Embattled Bryant starts building his defence team
Toronto lawyer Marie Henein will lead the defence team for former attorney general Michael Bryant, who faces two serious criminal charges in connection with the death of a cyclist in an apparent road rage incident.
Henein most recently represented former NHL agent David Frost, acquitted on charges he sexually exploited two junior hockey players he had been coaching.
She had also represented the parents convicted in the beating death of seven-year-old Randall Dooley back in 2002.
After earning her law degree from Osgoode Hall law school in 1989, Henein went on to graduate studies at Columbia University in New York. She is the first vice-president of the Advocates' Society.
Before starting her own firm, she had worked with Edward Greenspan, one of Canada's most prominent defence lawyers.
"High-profile case, you have a prestigious client. It seems that you have a great defence at trial. You have a client with resources, an intelligent client. At least one good witness -- his wife," said CTV legal analyst Steven Skurka. "All the ingredients are there for a great case and a defence lawyer's dream."
Navigator Ltd., a Toronto public affairs firm, sent out a news release announcing Henein's hiring. It has been handling communications for Bryant. It advised former prime minister Brian Mulroney during the Oliphant inquiry, which investigated the business relationship between Mulroney and Karlheinz Schreiber, a German-Canadian lobbyist and arms dealer.
Bryant faces charges of criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle following the confrontation that left Toronto bicycle courier Darcy Allan Sheppard dead on Monday night. The criminal negligence charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Bryant has a court appearance scheduled for Oct. 19.
Richard Peck, a well-known B.C. lawyer, has been retained to serve as independent counsel against Bryant.
"They've already brought in a special prosecutor because of course Michael Bryant was the boss of all the prosecutors in the province," Skurka said. "It's largely about optics and not looking like Michael Bryant is getting preferential treatment which is obviously a theme we're already hearing about in this case."
Peck was the lead counsel for a man who was accused -- and later acquitted -- in the Air India bombing in 1985.
Some legal observers have speculated an out-of-province judge might also have to be brought in. Bryant served as attorney general from 2003 to 2007. He would also serve in the portfolios of aboriginal affairs and economic development before leaving politics in late May for a job with the city of Toronto.
Sylvia Gudzowski, assistant to Chief Justice Annmarie Bonkalo of the Ontario Court of Justice, said the matter is "currently under consideration," but declined further comment.
Bryant appointed Bonkalo in 2007.
Bryant had declared his innocence in an open letter sent Wednesday to Toronto's Mayor David Miller. He also used the opportunity to resign from his post as CEO of Invest Toronto, saying the position requires full attention.
"Let me be clear. I am innocent of the very serious accusations made against me," the letter said. "It would however, be unfair to you, the board and above all, the residents of Toronto to allow this event to distract from the vital efforts of Invest Toronto."
Bryant took no questions from reporters on Tuesday when released from police custody.
According to police and statements from witnesses, it appears that Sheppard was cycling westbound on Toronto's Bloor Street near Bay Street when he had a minor collision with Bryant's black Saab convertible.
Though unhurt, Sheppard, was reportedly angry and slammed his bag down on the car's hood.
Bryant, who was with his wife at the time, pulled away and was chased on foot by Sheppard, who grabbed the side of the vehicle. A question to be examined by investigators and lawyers is whether he reached into the vehicle, possibly even grabbing the steering wheel.
"We're looking at everything," said Sgt. Tim Burrows of the Toronto police's traffic unit.
The westbound car then veered erratically into the eastbound lane of Bloor Street. It partially mounted the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street, and Sheppard struck a mailbox and let go of the vehicle.
He died about an hour later.
No allegations against Bryant have been proven in court.
It has emerged that Sheppard, 33, was involved in a confrontation with his ex-girlfriend less than an hour before the incident, and that police were called to her residence to deal with the disturbance.
Sheppard was escorted by police away from the property, and there were indications that he had been drinking. About an hour later he was involved in the deadly confrontation.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Reshmi Nair and files from The Canadian Press