The Winnipeg Police Service has amended their Homicide stats after the results of an autopsy exposed what defense counsel Martin Glazer described as a rush to judgement.
On Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 4:30 pm, emergency personnel were dispatched to a rooming house in the 600 block of Balmoral Street to check the wellbeing of an individual.
Upon arrival, a deceased adult male was located in the residence.
The victim was identified as Ronald Harold McKinnon (54) of Winnipeg.
Members of the WPS Homicide Unit commenced an investigation that determined McKinnon had been assaulted at a rooming house party the previous day. Police learned McKinnon returned to his own suite with the assistance of other residents and was left alone. He was located the next day deceased.
Several witnesses were interviewed and a suspect was identified.
Police reported autopsy results revealed McKinnon died as a result of injuries sustained during the assault.
On Thursday, February 28, 2013, at 4:00 pm, Police arrested Robert Steward Maier (38) and subsequently charged him with Manslaughter. Maier was detained in custody.
The case against Maier was blown out of the water on Wednesday after the Courts were informed the official cause of death was a result of a “mixed drug overdose” of alcohol and prescription medication for depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Glazer advised the Court he requested autopsy information and received a document in April that didn’t list a cause of death. The Courts were advised a preliminary Medical Examiners Report indicated a toxicology examination of McKinnon’s blood was required before an official cause of death could be reported.
Those results only became known on September 30, 2013 after RCMP Crime Lab findings were confirmed.
“We have avoided what well could have been a wrongful conviction. This was never a homicide and my client was the victim of a wrongful accusation,” Glazer informed the Court.
Glazer indicated he hoped the Police would treat the case as a learning experience and wait for conclusive autopsy results before laying charges in the future.
Maier subsequently plead guilty to a charge of assault cause bodily harm admitting he punched McKinnon twice in the face and kneed him once in the groin on the date in question. The assault occurred after McKinnon put his hand on Maier’s girlfriends leg. He was sentenced to eight (8) months time served.
“I said from the start, I knew I didn’t do it,” Maier told Judge Carena Roller.
Police indicate the McKinnon case has been reclassified and the Homicide numbers have been amended to reflect a total of nineteen (19) murders for the year.
Mr Glazers suggestion that a “wrongful conviction” has been avoided is a gross exaggeration.
In reality, Maier was never in any danger of being convicted of Manslaughter without a Forensic Pathologist making a conclusive finding that foul play was responsible for causing McKinnon’s death.
One of the first priorities in any suspected Homicide case is to request an expedited post-mortem examination. These examinations generally occur within twenty-four (24) hours of the death and are vital in determining the direction of an investigation.
The findings generally fall into one of three categories;
- Foul play involved
- Foul play not involved or suspected
- Inconclusive pending alcohol and toxicology analysis
In cases where foul play is confirmed the investigation proceeds with the goal of identifying and apprehending the responsible party.
In cases where foul play is not involved or suspected the Homicide Unit forwards the file to the appropriate investigative unit to conduct further enquiries to conclude the file.
In cases where no anatomical cause of death is apparent, the cause of death is often determined by alcohol and toxicology analysis. These cases almost never result in charges being laid.
Once the autopsy is complete, the Forensic Pathologist provides a verbal finding to the investigators in attendance. Official reports from the Medical Examiners Office often take months to receive, even in cases of obvious Homicide.
After receiving a verbal indication of foul play, Homicide Unit Investigators continue their work. Once a suspect is identified and arrested, the Homicide Unit Supervisor contacts the on call Senior Crown Attorney and provides a detailed account of all investigative findings to date.
The Senior Crown Attorney has the responsibility to review the evidence and authorize criminal charges if warranted. Once charges are authorized and laid, the Police continue to investigate, however, the Crown has absolute authority and responsibility for the prosecution.
In this case, it was Robert Maier’s bad luck that Mr McKinnon died only hours after he assaulted him.
If it looks like a duck…