February 10th, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
The evidence is pretty much all in regarding the case of Nicole Ryan, the Nova Scotia woman who attempted to hire a hit man to murder her husband. Said “hit man” was in fact a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Nicole was arrested and charged with “counselling” another person to commit murder. The trial court judge, David P.S. Farrar, found that Nicole Ryan had committed the crime, but acquitted her based on the defense of “duress,” i.e. she was forced to do it and had no other legal alternative. The Crown appealed the acquittal but the appellate court upheld the trial court. On further appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada reversed both lower courts finding that the defense of duress was not proven. But, in what’s certainly the most obnoxious aspect of the whole legal affair, the justices issued a stay of further proceedings. That means Nicole Ryan may not be prosecuted for attempting to have her husband murdered, even though she admits to having done so and all courts have so found.
Here’s my first post on the subject. Here’s the trial court’s ruling. Here’s the Supreme Court opinion. Here’s Michael Ryan’s statement (YouTube). And here’s the video of Nicole Ryan negotiating with the RCMP officer for the murder of her husband (CBC, 2/6/13).
There is one reason and one reason only that Nicole Ryan has been a free woman since the day the trial court acquitted her. That reason is her claim that she was so abused by Michael Ryan that she had no choice but to have him murdered. That is the reason the trial court acquitted her, the reason the appellate court upheld the acquittal and the reason the Supreme Court issued its stay. Therefore, it would seem to be reasonable to examine the evidence of said abuse and see if it adds up to a justification for a hired killing. Put simply, it does not. Only by blinding himself to the most obvious things could Judge Farrar have concluded that Nicole Ryan should not be held responsible for her heinous crime.
Keep in mind that no one, including Nicole, claims that she didn’t try to have Michael killed. She’s there on tape saying clearly “I need the job done. This weekend.” There follows a lengthy colloquy between her and the RCMP officer about killing her husband, why she wants it done, the amount of money she’ll pay, etc. There’s no doubt about her part in the crime and Judge Farrar so found. So what is the evidence that Farrar found so compelling that he would allow Nicole Ryan to walk away from such a cold-blooded act?
Well, almost all of it came from the mouth of Nicole Ryan. She testified that Michael had been abusive and controlling for years. She testified to many incidents. According to her, he threatened to burn down the house, threatened her with a pistol, threatened to kill her and their daughter Aimee, etc. Now, the normally skeptical person, to say nothing of the normally skeptical judge, would wonder if there were any evidence to corroborate any of that and the answer is, until Michael filed for divorce in 2007, there was essentially none.
Michael and Nicole married in 1992. They had a daughter Aimee in 2000. Michael filed for divorce in 2007. In December of 2007, Nicole began trying to hire a hit man to murder Michael. The first person took $2,000 from her and then refused to follow through. She contacted a second who put her in touch with the RCMP officer. Nicole was arrested.
During that time, a few things, apart from simply Nicole’s say-so, point to Michael’s having a short temper. In 1996, he got into a bar fight. In 2002, medical records show he had anger management issues. In March of 2007, he had a ”road rage” incident in which he broke the window and outside mirror of a man’s car. Now, none of that is ideal behavior, to be sure, but none of it has anything to do with Nicole either.
The one incident that included Nicole occurred in 2000, eight years before she tried to have Michael murdered. Nicole’s sister testified that she witnessed Michael place his hands around Nicole’s neck and say he was going to “squeeze your scrawny little neck.” Now of course it’s Nicole’s sister making this allegation, and so the familial bias is obvious. But assuming such an incident actually occurred, no one was injured, the police weren’t called and the whole thing could have simply been play.
That’s the totality of evidence of Michael’s short temper. Yes, over the course of some 16 years, with Nicole, he’d done some things he shouldn’t have, but only one was directed at Nicole and neither she nor her sister thought it was of any importance at the time it happened, if it did.
During much of their marriage, Nicole was undergoing serious mental/emotional issues. Those stemmed, according to Michael, from conflict within her family. At various times she was at odds with her mother, father and sister. At one point, her mother sued Nicole for debt. This resulted eventually in her being diagnosed with depression and treated with medication. Part of her problems probably came from Michael’s frequent moves. He’s a member of the Canadian armed forces and was sometimes required to move to a different posting. That meant the two often lived apart.
Nicole’s depression and conflict within her family obviously wore thin on Michael, so he filed for divorce in 2007. When he did so, he was fully prepared for Nicole to have custody of Aimee and to pay child support. Like any father, he assumed the court would order exactly that, and he was prepared to do the best he could with the situation. But clearly, Nicole had another read on what the family court might do and made plans to avert it. It seems obvious that she saw that her mental/emotional state might not appeal to a judge deciding custody. Such a judge just might conclude that Michael provided the better parenting for Aimee. That would mean she would lose almost all her contact with her daughter and be forced to pay child support.
She was right. During the course of their divorce proceedings, the family judge required psychological assessments to be done of Michael, Nicole and Aimee. On that basis, he/she awarded custody to Michael. Aimee has lived with her father and his new partner ever since.
So, not long after Michael filed for divorce, Nicole started thinking about how she could get him out of the way for good. She started that process in September of 2007, made her first efforts to contract for Michael’s killing in December of 2007 and had her final recorded conversation with the RCMP officer in March of 2008.
In that videotaped conversation we see a relaxed and smiling Nicole speaking in the frankest terms about the murder of her husband. She’s sitting in the front seat of an automobile with a man she’s never met, a man whom she believes to be a professional killer. Some people might be nervous in that situation, but not Nicole. She’s as unruffled as the belle of the ball. The officer asks why she wants him killed and her answer is that he’s taken things from their home and “his attitude.” Had he ever beaten her? Nicole assures the officer that he had not.
In that video, Nicole’s demeanor contrasts entirely with what she would describe to the court two years later. And that, plus countless other things show beyond doubt that bias and only bias explains how a judge could allow Nicole Ryan to pay no price for committing one of the worst crimes imaginable.
About that, more later.
Thanks to Mike for the Supreme Court opinion.