Wednesday, August 29, 2007

This Is What My Prof Meant

One thing I remember my Constitutional Law Prof saying is that as law students, we should hope to be better at interpreting the law than the media is.

Here's a story on the CBC website:

Convicted hit-and-run driver granted full parole
A man convicted of a hit and run that killed a tourist in Vancouver gained full parole Tuesday after serving less than five months of his sentence.

I urge you to read the rest of the article by following the link above (it isn't very long).

NOW ... when you look at the actual case as posted on CANLII, it says that the victim in this case was crossing the street at an intersection against the lights, and that witnesses testified to the fact that there did not appear to be any dangerous driving, and that likely the accused was trying to SWERVE TO AVOID the pedestrians crossing the street illegally.

If you read through the case there is a huge psychological component for the accused that explains why he fled the scene, and even goes on to say that the accused was at one time diagnosed with a case of high functioning autism.

NOT exactly the story that you get from CBC, non?

CBC seems to feel that it is very important to highlight that Zhang is an immigrant, although a Canadian citizen. Why? My guess is that they're mongering some kind of response here. In the case, it reads that Zhang came to Canada when he was 7. Why is this piece of information relevant? Your guess is as good as mine.

Tragic, that in a case like this, the media puts out an article painting the big evil driver killing a pedestrian, and the failing justice system that lets him out without doing enough time. Can't you picture him cackling like the Joker while walking away from the remand centre? So sad that CBC is so misleading.

This is not to say that what happened is excusable or justified, leaving the scene of a crime like this is of course a big no-no, but CBC doesn't really paint an accurate picture about the whole thing, especially omitting to mention that the pedestrian was crossing against the lights, instead opting to vilify someone they feel necessary to point out as an immigrant. This isn't to say that Zhang should have been portrayed as some poor innocent sap that was taken advantage of by the justice system, as this isn't necessarily the case, but CBC certainly could have done a better job here.

This is truly a tragic case of loss and unfortunate circumstance, but we can really do without CBC creating villains for us. Don't you agree? I have no problem with them reporting the news and the facts, but this kind of spin makes me sick.

We can all learn from our mistakes, and perhaps the case of Zhang can point out for us the danger in not obeying the pedestrian traffic controls; a worthy spin on the story, but ... I suppose, not nearly as provocative as the direction that CBC decided to take.

Sub-issues of this story include (perhaps) the shortfall in support for those with a diagnosis of autism (I don't know if this is true or not, but it could be explored), or even that perhaps there are changes necessary in dealing with people who are charged with a hit-and-run for the first time; some kind of follow-up, a more thorough examination as to why they would run to try and prevent future occurrences. These sub-issues, though, deal with the running aspect of this case, not with the fact that someone was killed.

I'm so disappointed with CBC.


rob said...

Wow. Great post.

Jimmy Mack said...

It would be interesting to see what Mr. Zhang's driving history was with regards to obtaining his license.

As a licenced professional I sometimes wonder if the institutes and regulators that implemented my training and certified me could ever be held liable for my actions.