TORONTO - The sudden twist of fate that left Michael Bryant facing criminal charges in the death of a bicycle courier has also thrust Ontario into a legal quandary: How do you put a former attorney general on trial?
Bryant, who once appointed judges and oversaw Crown prosecutors, has suddenly found himself on the opposite side of the judicial system, accused of criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death.
The Ministry of the Attorney General, which administers justice in the province, is treading carefully to avoid any whiff of political interference.
It's hired top Vancouver criminal lawyer Richard Peck to prosecute the case and isolated the bureaucrats who are overseeing the process from Bryant's former Liberal colleagues, like current Attorney General Chris Bentley.
One expert predicts an out-of-province judge will also be recruited to preside over Bryant's case, which made headlines across the country.
"No one for a minute would suggest that a provincial court judge would actually be biased in his favour," said Toronto defence lawyer Jonathan Rosenthal.
"But it certainly would have the apprehension that she would be biased, that she would not be independent, and that's why they'll bring in a judge from another province."
The choice of judge ultimately lies with Chief Justice Annemarie Bonkalo of the Ontario Court of Justice, who was appointed by Bryant in 2007.
He also appointed associate chief justices Peter Griffiths and John Payne.
Sylvia Gudzowski, Bonkalo's assistant, said the matter is "currently under consideration," but declined further comment.
The high-profile case has already raised questions about whether Bryant - who was released from police custody Tuesday without appearing before a judge - received preferential treatment.
After spending the night in police custody, a clean-shaven Bryant emerged to face the cameras dressed in a dark suit that had been delivered to the station.
But it would have been "almost impossible" to get a timely bail hearing for Bryant, which would have required an out-of-province judge and a prosecutor to avoid any potential conflict of interest, said Rosenthal.
"I wouldn't say it was preferential treatment, I would say it's different treatment," he said.
"Let's face it, it's probably the first time that the police ever arrested the attorney general from the province."
Bryant is to make his first court appearance on Oct. 19.
Different and sometimes conflicting accounts of the events leading up to the fatal encounter Monday night have emerged in the aftermath of Bryant's arrest.
Police say bike courier Darcy Allan Sheppard, 33, grabbed onto a car in Toronto's tony Yorkville district following an altercation with the driver.
The driver drove away with Sheppard hanging on. He then fell and suffered fatal injuries, police said.
According to sources, Bryant was driving home that night from an anniversary dinner with his wife, Susan Abramovitch.
Later that night, Bryant was photographed sitting in the back of a police cruiser. He was taken into custody by police and released the next day after the charges were laid.
Sheppard's girlfriend, Misty Bailey, said he was drunk when he showed up at her door earlier that night and that police refused to take Sheppard home.
But police, who say they were called to the apartment just minutes before his death and escorted him out, said Sheppard showed no signs of intoxication.
Sgt. Tim Burrows said police are investigating every angle, including the possibility that Sheppard may have grabbed the steering wheel of the car.
"We're looking at everything," he said.
There's a lot at stake for Bryant, 43, a Harvard-educated lawyer who was considered by many to have the right stuff for a run at the premier's job.
Criminal negligence causing death carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, while dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death carries a maximum 14-year term.
If convicted, Bryant could also face disciplinary action from the Law Society of Upper Canada.
Bryant, who spent 10 years at the provincial legislature before announcing he would step down in May, has maintained his innocence.
He hired Marie Henein, who worked with top defence lawyer Edward Greenspan, as his legal counsel Thursday. Henein defended former hockey coach David Frost, who was found not guilty of sexual exploitation last November.
Bryant has also retained the services of Toronto public-relations firm Navigator Ltd., which former prime minister Brian Mulroney employed during the Oliphant inquiry.
Law professor Douglas Sanderson, who worked as a senior policy adviser to Bryant between 2004 and 2008, said he hasn't talked to the former cabinet minister since the incident.
He described Bryant, a fellow Fulbright scholar, as an exceptional attorney general who tackled many lesser-known projects, such as human rights reform, as well as the headline-grabbers like his public crusade to ban pit bulls.
But Sanderson urged patience and caution for those gripped by the story and media frenzy surrounding the case.
"It's a tragedy by any standard," he said.
"New details are emerging daily and I think everyone should hold off judgment until we get a full set of facts."