Eddie had been charged with a number of offenses after confronting a pair of criminals who were on his property very late one night last February. Eddie was the lone line of defense between these crooks and his baby who was in his home as his wife was out of the province at the time. One of the scumbags was injured in the arm in the confrontation and Eddie Maurice found himself potentially facing years in jail for having done what any responsible parent would have done in the same situation.
On March 1st Eddie Maurice made his first court appearance in Okotoks. This was when the authorities began to realize that they may be on the wrong side of public opinion in this case.
Hundreds of supporters for the Maurice family made time to come out on a cold winter weekday and tens of thousands of dollars were being raised for Eddie’s defense. It was clear that the public ire had been raised and that neither Eddie Maurice nor the general public were going to let this go down without a fight.
Some formalities were observed and the next hearing was scheduled for two weeks later.
Eddie dutifully appeared in court two weeks later. Also appearing on what was an even colder day than the first appearance were supporters and press who huddled in the chill and made sure that Eddie and the Crown prosecutors knew that Eddie wasn’t alone in this.
The Crown had no evidence ready & Eddie was unable to make a plea. The case was punted two more weeks down the road.
It was made clear now that Eddie Maurice would be pleading not-guilty and that he would be seeking a jury trial.
Two weeks later the Crown lacked evidence and punted the case two more weeks down the road.
On Eddie’s fifth appearance in court, the Crown yet again lacked required evidence and the case was knocked down the road for another month.
Eddie Maurice’s life had now been held in a stressful legal limbo for four months and he had not even been able to make a damned plea and defend himself yet.
At every one of these court appearances the supporters appeared. At every one of these court appearances the media appeared. After every one of these court appearances stories were written and fund raising for Eddie continued strongly.
What the state will never admit is that they were watching what the public was doing every time. They were dearly hoping that the crowds would dwindle. They were hoping that either Eddie’s funds or resolve would dry up. They were hoping that the media were going to lose interest. None of these things were happening and public support for the Maurice family was only rising as outrage over the treatment of these young Albertans grew.
Another thing that the state will never admit made things into a turning point came from the injured criminal, Ryan Watson. Neither Watson nor his accomplice were strangers to the legal system. These were career losers who enjoyed Canada’s revolving door justice system. Well it turns out that Ryan Watson was arrested yet again for housebreaking!
Yes, it appears that the person that the crown wanted to paint as a victim in all of this was back out and robbing property owners as soon as his arm healed. Makes it tough for the Crown prosecutors to paint Watson as an unfortunate victim of the evil Eddie Maurice in these circumstances.
The issue that was already a public relations headache for the state was now about to turn into a public relations nightmare.
Somebody somewhere on high made the call to pull the escape hatch. A senior crown prosecutor was assigned along with a high ranking RCMP officer to head down to Okotoks to face the press outside the courthouse as soon as the charges were all dropped. It was an effort in damage control and it was clear that while the state was backing off in this case, their backing off was grudging at best.
They stated that public opinion had nothing to do with the dismissal of the charges. They say that it was a forensic report that would have made conviction impossible. I say BULLSHIT!
Conviction was indeed impossible but that was directly due to public support for Eddie. The state knew damn well that there was no way a jury was going to convict Maurice. The case was too established in the public eye and the public had no appetite for convicting a young man for defending his family.
The jury system is there to reflect the public and the peers of the accused. In these sorts of cases acquittals are common from Steven Kesler who was charged for shooting a criminal, to Gerald Stanley who shot a criminal to Peter Khill who was acquitted just the other day for shooting criminal. All of those cases involved the death of the criminal and in all of those cases juries acquitted the person defending themselves.
The law is in place to reflect and protect the public. When the law fails, the public corrects it through juries.
It is wrong that people have to put their lives on hold for months or even years in court for defending themselves and their property. We need to change our laws to reflect what the public wants and that includes the right to protect one’s person and property.
Reasonable and persistent demonstrations of support for Eddie Maurice made all the difference in his case though a prideful state will never admit that. The public spoke up and that public won and I can’t thank everybody enough for having done so from the people who donated, to the people who showed up to demonstrate to those who emailed and called their representatives. It works and it helps. It is important for all of us.