injusticebusters logo

Lamer Inquiry: 2004

Top Prosecutor Testifies at Lamer Inquiry

Justice Antonio Lamer

Tom Mills is the Director of Public Prosecutions for the province today he was on the stand at the Lamer Inquiry where he was questioned about how Crown Attorney's handle cases.

Mr. Mills was not head of the department but worked in the department at the time of the Greg Parsons and Randy Druken cases. Under questioning by Mr. Parson's lawyer Jerome Kennedy Mr. Mills was asked if he thought enough changes had been made in the prosecutions office to prevent wrongful convictions he told the inquiry he couldn't guarantee it, but says heightened awareness about wrongful convictions helps prevent them.

Mr. Mills told the inquiry that prosecutors have been educated with regards to hearsay evidence and inflammatory remarks to jury's since the Parsons case he admits mistakes were made, but says there's no evidence of tunnel vision on the part of prosecutors.

In response, Jerome Kennedy said he believed there was tunnel vision, but also said he's encouraged by some of the progress made in the way prosecutors handle cases. On Wednesday the Inquiry will deal with systemic issues that pertain to the delay in the Dalton case where Ronald Dalton spent eight years in prison awaiting his appeal.


Mistakes made, prosecutions director says

Tom Mills

ST. JOHN'S - The province's director of public prosecutions says his office made mistakes in the early 1990s when it handled two controversial murder cases.

Tom Mills (left) told the Lamer inquiry, though, that prosecutors did the best job they could when they prosecuted Randy Druken and Greg Parsons.

Mistakes were made in the prosecutions of Greg Parsons and Randy Druken, says the current director of public prosecutions.

Mills, who was appointed director after the cases were prosecuted, said these mistakes included an overuse of hearsay evidence, although he insisted these mistakes were neither intentional nor malicious.

Druken who was convicted of murdering girlfriend Brenda Marie Young, served more than six years in prison before he was released on appeal.

Later, DNA evidence proved he was not the murderer.

Parsons was convicted of the murder of his mother, Catherine Carroll, before being exonerated.

Brian Doyle, a childhood friend of Parsons, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 2002. He is currently serving a life sentence for the crime.

Mills told the Lamer inquiry there is no evidence to suggest staff in the prosecutors' office had tunnel vision when they handled the Parsons and Druken cases.

"There's a heightened awareness of miscarriages of justice," Mills said.

"I think that I have tried to emphasize that."

The inquiry, which is examining the cases of Druken, Parsons and a third man, Ronald Dalton, has now moved into its final phase.

Dalton was found not guilty in a second trial for the murder of his wife. He waited years for his appeal to be heard.

Mills says that while lessons have been learned, there are no guarantees that mistakes will not happen again.

"You know, I would like to be able to say yes," Mills said.

"But the reality is that we're fighting against something that's a human system."


Videoconferencing to keep Lamer Inquiry on track

ST. JOHN'S - The Lamer Inquiry will resume Jan. 17, even though the man heading it had a mild heart attack last month.

"I think this new technology is something we're going to have to start getting used to." - Lawyer Nick Avis

Commissioner Antonio Lamer is reportedly now in good health.

However, commission counsel Nick Avis says doctors have ordered Lamer to avoid air travel.

Avis says Lamer will preside over the inquiry using video conference technology. Lamer lives in the Ottawa region.

"It's a new technology in some ways, and I guess that some of the lawyers are concerned that by not being present, he may not be able to assess credibility and so forth," Avis says.

"I don't feel that's the case. I think this new technology is something we're going to have to start getting used to."

Avis says Lamer is planning to be in St. John's late this spring, as the inquiry continues.

Lamer is examining how the justice system handled the cases of Randy Druken, Ronald Dalton and Gregory Parsons.

Each man was convicted of murder. Druken was released from prison while his case was being appealed, and the Crown later stayed charges. Parsons was exonerated for the murder of his mother, while Dalton was found not guilty of his wife's murder during a second trial


Lamer warns against outbursts at inquiry

ST. JOHN'S - There was an angry outburst at the Lamer inquiry in St. John's on Tuesday. Gregory Parsons' wife confronted acting Supt. Ab Singleton, the lead investigator in the 1991 Catherine Carroll murder case.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer was convinced Parsons had killed his mother. Singleton continued to question the 19-year-old even after he told police that he wished to remain silent.

Parsons has said the police used abusive interrogation techniques. He claims they threatened him with violence and left him in his underwear and socks for hours

Singleton testified Tuesday nothing like that happened. After hearing that, Parsons' wife Tina Doyle walked out of the inquiry room.

When Singleton and two other officers involved in the investigation left the room, she screamed at them, "I hope this haunts you for the rest of your life."

The police didn't react to Doyle.

When the proceedings resumed, Commissioner Antonio Lamer said witnesses were at the inquiry to testify about what happened during the investigation in 1991, and he would take any action necessary to protect them from abuse.


Inquiry lawyer questions police interrogation

ST. JOHN'S - The police interrogation of Gregory Parsons in the hours after he was charged with murdering his mother came under fire at the Lamer Inquiry on Friday.

Nick Avis, the commission's counsel, questioned earlier testimony by acting Supt. Ab Singleton that officers initially didn't consider the possibility that Catherine Carroll was sexually assaulted before she was killed.

Avis asked Singleton why interrogators raised the possibility of a sexual attack with Parsons.

"That was a question that was asked, 'was she raped before she was killed?' And that was just a question that was put to him to see if there was any response, and there was no response," Singleton told the inquiry.

Questioned without lawyer

Singleton was also under fire for other parts of the interrogation.

The police were told that Parsons wished to remain silent, under the advice of his lawyer. Despite that, Singleton admitted to the inquiry that he went to Crown Prosecutor Bernard Coffey to see whether officers could keep questioning Parsons anyway.

"He didn't see any reason why we couldn't," Singleton said.

The police continued to question Parsons. Singleton's notes from the investigation indicate the police thought the teenager was guilty because of the way he acted during the interrogation.

Avis challenged that assumption. "Have you ever interviewed a 19-year-old boy who finds his mother in that kind of condition?"

"No," Singleton replied.

Parsons discovered his mother's body in her home in early January 1991. She'd been stabbed more than 50 times.

The inquiry will continue to hear from Singleton on Monday. Former chief justice Antonio Lamer was appointed by the provincial government to review three cases in which murder convictions were later discredited.


Inquiry rakes Newfoundland police force

ST. JOHN'S - The police force that arrested and charged Greg Parsons for his mother's murder is in worse shape now than when it botched the case, a senior investigator testified Wednesday at a public inquiry into the wrongful conviction.

Paul Hierlihy was the second-in-command of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary's investigation into Catherine Carroll's death in January, 1991.

At that time, Mr. Hierlihy testified, only one of the officers had any experience investigating a homicide and just two had received training to handle major cases.

Nothing has improved since then, he said.

"(1991) was just the start of it. We've gone downhill since then."

Mr. Parsons found his mother stabbed to death in her St. John's home. In 1994, a jury convicted him of second-degree murder. He served six weeks before he was granted bail pending an appeal.

Mr. Parsons was later exonerated by DNA evidence and was formally acquitted in 1998. A former friend has since pleaded guilty to the crime.

"Is it fair to say that at the time you felt you had the right person?" inquiry lawyer Nick Avis asked Mr. Hierlihy during nearly five hours in the witness box.

"Yes," he replied.

"You felt good about the investigation?"

"Yes."

"You felt good about your work?"

"Yes."

"Do you feel differently about it now?" Avis asked.

"Obviously, yes," Mr. Hierlihy replied.

The Parsons case is one of three under scrutiny at the inquiry.

The commission has already heard from Ronald Dalton, who spent nearly nine years in prison for his wife's murder before the province's Appeal Court overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial.

Mr. Dalton was acquitted after experts testified that his wife choked to death on cereal and was not strangled.

Next, the inquiry will look at the case of Randy Druken, who was convicted of the 1993 murder of his girlfriend, Brenda Marie Young, largely on the testimony of a jailhouse informant.

The Crown consented to a new trial after the informant said police had put pressure on him to make a false statement. The Crown eventually stayed the charges.

Inquiry commissioner Antonio Lamer has heard from several officers about the lack of training they had going into the Carroll investigation and a litany of missed evidence, improper gathering of evidence and unorthodox techniques used by the investigation team.

Officers missed a bloody footprint in the home and ruled out a broken basement window as a possible entry point for an intruder. Interviews with Mr. Parsons were not recorded, and incriminating evidence from witnesses was not corroborated.

Investigators made many assumptions and relied heavily on the results of a polygraph test, although such results are not admissible in court.

The troubled relationship between Mr. Parsons and his mother seemed further proof that he was involved.

Mr. Hierlihy, now a sergeant with the police force and who has training in major case work, seemed surprised at times by details of the investigation.

And still today, he testified, only two of the officers working major crimes in the city have received training for such cases.

But police found little sympathy from Mr. Parsons's lawyer, Jerome Kennedy.

"What I'm hearing here, sir, are excuses as opposed to an acceptance of responsibility," Mr. Kennedy told the commission. "It's become somewhat of a platform for the police to indicate, or to try to resolve, whatever union and morale problems they have."

2003 The Beginning | < < < previous 2003 | The Lamer Report