Jan 212013
 
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Michael Ryan was willing to respond to wife's abuse allegations.

by Stephen Kimber

In the third last paragraph of his 2010 decision finding Nicole Ryan not guilty of hiring a hit man to kill her abusive husband, Justice David Farrar notes he was “struck” by the fact the husband “did not take the stand to give evidence with respect to any of the assertions that were made against him.”

During the trial, Michael Ryan had been accused of putting a gun to his wife’s head, threatening to torch their home with his wife and daughter inside and keeping his wife isolated from family and friends.

Why didn’t he testify?

Michael Ryan insists he was willing. He received a subpoena 10 months before the trial, contacted the Crown weeks before and even showed up for the first day of Nicole’s trial. “I left my cell phone number with the Crown and waited out in the parking lot in my car for the remainder of the trial,” he emailed me backed in 2010. He was never called, never allowed to challenge his wife’s claims of horrific abuse.

On Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada — still without hearing Ryan — declared him “violent, abusive and controlling.”

There are all sorts of reasons the Crown might have decided not to call him — including the possibility they didn’t believe him — but the reality is the court based its conclusions about him largely on Nicole Ryan’s testimony and that of her supporters.

Their evidence has now solidified into fact.

On Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada — still without hearing Ryan — declared him “violent, abusive and controlling.” Though the judges dismissed Nicole Ryan’s courtroom defence of duress, they ruled she had suffered enough and ordered the charges against her stayed.

After the trial judge’s original damning decision back in 2010, I wrote a column for Metro, questioning what I then saw as the RCMP’s failure to help an abused woman escape while using a sting operation to entrap her.

In it, I described Michael Ryan as “a nasty piece of business.”

Ryan responded and we began an online correspondence, which you can read here.

I confess I don’t know whether to believe Michael Ryan’s counter-claims — could they simply be more evidence of his “manipulative behaviour”? — but I am troubled by the fact the Crown never called him to testify. And the reality that so many judges have reached conclusions about him without ever hearing from the man who was, after all, the intended victim.

About Stephen Kimber


Stephen Kimber is the Rogers Communications Chair in Journalism at the University of King's College in Halifax. He is an award-winning writer, editor and broadcaster.

His writing has appeared in almost all major Canadian publications including Canadian Geographic, Financial Post Magazine, Maclean's, En Route, Chatelaine, Financial Times, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the National Post. He has written one novel — Reparations — and six non-fiction books. Website: http://www.stephenkimber.com.

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  2 Responses to “Fairness the victim in Ryan case”

  1. This is an interesting and highly complex case.  I don't pretend to know all the facts or the right answer.  I am, however "struck" the notion that a person can prejudice a case by not taking the stand.  Perhaps this is a result of my growing up in the US. 

  2.    I also had a correspondence with Mr. Ryan, available at Nicole Mueller's blog (the third link when you type in 'nicole ryan').     I don't think it was a question of not believing him.  After the picture the defense painted of him it would be hard for him to do worse, unless he began frothing at the mouth and threatening to kill her in court.   The fact is, Mr. Ryan was the intended victim-if this were a rape trial the proceedings would be likened to having the victim's previous sex life paraded before the court and saying how it was 'really her fault'.  The Supreme Court was (I think) correct, and I really don't see how two lower courts could even remotely consider this 'duress'.   I suspect the crown thought the same.  They could say whatever they wanted about Mr. Ryan, the fact is that nobody had a gun to Nicole's head, therefore its not duress.  It opens up the legal system to every time I feel a bit afraid of somebody, I can have them wacked.
          Law is supposed to be about law, not about what is 'fair'.  I assume that is why they appealed, but unfortunately appellate court does not let you retry 'facts'.  That is certainly a bigger problem than just this case, the prisons are full of people there because of poor lawyers and poor trial judging. 
         However, many people are taking Mr. Ryan's side without reading the transcripts.  The one question Mr. Ryan didn't answer was concerning the physical evidence of his 2002 medical report that the judge says showed that he had an 'anger management problem'.     Also, there were two witnesses, one from a road rage incident in 2007 which Mr.Ryan says was the other persons fault, and a 1996 altercation which he says was the other parties fault.  And finally was the case with Nicole's 69 year old father, who attacked him with a pipe-and was charged for it-but the judge also pointed out that Mr. Ryan also used excessive force and had the upper hand by the time the police arrived  (and supposedly wasn't even supposed to be at the house until the next day with an agreed upon police escort to remove items from the home).  
        So if nothing else violence certainly did seem to follow him around, although to be fair, fights in bars are fairly common, in many places considered recreation.  I got the suspicion that he does have a temper, but that its moderated with age, and if he admits to it now then thats all people will focus on.  That's just a 'feeling' I get, having had a temper myself, and having a few holes in the gyproc after arguments with my wife.   Having some violent episodes with gyproc  is a far cry from saying you are going to murder somebody or orchestraing a reign of terror.  And why anybody would even bother arguing about Trudeau is beyond me:)  Also not surprising coming from military and after serving in Bosnia. Its interesting how willing we are to 'stand up for the troops', but pay no attention to the soldiers if you know what I mean. 
        The judge noted that he is much bigger than his 69 year old father in law, and was prepared to fight as soon as they met.  I don't know about you, but I don't always get along with my inlaws, but the idea of fighting with a senior citizen seems pretty repugnant to me, even if he does start it. 
       So it wasn't only 'her supporters' who testified, the judge also relied on these cases.  And though she had supporters, its tough to believe that co-workers would lie about her state and her percieved fear.   I agree it was quite a bias, but the biggest concern is that a trial judge and an appellate court could have such bizarre readings of 'duress'.   However, if you read the court transcript you'll note that a bizarre fixture of cases such as this is that the judge is actually basing his decision on 'whether a jury would reasonably acquit'  based on a notion of duress.  You will find such bizarre statements all through legal proceedings-just when it seems 'objective', you'll note that the decision is based on 'what is reasonable'.  Of course what is reasonable to one can be unreasonable to others.  So the judge was just thinking 'well, twelve idiots would surely be sympathetic to this woman'.  Such is our justice system.  Natives have 'healing circles', and I'm starting to wonder whether 'civilization' really gets you the best legal system.
             Like Mr. Kimber I don't know what to believe, but its not that important what I believe anyway and I'll probably soon forget about it.  The courts are filled with such cases.  Many are chalking this up to 'feminist propaganda' even though evidence clearly shows that most women in prison for murder in this country have been found guilty of killing those who (they say) have abused them for years.   I, along with others, have told Mr. Ryan that he needs to get scanning to back up his claims.  He then got upset with me when I stated that I 'may' be corresponding with one of the worst people I've ever debated with.  And the court also shows that Mr. Ryan can be quite charming one moment and abusive and dismissive the next, and his final comment certainly showed that characteristic (justified or not, I've had worse insults thrown at me on economics blogs).  There were also two people onine who 'claimed' they knew him and essentially called him something similar, but anybody can say anything online. 
       Finally, what the media needs to do now is corroborate or disprove her story about going to the police and victim services so many times and being told to go away.   They have been far too silent so far, perhaps just waiting for it to blow over.  Mr. Ryan says this is ridiculous, so the public again is left with 'he said..she said', when only the RCMP can answer those questions-if they are asked.   There is certainly no doubt that her story changed, but if you are terrified of somebody, then even nonsense becomes understandable.   Again, til the RCMP make a statement or Mr. Ryan produces some paperwork, there is no way of really knowing.  The court transcripts are worth reading if only for the discovery that these men in robes are the same fallible flesh and blood as everyone else.
       Unfortunately, our culture doesn't even like talking about domestic violence, its not nearly as neat and clean as gang shootings, but hopefully somebody in media will take it up.