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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

February 11th, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
So how could Judge David Farrar allow a woman to walk free who had attempted to contract for her husband’s killing?  This continues my previous post on the matter of Nicole and Michael Ryan of Nova Scotia.  Here’s my most recent post on the case.

Judge Farrar relied almost exclusively on Nicole’s uncorroborated testimony that Michael had psychologically abused her throughout her 16-year marriage to him.  As I detailed in my previous post, there were a few incidents that could lead anyone to conclude that Michael occasionally displayed a short temper and behaved inappropriately.  At most one of those was directed at Nicole.

But what Farrar emphasized almost as much as he did her uncorroborated testimony was the testimony of others who clearly believed Nicole to be fearful of Michael.  There was an incident, for example, in which he came to the school where she taught, got in the car she’d driven there, and waited.  During that time, other teachers testified that Nicole appeared fearful of Michael and the situation generally.

Likewise, she asked one of the teachers if she could spend some time sleeping on his couch.  He agreed and testified that, when a truck drove up to the house, Nicole acted frightened, although there was no evidence that it was Michael’s truck or that he was in it.

Finally, Judge Farrar placed emphasis on the testimony of two mental health professionals who opined that Nicole suffered from “Battered Wife Syndrome,” despite the fact that neither they nor Nicole nor anyone else ever claimed that Michael was physically violent toward her.  The professionals said and the judge believed that psychological aggression can be as intimidating as physical violence and the judge seems to have concluded that Michael was psychologically abusive of Nicole.  That’s true even though the record is devoid of evidence of same that was witnessed by any third party.  All this supposed abuse, according to Nicole and the professionals, rendered her utterly passive, incapable of doing anything to help herself in the face of his intimidation.

In short, the trial record almost entirely lacks any evidence of abuse of Nicole by Michael beyond her say-so.  Stated another way, if you believe Nicole, you believe that Michael was a tyrant.  If you don’t, there’s essentially nothing that backs up her claims of abuse or her legal claim that murder was the only way out of her situation.

And that’s what Farrar did; he believed Nicole.  Indeed, his findings in the case are an unbroken litany of accepting without question everything Nicole said at trial.  Not once ded Farrar evince the least skepticism about what she said.  To say that such childlike naivete is  strange in a judge hearing a case of attempted murder for hire understates the matter considerably.  Criminal court judges are renowned for their willingness to disbelieve the unsupported testimony of defendants.  And why not?  Here’s a fact that utterly escaped Farrar’s notice: criminal defendants have every reason to lie.

Nicole Ryan faced felony charges.  If convicted, she could have gone to prison for many years.  Once out, she’d have a hard time getting a job.  All that’s true of any defendant charged with a serious crime, but Nicole had another reason to lie.  Michael had filed for divorce and the question of custody was surely on her mind.  Nicole’s documented history of mental problems could be turned against her in family court.  She might lose Aimee and have to pay Michael child support into the bargain.

All of that militated in favor of her making Michael out to be an ogre and that’s just what she did.  After all, what did she have to lose?  And if the court bought it, the ploy could be a two-fer.  She’d beat the criminal rap and get custody of Aimee too.

Now, none of that is rocket science.  Anyone with a whit of native skepticism can see her motivation to lie, but it never occurred to Farrar, the judge hearing her case.

But the whole truth about Farrar is worse than his boundless gullibility.  Here is a man who, from the start, seems determined to acquit Nicole.  His bias becomes almost too blatant when, at paragraph 96 of his ruling, he says “Ms. Ryan would have to have considerable insight into the defence of duress to raise these issues with Ms. Deveau [one of the mental health professionals] in December, with a view to using them as a defence in this proceeding.”

In writing that, Farrar clearly was uneasy about his own willingness to pretend that there was no reason for Nicole to lie about Michael’s supposed abuse and her supposed fear of him.  So he took the even weaker stance that, in December 2007, Nicole would have no reason to lie to Ms. Deveau, no understanding of her defense to the crime of murder she was contemplating.  Really?

Did Farrar forget that Nicole had been planning her crime since September?  Did he forget that there had been a divorce and custody action pending longer than that?  For that matter, did he forget that Nicole Ryan is a college graduate as he himself noted at the outset of his ruling?

The blatant fact is that all of those thing were true.  Nicole was setting up her defense and used her conversations with Deveau to help pave the way.  Farrar may be able to fool himself, but he doesn’t fool the rest of us.

Then there’s the notion, subscribed to by Farrar and the two defense mental health professionals, that Michael had so overwhelmed Nicole’s ego that she was incapable of asserting herself in any way.  Again, a look at the objective facts of the case simply don’t permit that conclusion.

The most obvious case in point is that Nicole planned and almost executed her plan to have her husband murdered.  Assertive?  That’s a lot more assertive than I’ve ever been.  It’s a lot more assertive than 99% of the rest of us have ever been.  But that fact escaped the notice of the learned jurist.

What about the videotape of her meeting with the RCMP officer?  Far from being the timorous little mouse described by Farrar, Nicole comes across as relaxed and cheerful.  She smiles frequently, answers the “hit man’s” questions fully and without hesitation.  And of course she’s fully aware of what she’s doing – hiring the murder of her husband.  When informed there may be “collateral damage” to the killing (what if Aimee saw her father murdered?), she shrugs it off.  This is plainly not a woman who’s not capable of taking care of herself or asserting her wants and needs.  Farrar never mentioned the obvious fact.

Why would he?  He was so hell-bent on setting Nicole free, he even believed them when the two mental health professionals described what convinced them that she was under Michael’s control.  Here are a few examples: (1) Michael came to school that day and sat in the car.  Exactly how that constitutes control of her Farrar never explains.  (2) The car in which he sat was registered in his name.  If it had been in hers, would it have indicated control by Nicole of Michael?  (3) Michael filed a complaint with Children’s Protective Services about Nicole being a bad parent.  That’s something everyone is legally entitled to do and in their case, the family court and its experts concluded that Michael was right – Nicole wasn’t a very good parent.  And in fact, if children are in danger from a parent, don’t we want people to complain and try to get something done about it?  Of course we do, but to Farrar, it’s just one thing – proof that Nicole was under Michael’s thumb.  Exactly what Michael could do that wouldn’t indicate control of Nicole, I can’t imagine.

But even if you swallow Nicole Ryan’s lies, even if you believe, against everything that’s rational, that Michael had complete control over her, there’s one more crystal-clear item that escaped the notice of Judge Farrar and the two mental health professionals, although how must remain a mystery.  Michael had filed for divorce.  That meant that, if Nicole wanted to be rid of him, all she had to do was wait.  He didn’t want to control her, he wanted to leave her.  All she had to do was let a lawyer go through the motions and she’d likely get custody and be rid of Michael for good.  Of all things, this is the one that truly blows a hole in Nicole’s claim that Michael had control of her.  If he did, why did he voluntarily relinquish it?

The answer is plain.  He filed for divorce for the reason so many people do – he was sick of being married to her.  She was depressive and had issues with her own family.  She was a bad parent.  He wanted out and Nicole feared that she might lose Aimee and be forced to pay child support.

That of course raises yet another major issue with Farrar’s ruling.  The family court ordered psychological testing done of Michael, Nicole and Aimee.  That testing revealed exactly what Nicole feared – that Michael would be judged the better parent and get custody.  So, unless the family court that’s notoriously pro-mother, and its appointed professionals, were just crazy, their findings must play some role in Farrar’s ruling.  But they didn’t.  The divorce was finalized in 2009 and Farrar’s ruling came on March 25, 2010.  He knew what the family court had done, but not once is it mentioned in his ruling.  Not once does he refer to the findings of the mental health professionals in the custody case.

How could those people, when faced with Nicole’s claims of unrelenting abuse by Michael, have given custody to him?  The reason is that Nicole was lying about the claimed abuse and play acting for her friends and relatives.  The reason further is that Michael is in fact the better parent, that Nicole has emotional/psychological issues that prevent her from having custody and that Aimee will do better with her father than with her mother.  From what I can gather, that seems to be right.  Thank the stars, Aimee seems to be thriving.

But David Farrar was on a mission to relieve Nicole of responsibility for her criminal actions.  He was not to be deterred.

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