Leo Crockwell, who represented himself during his trial at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s, sat in the prisoner’s dock Thursday as the judge gave jurors final instructions before deliberations began. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram
He was acting irrationally, resisting help, was refusing to communicate with police and had fired a gun.
Leo Crockwell’s behaviour during a standoff in 2010 was enough to warrant the RCMP to do what it did, a Newfoundland Supreme Court judge ruled Wednesday.
As a result, Justice Richard LeBlanc dismissed Crockwell’s stay of proceedings application, meaning the jury’s guilty verdicts remain unchanged.
“The police are held to a high standard in our law and rightly so,” LeBlanc said. “While there may have been things they did or could have done which one might second guess, their actions are not measured by way of a standard of perfection.
“It is my finding that considering the circumstances, the police acted reasonably and certainly not excessively or disproportionately.
“As such this is not one of those cases wherein stay of proceedings would be appropriate in my view.”
Crockwell showed no reaction, only to shake his head while asking lawyer Randy Piercey — who is amicus curiae, or meditator in the case — several questions about the decision during a break in proceedings.
Crockwell had several supporters in the courtroom, including his mother Margaret and sister Catherine, who were involved in the incident for which Crockwell was arrested.
On Dec. 4, 2010, Crockwell was said to be acting strangely and was carrying a gun in the family’s Bay Bulls home.
He assaulted his sister, who was trying to escape the house and had scared his mother so much, the elderly woman left the house, panicked about what her son would do.
It led to an eight-day standoff with RCMP officers who surrounded the house and barricaded the area.
During that time, police used several means of trying to force Crockwell out of the house. But Crockwell refused and even fired a firearm several times, once in the direction of Emergency Response Team (ERT) members.
Crockwell ended up slipping out of a window undetected and was picked up in Goulds.
On June 1, a jury convicted Crockwell of four charges — assaulting his sister with a weapon (a gun), using a weapon in the commission of a crime, carelessly using a firearm and mischief by interfering with property.
But Crockwell continued to contend it was police who went too far during the standoff. He had his lawyer at the time draft a stay of proceedings application.
LeBlanc decided to deal with the application after the trial.
Crockwell — who represented himself at his seven-week trial — opted to argue the application himself after he parted ways with his sixth lawyer, John Brooks, in December.
At the hearing earlier this week, Crockwell argued his Charter rights were violated by the RCMP.
The basis of the application contends the RCMP used excessive force during the standoff.
That included the use of snipers, robotic equipment, a spike belt, excessive and inhumane amounts of tear gas, stun grenades, gas ferrets, distractionary devices, a boom box, a battering ram and machine guns.
Crockwell also pointed out cannons were used to pump 60,000 gallons of water through the home at a time when the house was vacant as he had already slipped out undetected. The police, he said, caused significant damage to the house.
“However, after some six days of a standoff with a man obviously prepared to use a firearm, these actions were indeed justified,” LeBlanc said in his decision.
“In my view, he was the author of his own misfortune in many ways.
“Whether this was due to his obvious obsession as regards to what occurred in 1998 involving at least partly the police and his view of the police as a result, or was due to his mental state at the time, in my view nothing can justify Mr. Crockwell’s actions here.”
In 1998, Crockwell was reportedly wrongfully detained at the Waterford Hospital for 140 days.
He argued that police used this to portray him to be a threat to the public, which he said was fabricated evidence and prejudicial to him.
But LeBlanc said police had “justifiable concern” about Crockwell’s mental health at the time — based on what Crockwell’s mother and sister had said and the knowledge there were guns in the house.
He added that was not the only information police used to assess his mental state at the time.
He said based on Crockwell’s action and refusal to communicate, it was reasonable for the RCMP to have safety concerns.
LeBlanc concluded the deployment of audio and video devices, as well as the ERT, was reasonable and necessary.
“I find that the goal of the police, as was stated in the evidence, was to bring the matter to a peaceful conclusion,” the judge said.
A sentencing hearing will be held today. Crockwell faces a minimum five-year prison sentence.