WINNIPEG — He was the police officer left holding the proverbial bag when a high-profile prosecution fell apart. Yet the most senior former member of the East St. Paul police pointed the finger of blame at former chief Harry Bakema for the botched investigation of a deadly car crash.
Norm Carter testified Friday as the final Crown witness against Bakema, who has pleaded not guilty to several criminal charges, including perjury, breach of trust and obstruction of justice. Lawyers will return to court next Thursday to make their closing arguments before provincial court Judge Kelly Moar.
Carter was a sergeant at the time of the February 2005 crash, which has become the focus of several judicial inquiries. Crystal Taman, a married mother of three, was killed after her convertible was rear-ended by Derek Harvey-Zenk while she waited at a red light near Lagimodiere Boulevard and the Perimeter Highway. Harvey-Zenk, an off-duty Winnipeg officer, was on his way home from a night of drinking with fellow officers.
Harvey-Zenk, 38, ultimately pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of dangerous driving causing death and was given a conditional sentence. The failure of East. St. Paul police to properly document indications Harvey-Zenk was impaired is one reason the case crumbled and alcohol-related charges were dropped by the Crown.
Carter told court Friday he assigned himself to be lead investigator five days after the tragedy and inherited an already messy situation. Bakema previously worked for the Winnipeg Police Service and knew Harvey-Zenk. Yet Carter said Friday Bakema never raised any concerns about a potential conflict of interest.
Among Carter’s discoveries were a set of “rough notes” from Bakema that hadn’t been included in disclosure to special prosecutor Marty Minuk. Carter said he also noted Bakema continued to take witness statements despite the fact he wasn’t lead investigator.
“He was chief of police. I didn’t question that,” said Carter, who was later appointed East St. Paul police chief after Bakema was removed.
» Winnipeg Free Press
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 12, 2012