Monday, November 21, 2011
2 FOR 1 Legal Essay/Game Preview: Chara Case Dismissed: Why Now?
Last week, the Crown prosecution decided that it didn't have enough evidence to try the Zdeno Chara case. Without sufficient proof, there would be no sense in investing time and tax funds towards a compromised file. Nobody saw enough to mount a convincing dossier that would ultimately lead to a conviction.
Zdeno evil. Hear no evil.
The Chara-Pacioretty incident dates back to March 8, 2011. It goes back a few more weeks when you take into account the mini-scuffle that broke out after Pacioretty shoved Chara from behind following a Habs overtime winner. Chara took exception to the cheap shot and may or may not have registered the incident for future use. That specifically, the motive, the premeditated nature of what transpired on March 8 will always remain a mystery to anyone not named Zdeno Chara or God Almighty. And last time I checked you can't subpoena God's files so the Crown would always be lacking in hard proof.
The case is interesting because you can be sure the pendulum would have swung the other way had Pacioretty been left in a wheelchair for life after the hit Chara levelled on him. That is frustrating because Pacioretty was only a faint distance from that fate. The act in and of itself remains the same. The intent to injure and the premeditation that one may only speculate on are as nebulous in one scenario as they are in the other. You can be certain that what got Chara off was not the lack of evidence but rather the mild long term effects of the injury.
So why dismiss the case now? Some of you may know that although I blog professionally and have become extremely powerful as a result, I also practice law full-time. Although I'm not a criminal lawyer and have a personal distaste for that brand of our trade, I do understand the general construct of our criminal system. You can't discount two essential facts - One, the prosecution only tries when it's virtually certain it will win and Two, P.R. is a very prominent consideration in the fabric of criminal cases.
Over 400 000 criminal cases are brought into the criminal system every year in Canada. On average, the words "not guilty" are uttered only 3% of the time. The files are either settled out of court or dropped altogether as soon as the crown deems that the weakness in its file presents enough of a dent to justify some form of judicial restraint.
So why did the Crown take so long to bow down?
This is where the public relations come into play. Imagine someone is charged with a hit and run. The media at first swirls around the story: the first shots of the body bag on a stretcher, the family in tears, the first glimpse of the accused shuffled into a court room. At these early stages of a file, the spotlight is very ON and the public isn't ready for a compromise. If you're going to settle a file, you do it when the story dies down, when the risk of public outcry has diminished enough to do the deal in relative tranquility. You do it when the media isn't swirling around in droves. I was once asked to wait for a settlement around Christmas time where things are usually quiet and people are less concerned with these types of stories.
Imagine the backlash had the Crown made its decision to not pursue the matter a few weeks after the incident. At the time, everyone had an opinion on the topic: the NHL, the league's major sponsor Air Canada, the media, Max Pacioretty, Geoff Molson in a letter to the fans. It was the story du jour.
Today, nobody really cares and when the story broke last week on the Crown's decision to drop the matter, it almost went unnoticed. It was an afterthought, a side story. It's exactly what the prosecution wanted. Quiet, subdued and subtle.
Quiet, subdued and subtle. Not how we can expect to depict tonight's game.
The only thing that would serve as a truer measure of where the Habs actually stand today is if tonight's game were in Boston. Games on Bruin ice always stand as a brutal test of fortitude and resolve. But a game in Montreal against these same Bruins will do.
Boston is riding a monster winning streak with 8 victories. The Bruins like the Habs have overcome a slow start and are gunning for a spot in the top 8. They look like they'll get there and stay there for the rest of the season.
Montreal is a confusing team to say the least and it's looking more and more obvious that the inconsistency is attributable to a decimated core that is trying to cope with life in the NHL as a B team. Too many injuries to too many key players. It's incredible that they are still hurting the league's best teams in spite of their depleted roster.
Cole and Pacioretty are still huge. TP is selke smooth. Carey is unfazed now by his poor start. Gomez began something on Saturday and we look forward to a carry over effect. Otherwise we invite him to carry his bags over to Hamilton.
It should be a dandy.