Defence lawyer pleased Joe Smyth's conviction was overturned, but hopes to avoid 2nd trial

Lawyer Jerome Kennedy says an acquittal by the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal would have been the best possible outcome for his client, Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer Joe Smyth, but he is happy with the decision they received.

Kennedy hoped to avoid a second trial, but that's exactly what the appeals court ordered in a recent decision.

"We would have also have hoped that an unreasonable-verdict argument could have worked and a not-guilty verdict entered, but the court of appeal chose to overturn the conviction and order a new trial," Kennedy said.

A panel of three judges unanimously decided to overturn Smyth's earlier conviction for obstructing justice.

Smyth was convicted on the charge last February, and given a suspended sentence and one year of probation in connection to his ticketing of a motorcyclist on May 12, 2017.

He was accused of intentionally giving a motorcycle driver a false ticket for running a red light even though video from a camera on the man's motorcycle clearly showed the light was green when the motorcycle drove through the intersection.

Mark Quinn/ CBC

Kennedy maintains Smyth never should have been charged.

He said the 41-year-old immediately admitted he made a mistake when he saw the video, but sincerely believed the ticket was warranted when he issued it.

The appeal court's written decision supports Kennedy's argument that the Crown failed to prove Smyth intentionally gave a false ticket.

"The judge erred in failing to reconcile the evidence with proof of the requirement … that Mr. Smyth had the specific intent to obstruct justice," says the written decision.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Association, which represents multiple ranks of officers within the police force, said it, too, was pleased with the Court of Appeal decision. 

"We have supported Const. Smythe during his trial and appeal process and will continue to support him throughout what we hope are the final stages," reads a statement issued by the association Friday afternoon. 

Crown reviewing latest ruling

Lloyd Strickland, who represented the Crown in Smyth's trial, said he "respectfully disagrees with the Court of Appeal decision."

Smyth did not make a mistake when he gave the ticket driving through a red light, according to the Crown's case. 

Strickland said the evidence showed that it was not possible that Smyth could have believed the motorcycle driver proceeded through a red light.

He said the Crown will review the court's decision and decide if it will proceed with a new trial for Smyth.

Suspended without pay

Smyth has been suspended without pay from the police force since July 2018. 

He has been embroiled in controversy for more than four years, since he fatally shot Don Dunphy on Easter Sunday in 2015 at Dunphy's home in Mitchells Brook.

Mark Quinn/CBC

He visited Dunphy to speak with him about a series of tweets Dunphy posted that were interpreted by some people as threatening.

In 2017, a judicial inquiry concluded that Smyth used "appropriate force in self-defence" when he shot Dunphy.

Kennedy said Smyth's past history with Dunphy and the inquiry is the reason he ended up in court again after issuing traffic tickets in 2017.

"From Day 1 we argued that because this was Joe Smyth was the underlying basis that led to this prosecution."

During Smyth's obstruction of justice trial, Kennedy said Smyth has post-traumatic stress disorder.

He added that the trial and appeal have taken a psychological and financial toll on Smyth and his family.

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