Officers admit abandoning Native man in cold
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Two police officers in Saskatchewan have admitted to dropping off a Native man in the freezing cold and are asking an all-white jury not to convict them of a crime that could have resulted in his death.

Saskatoon officers Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson made an "error in judgment," one of their lawyers said on Monday, when they abandoned Darrell Night on the outskirts of town one wintery night in January of last year.

But the officers had good reason to arrest the reportedly intoxicated 35-year-old Salteaux First Nation man and keep him detained throughout the night, Bill Roe said. For this, they should not be convicted of unlawful confinement and assault charges, he said.

"There was an error of judgment, but that does not constitute a criminal offense," said Roe in court.

They also had an excuse for dropping him off and leaving him without a jacket, he added.

Night asked for it.

As seemingly incredulous the explanation may seem, the two white officers have offered it as their defense. And today, a judge will instruct the jury on how to proceed in a case which has highlighted racial tensions in the province.

For the past ten years, a number of Native men and boys as young as 17 have been found frozen to death near Saskatoon. Like the unresolved deaths of men near the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, authorities attribute the cause to alcohol.

The Native community has long suspected police and up until Night came forward with his story, there was no concrete proof. Now, with the admission of the officers, they have validation.

But whether the incident was a crime is now up to the jury. Defense lawyers say there is no law on the books preventing officers from dropping off someone in the middle of nowhere, instead of taking him or her to jail.

The Canadian government prosecuted the case against its own, bringing Night, who said he resisted being thrown out of the car, to the stand. Night said he resisted being thrown out of the car. Government lawyers also said he warned the officers he had their cruiser number -- clear proof he would report the incident.

Despite the incident bringing about the largest Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigation, Natives in Saskatchewan have been outraged by the handling of the case. Many have attended the proceedings, including the selection of an all-white jury to try the men.

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