Cops get too much ‘benefit of the doubt’?

It has often been said that the judge who will accept the word of a civilian over that of a police officer has yet to be invented. And other than with obviously blatant abuses of power by “Toronto’s finest”, that it so very, very true in my opinion.

Here is a case where a reasonable person, aware of all the facts, would have been tempted to find against the officer concerned. But, as in all criminal cases, the benefit of the doubt must go to the accused, civilian or cop as the case may be.

I personally would like to see judges exercising their discretion in a somewhat more critical manner in cases where the accused is a police officer.

To simply assume, as Justice Ann Nelson did in this case, that “ the prospect that Officer Goss is lying…defies logic, reason and common sense” is, in my opinion, equally illogical, unreasonable and devoid of common sense.

Does anyone really believe that each and every one of Toronto’s several thousand police officers is utterly fair-and-square and above reproach?

Of course not. A basic understanding of human nature dictates that this is not going to be the case, and weeding out the corrupt, the bullies, and the sadists must be an ongoing concern in any police force.

Justice Nelson’s seemingly naive ruling, in light of the background of the officer concerned, undermines public confidence and brings the administration of justice into disrepute.

It’s just as simple as that.

Jeff Goodall.

Toronto cop acquitted of assault charges

Toronto Sun
Michelle Mandel: February 16th, 2011

It ain’t easy convicting a Toronto Police officer.

Cop vs. drug dealer? The cop is going to win every time.

And so it’s hardly shocking that Const. Jason Goss was found not guilty of breaking the jaw of reggae musician and sometime crack merchant Marvin Small three years ago.

“The benefit of the doubt always accrues to the accused. So it does in this case,” said Justice Ann Nelson in her lengthy judgment read out in an Old City Hall courtroom Wednesday.

“I’m relieved, oh yes, myself and my family,” the 14 Division officer said after embracing his wife and accepting congratulations from his many police colleagues.

“I’ve had a lot of support. It’s nice to have.” As for his alleged victim, the disgusted Small slipped out before the judge had completed delivering her 67-page judgment because it was pretty clear what her finding would be.

“There’s no justice,” complained Small, 31, his dreadlocks piled high beneath a bright red hat. “It’s like the system’s against me and the system’s going to stand up for the police.”

On the face of it, the convicted drug dealer seemed to have a darned good case.

The Special Investigations Unit certainly thought so when they charged Goss, 36, with one count of assault causing bodily harm.

Around 3:30 a.m. on April 23, 2008, Small was detained by Goss and several other plainclothes officers for suspected drug possession near an alley south of Bloor and St. Clarens.

By 4:10 a.m., he was checking himself into the emergency room at Toronto Western Hospital with a jaw so badly broken that it would have to be wired shut for six weeks.

Goss testified the stop was uneventful and when no drugs were found on him, Small was released uninjured.

His alleged victim related a far different story before the Ontario Court of Justice.

Told to lie on the ground, he said he was kicked in the stomach and ribs by several cops when he wouldn’t turn over any drugs and Goss then held his face on the pavement while he “came down with his knee, full force … on my jaw.”

Nelson said Small’s testimony had many inconsistencies — how can you be kicked in the belly, she asked, if you’re lying face down? “It’s almost as if Mr. Small’s story is being formulated as it is being told and retold,” she noted.

On the other hand, she had nothing but praise for the officer’s evidence in the judge-alone trial.

While acknowledging the Crown’s “formidable circumstantial case” against him, the judge said Goss’s testimony was “honest and reliable”, was corroborated by five cops and one civilian witness and he had no motive to hurt Small.

“This is a case that engages the boundaries of reasonable doubt,” she said.

She even bought the defence theory that someone else — a disgruntled drug supplier, perhaps — could have been responsible for Small’s injury.

There was a “window of about three minutes,” Nelson said, when an alternative suspect could have broken his jaw after police had released him and before he took a cab to the hospital.

“At first blush,” the judge admitted, “the prospect that Mr. Small was assaulted by a mystery assailant within minutes of his release from police custody and at virtually the same spot he was arrested challenges logic, reason and common sense.

“On the other hand, the prospect that Officer Goss is lying also defies logic, reason and common sense.”

But a funny thing happens when you run Const. Jason Goss through our Sun search engine.

Back in 2003, Goss’s name came up when charges against another drug dealer were tossed out of court after a judge ruled police had violated his rights and pummelled him repeatedly during his arrest.

“The violence visited upon Mr. Pitaro in arresting him was completely unjustifiable,” Justice Joseph Bovard said in clearing Vincenzo Pitaro of trafficking and heroin possession.

“It is very hard to believe that a seasoned police officer of Officer Goss’ size would have to resort to such force in subduing such a small, weak man as Pitaro.”

So here’s the question: Is there fire where there is smoke?

Read Mandel Wednesday through Saturday. michele.mandel@sunmedia.ca or 416-947-2231

See original here.