Video showing death of Tasered N.S. man wont be posted on Internet

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HALIFAX - Graphic images showing police Tasering a schizophrenic Nova Scotia man and his death in custody 30 hours later will not be made available for downloading on the Internet, the judge leading a public inquiry into Howard Hyde's death ruled Monday.
Judge Anne Derrick said she is prohibiting distribution of the video on the Internet because the court can't protect the integrity of the evidence and the privacy of individuals not directly involved in the case.
"There is no order the inquiry can draft that could manage the risks associated with downloading to the Internet," Derrick said in written ruling.
However, she stressed that the public will have the opportunity to see the video because the entire inquiry will be broadcast over the Internet through live streaming technology - a first for a fatality inquiry in Nova Scotia.
Hyde died at a correctional facility in nearby Dartmouth on Nov. 22, 2007, as he struggled with guards about 30 hours after being hit with a powerful stun gun.
The inquiry will closely examine the way police and corrections officers handle people with mental illness.
About 16 hours of surveillance video will be entered as evidence at the inquiry, which is expected to hear from 100 witnesses, including Hyde's common-law wife. She was expected to begin her testimony Tuesday.
The video images in question include scenes from the police station in downtown Halifax and the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in nearby Dartmouth.
Hyde's relatives, mental health advocates and the inquiry's own lawyers argued that the footage should be posted on the Internet to provide a clear picture of the events prior to the man's death.
In her ruling, Derrick noted the issue was raised when the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union asked her to prohibit distribution of the images on the Internet, saying such a move would invade the privacy of unionized correctional officers.
The union said the video from the Dartmouth jail does not include sound, which means the images lack context that will be provided during the webcast inquiry.
Union president Joan Jessome said the silent video would get "distorted" on the Internet.
"We're left to assume what it means rather than hearing the evidence from the people involved," she said after Derrick handed down her ruling.
The judge concluded the union was right.
"Directly downloading the video surveillance will send images to the Internet without any context," the ruling says.
Derrick cited previous rulings that have limited media access in terms of recording court proceedings, noting that the court has a custodial role in ensuring evidence is not subjected to improper use.
"It has not been established that the media or anyone else has a constitutional right to film or live-stream court proceedings," she said.
"If filming court proceedings is not constitutionally mandated, then it follows that the media and general public are not entitled ... to access court exhibits for unregulated and unlimited use."
As well, she said the prisoners who appear on the video have rights that must be respected.
"Privacy rights may be surrendered during a court proceeding but they are not surrendered for all time," the ruling says.
The judge concluded her ruling by suggesting that she and the inquiry's lawyers have to decide if the identities of those not directly involved in the case should be obscured from public view when the videos are played during the webcast.
Kevin MacDonald, a lawyer who represents Hyde's sister, Joanna Blair, and her husband Hunter, said the decision by police to use a Taser is an important element in the inquiry, but there are other pressing issues to explore.
"In terms of the Taser, they're not sure what role the Taser played and so they're in a wait-and-see mode," MacDonald said.
MacDonald said the Blairs want the inquiry to look closely at how Hyde was restrained at the Dartmouth jail and what kind of medical attention he received while in custody.
"We want to see a system that would prevent this from happening again to anyone else," said the lawyer.

Organizations: Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility, Nova Scotia Government, General Employees Union

Geographic location: Dartmouth, HALIFAX, Nova Scotia Taser

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Recent comments

  • Troy
    January 18, 2010 - 11:15

    I guess it won't be posted on the internet,,we all know what happened when they posted the poor guy getting tazered (and killed) at the Vancouver airport now don't we,,,all the cops got caught in a huge lie and now the police couldn't afford another cover up thats for sure. Keep it out of the publics eyes and you can tell whatever story fits the tazering!!