Nfld. & Labrador

Jerome Kennedy wants Don Dunphy inquiry to deal with 'scandalous' comments by retired justice

Lawyer Jerome Kennedy says recent comments by a retired justice involved with the investigation into the shooting death of Don Dunphy borders on scandalous and makes a mockery of his client's presumption of innocence.

Kennedy says retired justice David Riche made a mockery of his client's presumption of innocence

Lawyer Jerome Kennedy is now representing RNC Const. Joe Smyth, the officer who shot and killed Don Dunphy in April 2015. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

The high-profile criminal lawyer hired by embattled RNC Const. Joe Smyth late last week has fired a verbal salvo at the retired Supreme Court justice who was involved with an investigation into the shooting death of Don Dunphy.

Jerome Kennedy says he was retained by Smyth after retired justice David Riche went public last week with concerns about the investigation, and comments that appeared to question the character and behaviour of Smyth.

Kennedy called those statements scandalous, and said they make a mockery of Smyth's presumption of innocence.

"In my view, and without sounding too inflammatory myself, these comments are at a minimum unprofessional, inappropriate and certainly one could say even scandalous," Kennedy told CBC News.

As for Riche, he declined an interview request Wednesday, saying he will leave everything in the hands of a public inquiry called last week by the provincial government.

'Two angry men'

Smyth shot and killed Dunphy at his Mitchells Brook house in April 2015. Smyth was a member of the RNC's protective services unit which, among other things, is tasked with protecting the premier.

Smyth has been cleared of any wrongdoing following a series of investigations, including one carried out by the RCMP, for which Riche was hired as an independent observer.

Former justice David Riche says he was asked to file a report on the RCMP investigation into the shooting death of Don Dunphy. "A lot of it is troublesome," he told CBC News. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

But Riche raised eyebrows last week in a series of media interviews. Riche said he was limited in his involvement in the investigation because he was not permitted to interview those involved, and also questioned whether the confrontation should have occurred in the first place.

Riche went on to say that by firing four shots, Smyth had every intention to kill Dunphy, and also described both Dunphy and Smyth as "two angry men."

Riche also said RCMP investigators "leaned towards accepting Smyth's account."

Kennedy described Riche's comments as unbecoming of a retired superior court judge.

"When he makes comments then (members of the) public are affected by those comments because of the credibility that attaches to his former office," Kennedy said.

Justice and Public Safety Minister Andrew Parsons announced last week that a public inquiry into Dunphy's death will be held. It will be chaired by Justice Leo Barry. 

The inquiry will look at the circumstances that prompted Smyth to visit Dunphy's home, examine the RNC's use-of-force protocols, and all aspects of the investigations into the shooting.

Don Dunphy (left) was shot and killed at his home on Easter Sunday 2015 by RNC Const. Joe Smyth. (CBC)

Kennedy also wants Barry to "deal with the role, conduct and comments of the retired judge," adding he's not aware of a similar example in Canadian law where anyone was appointed to independently observe a police investigation.

Riche acknowledged his involvement was unique.

When asked Wednesday if he regretted any of his public comments, Riche would only say he expects to testify at the public inquiry.

Kennedy believes he went too far.

"When you make comments like that without a factual basis then it certainly causes a lot of problems in the minds of the public and to a certain extend minimizes or makes a mockery of the presumption of innocence."

Smyth not commenting

Kennedy, meanwhile, would not respond to specific questions about Riche's comments.

He said there has been too much gossip and speculation surrounding the matter, and he looks forward to the inquiry, which could begin by the end of the year.

As for Smyth, he's currently on parental leave and will not be making any public statements, Kennedy noted.

About the Author

Terry Roberts is a journalist with CBC's bureau in St. John's.