, ah given - especially given that Susan is in the car. I mean I - I do remember thinking ah, do I get out, do I not get out? Well she's like here, like I didn't - you know, I thought if he gets in the car and maybe I get harmed. As he's trying to harm me maybe he harms everybody. I didn't know. And you know ah - I didn't know.
LANG: THE 911 CALL, THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE 911 CALL MAKES IT CLEAR THAT YOU STILL THOUGHT THAT YOU WERE THE VICTIM OF AN ATTACK. THE POLICE ARRIVE. YOU'RE THE FORMER ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF ONTARIO. YOU'RE FAMILIAR WITH LAWS AND POLICE AND THEY HANDCUFF YOU.
LANG: HOW DOES THAT MOMENT FEEL?
BRYANT: Oh ah, ah - you know, what nightmare is this I'm living, what - You know ah, you know, there's a dead man and all this. And so, you know, whatever I may have gone through, he died. And ah whatever my parents went through, his father and his brother lost ah a loved one and his friends lost a loved one. So you know, ah I'm not ah - I don't think it's a sympathetic situation in my case. I'm not asking for any sympathy.
But it was just - I was shocked. I couldn't believe that this was happening. I didn't understand. I thought that he was - that I was going to give a statement and I didn't know that - I knew that an ambulance was there but I didn't know that he'd been mortally wounded. I had no idea. And I still kept thinking, I don't get it. Like I tried to get away from an attack and you're arresting me? Ah it just wasn't clicking that what the police saw was um ah a man who looked um severely injured if not dead. Um who had been on a bike and there was a guy in a car up there. And ah I guess they thought ah that it was a road rage incident. That was their assumption I guess. Um because they didn't have the evidence yet and as it turns out, they never got the evidence to support that theory. But they charged me with that right away anyways.
LANG: THEY CHARGED YOU FASTER THAN THEY NORMALLY CHARGE PEOPLE.
BRYANT: Yeah. Ah yeah, yes, yeah. Normally it takes - and this has been confirmed time and time again in conversations I've had with other prosecutors and defence counsel and police, that ah normally they - they gather all the evidence and that usually takes days or weeks before you get all the reports back, whether it be the forensic reports or the engineering reports or any other, the bio-mechanical engineer.
As it turns out they had video, so having the video interpreted by an expert. There are people that go through the pixels and just like you can interpret art you can interpret the very hard to read video pixels. And ah you get an expert and they tell you what happens. And you interview witnesses, you find out something about the man who died, to see if there's any proclivity for violence there. Um -
LANG: IN OTHER WORDS LONGER THAN 12 HOURS.
BRYANT: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. More like ah you know, certainly - certainly days, usually weeks and sometimes months. But no not - not within a few hours.
LANG: YOU'RE SITTING IN A JAIL CELL NOW.
LANG: AND WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?
BRYANT: Ah - you know, a lot of things. Um - um - you know there was - before I learned of his death and then after I learned of his death. Before I learned of his death um ah I was ah - I was you know, trying to make sense of this. Well firstly I was going through in my mind the legal test and you know, what was going to happen next. And I, I thought, this would have been within the first hour, um yeah you know what, this is going to take, you know, 6 to 18 months to resolve. The prosecution might drop the charges within six months. Um if it goes to trial, you know, whether it goes to - I thought of which court it would go to, whether we'd have a preliminary hearing or not. Um I - I never had a doubt that um there would be an acquittal or the charges would be dropped.
And if it was in front of a judge I knew because I'd appointed judges, how we have an independent process, um on the provincial side and that ah not as independent a process on the federal side but it's - its independent enough. And ah you know, in Canada we're fortunate to - I remember thinking, thank god I'm not living in the United States. Thank god I'm not going to go up in front of an elected judge.
LANG: BEFORE YOU KNEW DARCY SHEPHERD WAS DEAD, WERE YOU THINKING ABOUT YOUR FUTURE? YOU WERE A BIT OF A GOLDEN BOY.
LANG: WERE YOU THINKING NO MATTER WHAT, THIS DOES NOT LOOK GOOD FOR ME.
BRYANT: Yeah no, I thought - I thought um - I knew my life had changed for good. I assumed that there was going to be no ah return to politics. My assum- I don't know why but my assumption was that ah - that people would judge this harshly ah and um - and yet I was ah, you know, I was struck by the fact that that didn't actually matter to me. That what I was afraid for um Susan and - and the kids and friends, close friends who would be worried for me and what they'd be going through. I was - I mean I - I think when people go through these periods they have - they have this rescue feeling like they want to help somebody else once they've taken care of - I guess once they feel safe.
And ah, and I thought ah, how am I going to handle this? Like what am I going to do exactly when I get out of - when I get out of here. Um because I knew there would be media there. Um and at some point I realized, you know what, I'm just - I'm not - I'm not in charge anymore. Like I'm not in control of this. And I just kind of gave up on imaging - it ended this delusion that I'd been harbouring my entire life that human beings can actually engineer the really significant events in their life. (clears throat) That I was actually in control of, of it and we're not.
You know the political success that I found I found thanks to others and so on. So it was ah - you know, it was a revelation. And just I was the least humble person I know - pretty much that I know - ah prior to that moment. And at that moment I felt um humility in a way I'd never felt before. Um it was just, you know, just - I was just a guy like everybody else who found themselves in this crucible. And you know everybody - everybody faces crucibles.
Your parents get sick and die and sometimes people have a sibling or a loved one who the same thing happens or something happens in the job or their marriage and everybody does. And I was facing it. And part of the feeling for me was um, ah intense because I put myself so high up on the pedestal that the, that the drop down to the pillory was significant. But secondly um there was something um liberating about realizing that you're not in control anymore. And um - that was it.
LANG: THEN THERE'S A MOMENT WHEN YOU ARE TOLD THAT DARCY SHEPHERD IS DEAD.
BRYANT: Yeah. It was the worst. And you know, I don't know why I didn't think it was possible. Like, but that - that had not crossed my mind. I was thinking, what's he going to do when he gets out of the hospital. Um is he could be able to figure out our ad- that's where my head was at. Is he going to figure out our address. I mean ah I don't know why I hadn't considered it. But then - and I just um - I mean I - I'm not a - um (unclear) face in the hands kind of person. But that's what happened. I just - I was - we were in this like cement phone booth with my lawyer, Cynthia Fromstein.
And her - and she, just all of a sudden she flushed red and she - I knew something bad was coming. She said, Michael, he's dead. He died. And I - I was leaning, like I dropped and I put my face in my hands and that was the beginning of um a, ah, the worst part of it for me, is being associated with a person's death. I mean that's - the criminal charges were - I mean that was um tough. But ah but that's gone now. And, but he's still dead.
And ah, and of course what I learned subsequently is that he's ah, just like ah some guys that I see every week um in the rooms of recovery who are ah struggling to stay sober enough, that was his story. He was too. He obviously wasn't that night and he'd relapsed and that's what happens sometimes tragically to alcohol addicts is that they die a premature death. But that idea associated with that ah is um - is um - it's you know, tragic and ah - ah - you know, the ah - obviously indescribable.
LANG: DO YOU FEEL RESPONSIBLE?
BRYANT: (sigh) You know, I was a part of it. I, I, I really don't know what I would have done differently. Um - I was enough a part of it that um, you know, that will always be with me and that makes sense that it will always be with me.
LANG: THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WILL ALWAYS THINK OF YOU AS THE GUY THAT KILLED THE BIKER WITH HIS CAR.
BRYANT: Yeah. Yeah. I can't ah - I know and I can't control that. I mean that as one of the - you know, my worst nightmare when I was in politics was that someone was going to write or broadcast a story that was factually incorrect. Well talk about a story that's factually incorrect that makes me look bad, that I killed somebody - and the initial story was a Bonfire of the Vanities road rage with an unnamed blonde, ah was the way the story ran. Road rage with an unnamed blonde in Yorkville after a night of ah celebrating um and ah you know, I was sober that night. I offered to take a breathalyser and they, for whatever reason said no, I guess because they didn't need to.
But yeah. So the worst nightmare happens from the ah politic- ex-politician's perspective, that this story is out and all these people are making these incorrect judgements or wrong judgments or harsh judgments. And I realize a) it actually doesn't matter because the people who matter to me love me, actually without even knowing what happened. And secondly, give me the benefit of the doubt and assume that I was not ah, um at fault in some fashion.
But you know, also I can't control what people think. I mean I - and you know, that's - and you know that's obviously um one of the lessons for me is that um - you know, there's no point trying to package up a - A politician doesn't need to package up a message and try and portray a particular ah image. People will figure out what the person is all about, number one. And number- so you can't control that. So the best you can do is to be authentic. And if you get support from people for that then great.
But my - at the time when it first happened, I just assumed that my - that my days in the public sector were over.
LANG: I'VE KNOWN YOU A LONG TIME. I HEARD ABOUT THIS ON THE RADIO THE NEXT MORNING AND IT REALLY WAS PORTRAYED AS YOU'RE OUT WITH SOME WOMAN CAREENING AROUND, ROAD RAGE. AND I REMEMBER THINKING, THIS DOESN'T SOUND RIGHT. DOES IT BOTHER YOU THAT JOURNALISTS YOU'VE KNOWN FOR A LONG TIME DIDN'T WAIT TO FIND OUT IF IT WAS RIGHT?
BRYANT: Ah, (sigh) you know that would be ideal. I don't know. I don't harbour a bunch of resentments at all for - for anybody actually. I know people were doing their jobs and ah, you know, were dealing with what they had. And you know, ideally um, um a journalist will write it in a way that um makes it clear what's confirmed and not confirmed.
But um the worst part, the worst media coverage - I was in the bucket at the time. I was in a cell so I didn't hear it. And the whole ah careening with an unnamed blonde down Bloor Street didn't know anything about till just at the very end of giving a statement and walking out and I could hear a voice. And I think it was - it was a voice that I recognized from CP and he said was, was Susan in the car, he yelled - my wife at the time, Susan. And I thought, of course she was. I wasn't going to say anything because I wasn't going to answer any questions. I thought, well who else would have been in the car? It wasn't - when I found out that that was a story it didn't really matter to me because she knew she was in the car. Um yeah.
LANG: ONE OF THE THINGS YOU FACED CRITICISM FOR EARLY ON WAS HIRING A PUBLIC RELATIONS FIRM. IT WAS SEEN AS VERY COLD AND CALCULATING AND ACTUALLY THE ACTION OF A GUILTY PERSON RATHER THAN AN INNOCENT ONE. (nodding) DO YOU REGRET THAT? WAS THAT NECESSARY?
BRYANT: I mean I, as it - I mean I didn't hire anybody. Ah my friend Jamie um when contact my Susan said he'd help and he helped. And he never sent me an invoice and - and ah, um, ah I was helped by a lot of people. And um, you know, I don't know how much the, the media coverage - I think if it hadn't been critical of - I mean at a certain point the appetite for um, um stories on this subject um remained after the action stopped. There was nothing more. I wasn't talking, my lawyer wasn't going to talk. Um the witnesses had all been interviewed by journalists. There was nothing else to do. But producers and editors were saying to other journalists, like go find something. And there's nothing to write about.
So ah, so they wrote about process. They wrote about Navigator. And if it hadn't been Navigator it would have been something else I think. Um so ah - yeah, I ah, I wasn't doing much during that week other than retaining a lawyer that first week. I wasn't doing much at all. The only thing I knew, I had to resign ah as CEO of Invest Toronto and I had to get a lawyer. And that's about all I did. And everything else was kind of happening and people were helping me and I wasn't aware of a lot of it.
LANG: ONE OF THE PERHAPS MORE SURPRISING ELEMENTS, IT'S IN THE BOOK, THAT FACT THAT YOU WERE ATTORNEY GENERAL, A LAWYER, YOU UNDERSTAND THE SYSTEM, YOU BELIEVE IN THE SYSTEM.
LANG: THE POLICING ON THIS CASE, DOES IT SURPRISE YOU? DID IT SHOCK YOU?
BRYANT: Yeah, yeah. I've heard about um policing practices that seemed wrong in the past and I'd heard stories about it and I had people talk to me about it. But I, I - I took it all with a grain of salt. And my only experience with policing was with police chiefs and ah senior officers and members of the police unit and all great professional people. And ah I was very familiar with kind of the back end of the system, the elite part of the system but not so much the front lines.
And ah so I had experienced - I mean I'd had um very uncomfortable experiences with police um around, you know, turned left when I shouldn't have turned left and um - but you know that - most of that is just good police work. They're trying to find out what else might be going on in the car when they pull you over. That's what they're supposed to do. But this um, ah, it didn't seem like a investigation to me and it wasn't an investigation. Um it didn't seem like a weight of, putting - it wasn't, okay I'm going to put the pieces of the puzzle together. It was, no, no, we're going to make a picture and we're going to find the puzzle pieces and we're going to jam 'em together. Because we - this person we need to build a case against him.
I don't know what the motivations are. It doesn't matter what the motivations are. And how would I know what they are? All I know is there was nothing independent about the effort. Ah it was ah, it was quite different from my experience with the front line crown attorneys who did seem to be acting in a quasi-judicial independent fashion where they really do look at the puzzle pieces to try and put it together to see if there's a case or not.
LANG: THE POLICE DECIDED YOU WERE GUILTY.
BRYANT: Yeah. And ah and so you know, my giving a statement was the last thing I should do because they're trying to build a case against me. I'm not going to help them do that and so I didn't ah - later on I'd give a statement um to the prosecution, um ah at their request which had been the second time I'd been asked to make a statement.
LANG: YOUR LAWYER DISCOVERED THAT DOZENS OF WITNESSES HAD CONTACTED THE POLICE WITH INFORMATION THAT ULTIMATELY WAS HELPFUL TO YOU.
LANG: DIDN'T EVEN GET A CALL BACK.
LANG: IS THAT TYPICAL?
BRYANT: I hope not. Um, ah, you know, as I spent more time with ah defense counsel and ah I found that um it's more, more common than I would have thought. And um ah - I - I came to see that the work was, you know, there are some police officers who obviously engage in extremely professional investigations. There are police officers who engage in primarily prevent work. There are managers and so on.
But um there's obviously a school of thought that says, your job is to get a conviction and to build a case against somebody. And that um, ah - when you're on the other end of that it feels um - it's quite overwhelming for most people. Ah and so I can see why people would plead guilty sometimes - when they shouldn't.
LANG: ONE OF THE WITNESSES WHO WAS AN ENGINEER, QUITE A GOOD RELIABLE WITNESS, WAS TOLD BY THE POLICE, YOU DETAIL IN YOUR BOOK, YOU'RE F-ING UP OUR CASE.
LANG: MIGHT YOU HAVE BEEN AH FOUND GUILTY -
LANG: -AT A TRIAL IF THESE WITNESSES HADN'T BEEN DISCOVERED?
BRYANT: Ah, well I mean um, no. Ah they still didn't have enough evidence. Um and ah we had evidence to the contrary. But um, again it ah, all it showed was a predilection from ah - to - for the police in those circumstances to ah gather the damning evidence and disregard the ah, ah evidence that might exonerate somebody. And ah I had naively thought that ah they were supposed to gather all of the evidence and make a judgment based on all the evidence. And ah, and follow up and do investigations and do - so they didn't, so we did.
LANG: IN A KIND OF UNUSUAL STRATEGY, YOUR DEFENCE TEAM TOOK EVERYTHING YOU HAD -
LANG: -TO THE PROSECUTION -
LANG: -AND SAID HERE'S THE CASE, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?
LANG: WHAT DO YOU THINK WERE THE KEY PIECES OR PIECE THAT MADE THE PROSECUTION SAY, WE'RE DROPPING THE CHARGES.
BRYANT: Um ah, firstly and you know, this is um urban life. Ah on the one hand it's quite fragile and things can change in a second. On the other hand, um what are the chances that somebody would take a picture of Darcy Shepherd attacking another car and that, that he would keep the photo and have the wherewithal to send it to um police and defense. Um and um that when contacted um the person in the car who lived in the United States would provide witness testimony.
Um so that photo and that witness's testimony where he said he feared for his life. He was a senior executive at one of the world's largest financial institutions who also happened to have a black belt in karate and ah he had been in his car. Darcy had jumped into the car similar to mine but the big difference was he had a, a hardtop and wasn't in a convertible. And he ah said that he feared um for his life and that he felt that if he'd gotten out of the car somebody was not going to go home, or something to that effect.
So that evidence demonstrated to the prosecution that um someone in my shoes um would have done the same thing and that was the legal test, is what would a reasonable person have done? Well this person said they felt and would have done pretty much the same thing.
Um and and then there was half - there was a dozen stories like that involving ah Darcy Shepherd, half a dozen of which the prosecution detailed in their um discussion to the court. Um and um you know, it basically demonstrated the same thing. Ah and, and also the video um demonstrated um, um physically what happened. Um and um so it confirmed ah what my version of the event.
LANG: THERE ARE AND WILL ALWAYS BE PEOPLE WHO DON'T KNOW THESE DETAILS.
LANG: WOULD IT HAVE BEEN BETTER FOR YOU TO ESTABLISH YOUR INNOCENCE OF THE CHARGES TO GO RIGHT THROUGH A TRIAL?
BRYANT: Ah - I mean I don't - better for me, ah I mean ah I don't know. I don't ah - I just know the prosecution didn't think that there was enough evidence to ah go to trial and that's - it's the prosecution's call. Ah I was um - I was ah - I was glad that he didn't just drop the charges which is often what happens. Like usually prosecution drops the charges and there's no presentation in open court with exhibits and you know, two hour long ah explanations still of everything that happened. Um so ah that, so that happened.
You know, people will make whatever judgment they're going to make. And I can't control that and whether it had gone to trial or not gone to trial ah it just - it made no sense that it would go to trial. And ah it certainly wouldn't have been better for my kids, certainly wouldn't have been better for Susan. And ah it would not have been better for Darcy Shepherd's family. There would have been not 20 minutes of tough testimony discussed; there would have been days of it - days and days and days of it, over and over again. And ah you know, see when I hear those stories about people being attacked by Darcy Shepherd ah the other perspective I have is the, the one of people who I share rooms of recovery with which is that, you know, this is a man who was um going through hell. He was going through hell and he was ah, he'd had a terrible life, notwithstanding his adopted father's efforts. He'd had a terrible life, I mean just suffered enormous abuse and been in and out of foster - not in and out of foster homes, he'd been in dozens of foster homes before he was a child. He'd been abused before ah his foster father and eventually his adopted father adopted him.
Um and he was an addict and he was living in misery and he was trying to sober up and he wasn't able to. And that is a heartbreaking riddle, the person who wants to stop but can't. And ah he ah, you know and he was perceiving the world differently than the rest of us. You know, like these - these motorists who, you know, might have honked the horn at him or ah said, look out, to him or something like that like they - these were deeply personalized and these weren't little slights. These were, you know, yet again a slap in the face to him. And anyways ah - ah it was a - you know, he was living a brutal life for himself.
LANG: IS IT BECAUSE YOU FEEL A LEVEL OF KINSHIP WITH HIM THAT YOU'RE TALKING PUBLICLY FOR THE FIRST TIME ABOUT BEING A RECOVERED ALCOHOLIC?
BRYANT: Yeah. I mean um ah - you know, I don't want to overstate it. Like you know, we might have been in the same rooms of recovery at the same time but I, I don't think - I don't know we were. We were definitely in the same rooms, maybe not at exactly the same time. Um and um part of it is that and part of it is um, ah, that um - People have helped me during this time and helped me when I was sobering up by sharing their stories with me and authors did that too. I mean I really sobered up by reading memoirs of ah recovering addicts and alcoholics. And I read their story; they were - that was my, you know, I identify with it and I thought, well if you're an alcoholic and that's your story then I am too. And I knew I was. Just there's a lot of denial what happens at the beginning.
Ah and then you end up in the rooms of recovery and that's what happens is people tell their story and people identify with it and connect. So it's just a bunch of people um connecting and not, you know, being judgmental about it. Um there's no judgment in these rooms. And ah so um I received the benefit of that offering, that help, that sharing, that opening up. Um and I knew that here was an opportunity for me to do ah something like that, you know, lessons learned and here's how I got through a crucible. It's just, you know, here's my experience and hope. And you know, for the suffering alcoholic, yeah it's brutal and, but this way is better. Sober, better. And but you know, you've got to give up, you've got to surrender. You've got to cross over to the winning side.
LANG: HOW HAS ALL THIS CHANGED YOU?
BRYANT: Ah, well, I'm not um focused on other people's opinions or judgments of me. Um to begin with, a remarkable number of people approached me um with support. Didn't know the story, wasn't out yet. And they somehow supported me.
Um so it doesn't really matter what I do, people make their judgments. And secondly that's no way to live. I mean ah to live based upon how other people think of you. Um so humility and - I get humility and it's something worth pursuing. I'm not saying I embody it every moment of the day every day. I wish that were so. Um my instincts remain um what they are. But ah I stop myself now sometimes and think about what the next right thing to do is. And um if I'm not sure what to do, I talk to people about it. I don't know it all and I used to conduct myself in a way in which I was a real dodo. And ah I think my ego has been right sized which is not to say that it can't bloom again. It just - it's been right sized by this experience. I mean I'm, you know, ah -
And as it turns out, because of the life experiences, I'm ah I have the opportunity to spend a lot of time with my kids and I'm like they're just everything to me. And we're very close and we have a lot of fun together.
LANG: WHAT WAS THE WORST MOMENT OF ALL OF THIS FOR YOU?
BRYANT: When I found out he died. Um - ah - yeah that was the worst. And um - and my lawyer Marie Henein that's what she said. I got, you know, I was - I was out of the cell, I was home. The media had been on the front lawn; they were gone. I was on the phone with her. Um she was arranging to come over, interview - talk to me for the first time. And she asked me how I was doing and told her, huh. And she said, well the worst is over. And ah that didn't make any sense to me. How could that be? But she was right. That was the worst.
Um and ah - and I mean that was the worst of the accident. Ah telling me kids at least what was the worst thing that ah - ah - I've - not something I wish upon anybody. Um, but um, the crucible was really started um - ah the moment that he showed up in front of my car. Um but I feel like it - like it's um - that part's over and now I'm ah trying to make something of it. And um take it a day at a time.
LANG: AND HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR VIEW ABOUT YOUR FUTURE?
BRYANT: Ah yeah, I don't have one, for the first time in my life. I've always had a master plan and ten backup plans and ah, and a small team of advisors to figure out and test and adjust and innovate it. And there is not a plan. Um it is um enjoying - enjoying being a dad, ah and um doing my job and seeing what might come out of this effort that is in the book that looks at reforms to this, to the criminal justice system that are laid out in the book. And um, but you know, I don't know how - maybe it ends with the book. Maybe I'm able to do something in the public sector. Um but that doesn't necessarily mean elected. I really don't know. I don't have a plan. I haven't figured that out yet.
LANG: AND THE BOOK, WHY DID YOU WRITE THE BOOK?
BRYANT: To help people. It's an offering. It's um, it's meant to um share lessons learned from an attorney general who was charged with killing someone and the perspective that comes with that. I, you know, not only do I have the perspective, I mean many people have had the ah perspective of being in the criminal justice system and many people have had indescribably worse experiences ah, a wrongful conviction for example.
But um, ah they didn't used to run the system and I got to run it for four years. So I do have a sense of how we'd ah, we'd make improvements to it. Ah like exactly how we'd do it. And ah, and also to share my experience in hopes that people who are also going through a challenge will identify with it and take some comfort from the fact that they're not alone.
LANG: FOR A LONG TIME YOU WEREN'T ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT ANY OF THIS.
LANG: YOU WEREN'T EVEN ALLOWED TO TALK TO YOUR WIFE.
LANG: ABOUT THE 28 SECONDS.
LANG: IT'S CLEARLY DIFFICULT TO TALK ABOUT.
LANG: IS IT GOING TO BE EASY FOR YOU TO SPEND TIME TALKING ABOUT IT, TO SHARE IT IN THIS PUBLIC WAY?
BRYANT: Ah, ah no it's going to be difficult. Um ah some people said, meaning well, ah so that must have been cathartic and ah, or therapeutic, and it wasn't. It was, you know, I - sometimes I'd finish a day or a night of writing and I'd just feel nauseous and, and I'd just want to be somewhere else. Um it wasn't cathartic. It was um, it was difficult. I did research ah around what happened and learned things I didn't even know about, with respect to witnesses and what they'd done and said. And ah my lawyer did my defence. And while I was, you know, she tried to get me involved as more than just a defendant and tried to, you know, get me to be a half-decent lawyer. Um I, she just did it. And so I wasn't nearly as engaged in the defence as she was. And you know that's ideally what somebody gets out of criminal defence counsel, that they get on with their life and they let their defence lawyer do their job and they not second guess them.
Ah but no, this is not ah, I mean I'm ready to talk about it. Ah I want to share what happened. Um but um writing about it was not easy and you know, talking about it is - there's - it's something about a death that makes it um almost sacred. Um and so I'm trying to tread carefully ah around that.
LANG: BECAUSE IN THE END, NO MATTER WHAT A MAN IS DEAD.
BRYANT: Yeah, no matter what he's - I mean I'm here and he's not. I'm telling the story and he's dead. Ah and ah and you know that's the great tragedy of all this.
LANG: OKAY. WE'RE GOING TO LEAVE IT THERE. THANKS FOR YOUR TIME.
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