Gumshoe #9: Occam’s Razor

Gumshoe #8: Be Careful What You Wish For
February 8, 2017
Gumshoe #10
February 10, 2017

Gumshoe #9: Occam’s Razor

(Based on an actual case file)

David Ogilvie-Price handed me a scotch in an unspeakably expensive crystal tumbler before he sat on the edge of his 18th-century Chippendale desk, and sipped his own. “So our young Mr. Al-Sayeed has come to me from Bruce Richards, the lawyer to whom you originally referred him.”

“And who apparently buggered it at trial.” I finished.

“Oh, it was doomed from the outset, really.” He interrupted. “Yousef Al-Sayeed? In a credibility contest? Strike one right there. Arrested after a bank robbery with three other Muslims, one brown and two black? Strike two. And then to rely on the, “I had no idea” defence? Well that’s just a semi-tone down from the, “They had it coming to them” defence. Strike three, and you’re outa there!”

“Occam’s Razor.” I offered.

“Excuse me?”

“In the absence of persuasive evidence to the contrary, the simplest explanation is always preferable.” The expression always sickened me. It reeked of intellectual arrogance, or worse still, sloth. A veritable mission statement for bureaucracies. “I realise, Counsel, that the only way to sidestep the credibility hurdle at the appellate level is to re-configure the, ‘I didn’t know’ position to the, ‘I couldn’t have known’. Did Richards call any witnesses?” I asked.

“They were all guests of the government, and impossible to guarantee if they’d come onside. I suppose Richards thought it best to rely on what could be safely cross-examined.”

“Safely…” I sniffed. I stood up, threw back the last of the whiskey, and thumped the glass irreverently onto the mammoth desk. I picked up his insipid grey business card that bore just a name, and a phone number.“Ogilvie-Price” I said thoughtfully. “D’ya think your Dad really wanted to take your father’s name when they got married?” He looked at me as if I’d suddenly started speaking in ones and zeros. That Ogilvie-Price was the city’s best appellate lawyer was beyond debate, but he had the social wit of a traffic accident. “Counsel, Occam had a beard.” I whispered at him. “His razor was duller than you.”

It’s been said that in the criminal gene pool, bank robbers are the backwash. The security door’s smug wheeze was my cue to enter the public waiting area. The air was old sweat and Dollarama perfume, and there were at least a half-dozen Rita MacNeil-sized twenty-somethings in Lululemons stretched further than the alibis of the orange jumpsuits on the other side of the glass. The fifty shades of brown the dozen or so curious toddlers showed, certainly argued their Mommies’ tearful pledges of faithful patience.
“Good thing these guys suck at math.” I thought, as they escorted in Mr. Faizad to see me. For 22, he was the size of a Buick, skint knuckles from dragging on the ground, and if not for the glass, I’m sure I’d smell concrete on his breath. “Yup, backwash”.

Perhaps “Good afternoon” would have been a better start. The ensuing conversation was as awkward as asking to borrow a coat hanger to open a car door, and realising you’re in a family planning clinic. I explained I had drafted an affidavit that confirmed our client had been duped into chauffeuring three complete strangers to an unknown address, and for an unknown purpose, and most importantly, yes, this would mean a day-trip for him to give that evidence in court. As I don’t speak Wal-Mart, I didn’t quite get his response, but the viscous liquid he blew onto the glass, and the four inches the other eight chain-gangstas jumped at the slamming of his phone told me I’d be making a return visit. I had similar documents prepared for the other two bandits, who had already been released from custody, and had comparably tepid refusals, as well as formal requests from their lawyers to abandon my efforts.

Ogilvy-Price had filed the appeal documents shortly after young Mr. Al-Sayeed began to serve his 11-month sentence, despite his belief that we were only flicking matches at a glacier. “One affidavit or a thousand,” he said, “the appeal is predicated on a competence-of-counsel argument, and that’ll be like convincing a convent that the Pope joined a swingers’ club.”

I took up my stool at the “Badge and Billyclub”, and sat listening to a pair of young rookies exchange epic tales of bravado about badge-bunnies, toughest arrests, first court appearances, and how the world is a better place because of them.

“Don’t smirk Shamus.” Sarge said as my Creemore and a pair of Grouse shots arrived. He winked in acknowledgement and added, “Show me a copper who wasn’t like that when their boots were still shiny. I wouldn’t have it any other way, personally. Lotsa time yet to get bitter.”

We threw back the shots, and I was lifting my pint for a sip when I heard one kid say, “…I just ate that lawyer alive.”

My A-HA! moment for the day.

“Sarge, y’ever heard of David Cohen or Arthur Friedman?”

“Hah! Arthur, King of the swivel plea.” My look clearly invited an explanation. “King Arthur made a small fortune off Legal Aid. He’d show up at court an hour early, worm his way into the cells, and line up all the prisoners who were unrepresented, and convince them he’d get them the deal of the century. Sometimes he’d just get the names of his clients as jailhouse referrals of people he’d never met. Well, back in ’98 he accepts a plea to common assault and a mischief for his client, a Tyrone Johnson, for a conditional sentence. There was the accused, all smiles in the prisoners’ box, all happy as he pled out to the sage counsel of Arthur Friedman. Trouble was, that was Tyrone Jameson, who was there answering two counts of robbery. Tyrone Johnson died the previous night in custody at the East!”

“You winding me up?” I asked in disbelief.

“If he wasn’t so juiced with the Law Society, he’d have been disbarred for sure.”

Three days later, I intercepted Arthur Friedman in the underground parking lot of his Bay Street office tower.
“Can I help you? Why are you leaning against my Jaguar?” I handed him my card, and waited for him to read it before I said,
“Two words. Payam Faizad.” The colour drained from his face. “My old friend Tommy Farley was the Crown in 204 Court that day, and he remembers this case like it was yesterday. Why would you plead out your client to a joint submission for a custodial period over TWICE what the Crown was asking? Who did you sell him out for?”

“…it’s not what you think.” was the best he could do.

I slapped a large manilla envelope against his chest. “There are three affidavits here, and the two other lawyers’ contact details. I want them all sworn to, and in my hands within 48 hours, or Tommy Farley’s will be delivered to the Law Society’s Ethics Commissioner by the 49th.” I patted the area of my coat’s breast pocket reassuringly and walked away.

Friedman came through for me as advertised, and within the hour I marched into Ogilvy-Price’s office, gleefully uninvited, and as smug as Ron Jeremy on a nude beach, I threw down the manilla envelope. “And there you have it.” I grinned. “Sworn statements from all three bandits, confirming our guy could not possibly have known what they were up to. At the very least, we should be able to get a stay on the detention order pending appeal, right?”

He quietly got up from his desk, and returned to his whiskey decanter. Again I was addressed with a deep glass and a gesture to sit, which I did with curious obedience.

“Our young Yousef Al-Sayeed apparently didn’t feel it necessary to share with us one salient detail about himself.” I swirled the godly liquid past bicuspids and fillings before he continued. “Despite absolutely no accent, he only arrived in Canada with his family four years ago. Barely a year before the robbery, so he had zero status here. The RCMP pulled him from the Don three weeks ago and put him on a plane back to Syria, where he was collected by military officials and shipped off to boot camp for his mandatory 2-year service”.

“Can we apply for an injunction, or…”

“He’s dead, Shamus.” He interrupted. “Training accident on his third day. That’s all we know.” He put his hand on my shoulder as he walked past me toward the door, leaving me alone in his office. “Leave your invoice at Reception on your way out, Detective.”

… the life of a flatfoot.