28 Seconds

On August 31, 2009, Michael Bryant, the former Attorney General of Ontario, killed a man, Darcy Allan Sheppard. There had been an altercation between Mr. Bryant, driving his Saab and Sheppard, on his bike. At first, Mr. Bryant was charged with the killing. His name was mud, as reports told of the callous way he had driven away with Sheppard hanging off the driver side door.

The truth would be much different, as Mr. Bryant tells in his book, 28 Seconds: A True Story of Addiction, Injustice and Tragedy. Maclean’s has an excerpt:

For most of his troubled 33 years, Darcy Sheppard had fought addiction to alcohol and crack cocaine. On this day, his string of eight sober days had come—once again—to a dispiriting end. He appeared on the city’s radar a little after 7 p.m., as Susan and I were parking the car at the restaurant where we would have our shawarma dinner. It was then he showed up at the apartment of his girlfriend on George Street, in a notorious zone of men’s hostels and crack dealers in one of Toronto’s grittier quarters.

For a time, Sheppard and his girlfriend had lived together. But, after a dispute, she had asked him to move out. Now, he was back at her door, drunk on arrival. She wanted him to sleep it off. For a time, he reportedly did. Then he awoke and apparently decided to leave. There must have been a disagreement in the apartment about the wisdom of this.

Around this time, Susan and I would have been exchanging anniversary presents, and walking on the sand, along the lakeshore at the Beaches. The moon was three-quarters full. On the other side of town, someone was howling at that moon.

Much of the excerpt may seem a little defensive and self-serving, but, overall, it is a compelling read.

Jonathan McLeod

Jonathan McLeod is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario. (That means Canada.) He spends too much time following local politics and writing about zoning issues. Follow him on Twitter.


  1. Awesome tip. I was looking for something to read today. Thanks for the blurb!

  2. I’m a little troubled with this post. Bryant’s obviously biased and self-serving perspective is offered as fact, as truth. Reading the full excerpt, the picture he tries to paint is troubling. He is not attempting to tell the truth, he’s attempting to curry favor. Even if his recollection of events is accurate and he is rightly innocent, the way in which he juxtaposes Sheppard’s night with his own (Anniversary is mentioned how many times? Do we really need to know they were licking honey from their fingers after eating baklava?) is borderline absurd. This isn’t truth-telling, it is narrative building. And in your write-up here, you refer to Bryant as “Mr. Bryant” and Sheppard simply as “Sheppard”, itself indicative of your perspective of the two men.

    I’m not arguing that Mr. Bryant should be in jail. But I think we should be mindful of how we evaluate a story when one person is alive and free to right a carefully constructive narrative and the other is dead and has no one to speak for him.

    • Good points, Kazzy. So, I’ll expand.

      Okay, last thing first. When I started blogging, I looked around at style guides to figure out how I would deal with certain things. The one I chose uses ‘Mr./Mrs./Ms./whatever’ for living people but drops it for the deceased. That’s what I did here. In retrospect, it does seem clunky.

      You’re absolutely right that Bryant is not being completely impartial. I imagine this is because, (a) he’s not a writer or journalist and is just telling his story, and (b) because he was branded a murderer after this story broke. I think I’m willing to cut him a bit of slack because I remember how the pitchforks came out after the incident. That being said, I think it would be much better if his story was told through a different lens, where Sheppard is treated with a bit more understanding (at least in the build-up to the the incident).

      Though, since this is an excerpt from a book, it is possible that the full treatment is a little more fair.

      And I should point out that all the evidence from the criminal investigation, including security camera footage, bears out that Bryant definitely is innocent.

      • Jonathan-

        Thanks for the response. I will cop to knowing little about “style guides”. If that is customary, I will re-submit my criticism as one that examines the “clunkiness” of that particular style; I trust you didn’t intend to send the message that the varying addresses offered.

        I suppose what bothered me so much about Bryant’s depiction of events (and it should be noted where your words end and his begin) is that he offers a lot of things as evidence that really have no bearing on the facts of the case, but which are so often used to craft narratives and ultimately as evidence. For instance, Bryant’s dinner that night has no bearing on the case. Unless I missed a very important episode of Law & Order, I don’t know of any correlation between the eating of baklava and the propensity (or lack there of) for violence. And while Sheppard’s history of drug and alcohol use most likely is relevant, I think that Bryant needs to do more than simply imply, “Well, OBVIOUSLY he’s at fault… he drank and uses drugs… I never did… case closed.”

        All-in-all, Bryant’s take plays on a lot of stereotypes, stereotypes which all too often factor into ultimate conclusions about legal guilt and innocence. If Bryant is indeed innocent, it’s odd that he resorts to such tacts to craft his narrative. At it’s most base, it seems as if an already-empowered person is further exploiting that privileged position to manipulate the public perception of his interactions with someone who was likely a less-empowered/more-marginalized member of society. Even if all the facts are on his side… it just leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth.

        But, yes, most of these criticism are due to Bryant himself and not to you. My apologies if I came of as unnecessarily critical of you.

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