If you answered, “What are mythical things,” you win the prize.
Mr Greg Brodsky Q.C. L.L.M. is a rare criminal defense attorney who deserves that rare praise.
Not because he’s litigated over seven-hundred (700) homicide cases in a long and illustrious career spanning more than forty-five (45) years. Not because of the long and esteemed list of titles and positions he’s held since graduating from the U of M law program in 1963.
No, its because he has courage.
Courage to depart from the status quo.
Courage to take risks so that true justice might be served.
Courage to have faith that people in adversarial roles might be trusted to do the right thing.
The kind of rare courage that spared two (2) people the experience of being crushed under the weight of life altering murder charges.
On September 15, 2001, I was assigned to work a unique homicide investigation riddled with twists, turns and an unpredictable ending. The case had all the outward markings of a typical senseless Winnipeg killing. A dead body, a fence board and a suspect arrested at the scene. It looked like an open and shut case.
Enter Greg Brodsky.
Winnipeg Homicide Detectives are alert to two (2) certainties when it comes to investigating the ultimate crime. 1) A criminal defense attorney will be attending the Public Safety Building to have a face to face with the murder suspect. 2) Count on the defense attorney to give strong, unequivocal advice to the suspect to keep his mouth shut and say nothing to Police.
This is true of 99.9% of all criminal defense attorneys I met during my twenty-six (26) year career in policing. If you asked defense attorney’s why they give this advice I suspect the answers would be wide-ranging and might include;
- Police interrogations can be extremely stressful
- Police interrogations can result in false confessions
- Whether guilty or innocent, participation in an interrogation can often make things worse for the client
- The defense attorney is best suited to represent the interests of the client and will do their talking for them
- Police are not trustworthy, will manipulate suspects and twist their words
Greg Brodsky represents the .1 % of criminal defense attorneys who have the courage to consider other possibilities.
After spending an hour or so debriefing the youthful suspect, Brodsky exited the interview room and indicated his client would provide a full and complete voluntary statement in answer to the murder allegations. With that, he made a request for an update once the interrogation was complete and left the building.
We couldn’t believe our ears but dared not ask the man to repeat himself.
Brodsky’s advice resulted in the telling of an improbable story about a young man walking down the street and being confronted by a knife wielding suspect demanding money. In a split second fight or flight decision, the young man pulled a wood board from a fence and swung it with all his force. The board found its target upon the would be robbers head bringing a quick end to the confrontation. It turned out to be a fatal blow.
The story was told with the kind of fluid candour that erased any cause for concern. His story meshed with the evidence and explained the origin of a knife found by EMS workers under the deceased’s body. It was a confusing piece of the puzzle before the young man’s story was put on the record.
After conducting a thorough review of the case both police and justice officials arrived at the rare conclusion the killing was a case of justifiable homicide and no charges were laid.
Upon reflection, investigators credited Mr. Brodsky for having the courage and wisdom to advise the young man to tell his story. We were confident no other defense attorney in Winnipeg would have given that advice. There was no doubt, had the young man not told the story he would surely have faced 2nd degree murder charges. Once those charges were laid there was no telling how the case might have played out.
It wouldn’t be the last time I would witness Mr Brodsky’s rare brand of courage.
On October 6, 2004, I was assigned to work a vicious murder case where the victim had been savagely beaten to death. The problem was the suspect (s) had taken the unusual step of disposing of the body. With no body, the probability was there would be no case.
After working the initial phase of the investigation it became apparent that one (1) of the suspects played a minimal role in the attack. It was time for some “out of the box” thinking. We were simply not prepared to try to sell the case to Crown Prosecutors without doing everything we could to recover the victim’s body. The case depended on it and a broken-hearted family’s hopes to learn the fate of their loved one hung in the balance. Equally important was the need to recover the victim’s body so his family could give him a proper burial.
This was going to be a game of high stakes poker.
We would arrest the lesser involved suspect and play let’s make a deal.
Before the arrest we took the unprecedented step to secure authorization from Senior Crown Don Slough* to offer the suspect, “consideration for cooperation and truthfulness.” Exactly what that, “consideration,” was going to be required a significant degree of trust and a gigantic leap of faith.
On October 7, 2004, at 4:08 pm, we put handcuffs on the lesser involved player and conveyed him to the Public Safety Building where he requested to speak with Mr Brodsky. When he arrived at the Police Station, Brodsky gave me a sideways glance when we asked to speak with him in our boardroom before he met with his client. After he settled into his chair we made our pitch, “consideration for cooperation and truthfulness.” With eyebrows raised, Brodsky did his best to cross-examine us in his effort to add some substance to the offer. There would be no such clarification, no specifics and no guarantee’s.
With that, an intrigued Greg Brodsky was escorted to the interrogation room to meet with his client.
Approximately thirty (30) minutes later he returned to the boardroom and advised us of the following;
- the victim’s body could be located near the town of Warren, Manitoba
- his client would provide a voluntary statement
- his client was advised to “tell the entire story, not just bits and pieces.”
With that, Mr Brodsky looked me directly in the eye and said, “You better not —- me, I have a very long memory.”
While we had no intention of screwing Mr Brodsky or his client, the truth was we had our necks sticking way out on this one. We needed the Crown to do the right thing if Brodsky’s client held up his end of the bargain. While we trusted Don Slough, things weren’t exactly in our control. Plenty of higher-ups in Manitoba Justice could have blown us out of the water.
The lesser involved suspects level of cooperation was immediately evident when he provided directions to a ditch on Springfield Road where he and the killer disposed of shovels used to bury the victim.
The recovery of the shovels had the entire investigative crew brimming with optimism. It was looking like our unorthodox approach might bear fruit. At this point, it was almost 2 a.m. and an excursion to the countryside to search for the body of a murder victim was just not feasible.
At 2:46 am, we provided our suspect with a blanket and told him to catch some sleep, he was going to need it. In the meantime, I headed home for a bite to eat, a quick shower and a much-needed cat nap.
At 7:00 am, I returned to the Public Safety Building and fed and watered our guy before we hit the road. The recovery operation was a 50/50 proposition at best. The disposal site had been selected by the prime suspect and was not an area familiar to our player. Regardless, we remained cautiously optimistic.
By 10:40 am, we realized the disposal site was not going to be easy to find. The area was sparsely populated and heavily treed making the search extremely difficult. The nondescript gravel roads blended into one another with no land marks or homesteads to help narrow the search. As a result we were forced to conduct a tedious grid search on all gravel roads north of the town of Warren.
At 12:33 pm, a team of Detectives found a potential location based on a previous description provided by our suspect. Once we arrived at the scene the suspect exited our cruiser car and walked directly to the burial site. Upon inspection we could see a large area of freshly overturned earth covered with large branches, leaves and thick brush. We found our needle in the haystack.
There could be no doubt, the disposal site was so remote and so camouflaged it would never have been discovered without the aid of Mr Brodsky’s client.
It was time to start making a few phone calls.
Notifications were made to the Supervisor running the investigation, the RCMP and the WPS Forensic Identification Unit who would be responsible for recovering the victim’s body and processing the crime scene.
Less than two (2) hours later my Supervisor called and advised the Crown Prosecutor authorized the release of our suspect with no charges pending further investigation. Much to my relief, some context was finally placed on “consideration for cooperation and truthfulness.” Mr Brodsky’s client was dropped off at home in time for supper.
The main player in the killing was charged with second degree murder and eventually plead guilty to manslaughter. He was sentenced to seven (7) years in prison.
The lesser involved suspect was never charged in the case.
Mr Brodsky’s courageous involvement not only protected the interests of his client, he also helped resolve a heinous crime, ensured the recovery of a murder victim’s body and brought peace and a sense of closure to a grieving family.
Before writing this story I reached out to a former Brodsky understudy I’d met during the course of several murder investigations. Andreas Papadopoulos, affectionately known as “Andreas Alphabet,” graduated from the U of M Faculty of Law in 2001 and subsequently went to work as an associate at Brodsky & Company.
After cutting his teeth in Manitoba, Andreas moved to Toronto (2004) where he continues to practise law.
When I asked Andreas about Mr Brodsky he stressed, “Don’t forget, the guys forgotten more about criminal law than most lawyers will ever learn.”
He continued, “It takes massive courage for a lawyer to tell a person suspected of murder to talk to the Police. The client has to trust that advice and know the lawyer will be able to clean up any mess. That type of advocacy is not for the faint of heart.”
Alas, the precise reason I felt Brodsky’s story was worthy of telling.
“Guys like Greg are becoming extinct,” Andreas lamented as our conversation drew to a close.
That, my friends, is a shame.
*Senior Crown Don Slough was appointed Judge of the Provincial Court on July 28, 2010. He now presides over the Provincial Court in Dauphin, Manitoba.