Dave Burns is reporting on this conference for injusticebusters. As the father of a wrongfully convicted person, he has a stake in the proceedings. I wrote this sermonette several months ago. From what I have heard so far, there is little I would change. I feel sometimes like Cassandra who was blessed with the ability to forecast the future and cursed with the reality that no one would believe her.
We don't want to preach all the time -- we know it gets tedious. But occasionally, the urge becomes irresistable. Essays, editorials, commentary? Yes, but I also really want to win your heart and mind… Sheila Steele
For the last few weeks I had posted a tattered and unfinished (sermonette) editorial on Injustice as ShowBiz. (below) I didn't know how to finish it because I really didn't know what to say. The International Conference on Wrongful Convictions (Unlocking Innocence) planned for Winnipeg October 22 costs $575. Right away we know, from this small bit of information, that the real experts on the topic will not be there because they don't have the price of a ticket.
Who are these real experts? People who have been chewed up by the Injustice Biz machine. More on that later (although an evening spent viewing the stories on this site would bring some names to mind.)
The list of speakers is an interesting mix.
Barry Scheck: (right) Yes, I would definitely walk across the street to hear what this man has to say. His contribution to freeing wrongfully convicted people is monumental. Keeping his Innocence Projects in the public eye requires him to go and speak to the people who have the power to change. He is in no danger of being co-opted by the system.
James Lockyer: He has been holding down the justice fort in Canada. He is not about to be co-opted either. Maybe there is a science conference somewhere discussing how to clone Scheck and Lockyer. We could use a couple thousand of them. I suggest this would be a terrific use of DNA technology!
Jack Ewatski: Winnipeg's police chief. He is an expert of a different stripe. He has had a role in some wrongful convictions that we know about and, to infer from similar fact evidence, some we don't know about. Two of his favoured colleagues, Loren Schinkel and Jim Thiessen have built their careers on bending the law. Since he is chief in the host city, it is reasonable he should be given an opportunity to welcome the international guests. It is also a chance for him to enhance his reputation. I can think of a couple of other Winnipeg cops who could make more meaningful contributions but to make public their names would put them in jeopardy.
Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie and former Justice Peter Cory: We expect they will have good words to offer.
Guy Paul Morin: (right) I'd like to hear his views on his prosecutor's appointment to the Bench. He is polite, dignified and has, for many years shied from publicity. We heard him praise the results of the Kaufman Commission. We assure him that it would not be rude if he was to point out that if the recommendations of that commission had been implemented, there would not be such a pressing need for a conference.
Joyce Milgaard: Mrs. Milgaard has been busy in Saskatoon attending the public inquiry into the wrongful conviction and 23 year incarceration of her son, David. Many improper and illegal methods were used to do this and Joyce is certainly an expert. Her book A Mother's Story, along with Kirk Makin's Redrum the Innocent should be required reading for all those attending the International Conference.
Bruce MacFarlane was instrumental in bringing out the Prosecutor's report earlier this year. He also knows what needs to be done and that we don't have to wait until this conference to start doing it. I have been told that a lawyers' magazine or journal down east has an article by a prosecutor (or group of prosecutors) calling for a campaign to make sure that more crown-friendly judges are appointed to the bench and saying the Klassen/Kvello civil trial results must be overturned AT ALL COSTS.
The question arises: Are the Crown Prosecutors' offices (the federal and provincial Justice Departments) a barrel with a few bad apples or a rotting, fermenting bin where a few good apples remain clean? Any prosecutor who takes to trial a case based on evidence he or she knows to be tainted is a bad prosecutor. Saskatchewan has many and it has a defence bar which almost routinely goes along with them. The result? Wrongful convictions.
It is only three years since CBC's short-lived television program Disclosure took the trouble to disclose to the public the mechanics of RCMP police stings by broadcasting the videotaped interviews of Clayton Mentuck and Olivia Edgars. For the first time we were able to see the ruses -- and expensive frame-ups -- the police are able to legally commit. We have since learned that Mentuck and Edgars were not exceptional but rather routine cases. The legality of these stings must be challenged, again and again. I have posted two new pages involving such stings. Both Christine LePage and Gordon Strowbridge were found to be guilty. The media posted plenty of evidence of their guilt. Knowing what we now know about the tactics used in these stings, I think we have to stand back and scrutinize all cases where they have been used more carefully.
In the Mr Big scenario stings, which generally run for about three months, a target is sucked in by cops posing as criminals. The police produce volumes of material which they selectively disclose to the defence. To the court, they show only the "confession" tape which has been choreographed to make sure the fact that the confessing person has no choice but to tell the Mr Big of the Criminal Organization that he or she committed a murder. It is a "tell about the murder you did or you will be murdered yourself" situation.
Defence lawyers, confronted with the huge amount of material disclosed to them, reluctant to believe their own clients, and not having time to pour through what has been disclosed to determine what needs to be further disclosed, are often unwitting collaborators in speeding innocent people to long prison terms, at worst, or talking them into pleading guilty to lesser crimes of which they are innocent, at best.
Another reason the Crown is so emphatic about overturning Klassen/Kvello, beside the obvious finding of malice, is that the conduct of this case provides honest people with a clear road map of how to defend their innocence. The original indictments were obtained with cherry-picked disclosure and coached witnesses. Before the civil proceedings no judge had ever seen the videotaped interviews. These tapes, shown in their entirety, gave away the Crown's dirty game.
A few months later, in a criminal case, the Crown was forced to show the entire video-taped interrogation of Farand Bear. The Crown had wanted to show only the "confession," omitting the eleven hours leading up to it. Judge John Klebuc concluded the confession was worthless.
Another important aspect of police dirty tricks is the use of street snitches. We have heard a lot about the unreliability of jailhouse snitches and courts are properly looking askance at their testimony. But what of the petty criminal who works with the police to sell out his friends in exchange for lighter sentences or other rewards? What happens when that petty criminal turns to more serious crime?
We know about the Cory Patterson -- Fifth Estate did a piece on him after he killed himself.
Convicted pedophile-turned-snitch Doug Martin dubbed 'Father Confessor' who Police used dozens of times including to convict Thomas Sophonow
But what of those who are still alive, who are being created even as you read this? Shannon Murrin was acquitted partly because the jailhouse snitch, Doug Martin (also known as Father Confessor because he had so many murderers confess to him) was discredited. Claims are being made that Murrin himself was a snitch. We also know that Larry Fisher was a snitch. These are three dots on a blank page occurring over 36 years. How many more dots are out there to give a clear picture of just how widespread it is?
How far are police willing to go to protect their snitches? How bad do their snitch's crimes have to get? Apparently very far and very bad.
From personal experience, I know that the police paid two young offenders to break into my house in 1993 to get evidence I was growing marijuana. I was. These boys were not charged. My disclosure stated that they "had my house under surveillance" and were going to "shoot me and steal my equipment" when the plants matured. The judge (again it was Judge Klebuc) let the evidence in even though he found the warrant to search my house to be one of the worst he'd ever seen. I went to jail and got one kind of education; the thieves who broke into my house got quite a different one. Police-sanctioned crime pays.
Which brings me back to the question I asked a long time back: Who are the experts in wrongful convictions?
The answer is that those who have been stung are in the best position to understand what goes wrong.
And, as it turns out, most of the wrongfully convicted people had at least a tangential connection to the criminal world. (Guy Paul Morin may be the exception.) That is how we are able to examine its underpinnings. We know about these things because we have done our research. Many of us have seen further corruption within the prison system, the another huge, brick wall in the trapping of innocent people.
(to be continued) -- Sheila Steele, March 20, 2005
Notes for a new sermonette: Big International conference is to be held in Winnipeg next October.
Dudley George Inquiry carries on: Mike Harris is going to "absolutely deny" he said what others heard him say
Meanwhile the Edmonton Police find themselves on the U.S. state department's shit list! This would be a good time to point out to our southern neighbours that the RCMP and most police forces in Canada frequently present to our courts evidence that would be considered tainted and inadmissable in U.S. courts. Crooked U.S. cops and prosecutors have caught on to this and enlist Canadian cops to do their dirty work (kind of like farming out torture). The elaborate, expensive sting the RCMP (in cooperation with Seattle police) used to extract confessions from Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns, the forged confession Florida D.A. Jim Appleman conspired with Loren Schinkel to produce for Monique Turenne, and the extradition of John Graham and Leonard Peltier are all cases on point.
Wouldn't it be great if that international conference on wrongful convictions planned for the Fairmont Hotel in Winnipeg was an occasion for these people to decide to raise their countries to the standards which best protect the rights of the individual? Instead prosecutors in the U.S. have used Canada as an example of why the courts should lower theirs.
Included in the James Driskell story is the announcement of an inquiry. Cotler has indicated that the entire treatment of James Driskell violated all norms of investigation, disclosure and prosecution. What more do we need to know.
Accountability. It is clear that the corrupt individuals in the justice culture are not going to reform until they are forced to account for themselves. Guy Paul Morin's prosecutor gets a judicial appointment. That is not accountability. That is a reward for bad behavior. Matt Miazga is still working in Saskatoon and Brian Dueck got to retire with a full pension. The RCMP who framed Jason Dix got a big promotion.
It is not enough to have a judicial inquiry where a judge says "you should have done this and you should not have done that." There must be provision for prosecuting public officials who are found to have broken the law. Cops, crowns, experts who bear false witness and therapists who coach false witness continue to do so because they feel they have immunity.
Why do they feel they have immunity? Because so far it has been working for them. They have been getting away with it. Words do not touch them.
Only yesterday, Wilf Hathway (who has been held since last May and had not yet seen a lawyer) was in court to apply for new counsel. In open court, before the judge or the accused had arrived, the prosecutor was speaking loudly to the clerk, the guards and members of the public. "This guy is as guilty as sin," he said. "I've really got him by the balls." This prosecutor continued at some length, saying that his pal, Jane Lancaster, would not agree to providing him with a different lawyer. Why didn't he defend himself? mused the out-of-control Crown.
Hathway was successful in getting an order for new counsel. The prosecutor was blustering.
Is such bluster permitted? Well, yes it is. We've been hearing crowns do it for years. Shold it be permitted? Well, no. It is malicious. Court clerks and guards are low enough in the justice culture that they feed off such tidbits and spread false rumours in the community. It certainly happened to David Milgaard and we can be pretty sure it happened to James Driskell. And it is happening to many others seeking fair nearings in impartial courts.
Justice cannot occur in communities which are poisoned by loose-talking public servants. They do not serve the public: they serve only themselves. And they do it because they are allowed to do it.
As Dan Wiks goes to his discreditable conduct hearing, we learn that Dueck has filed a complaint against Chief Sabo because he talked to Richard Klassen about Dueck's possible retirement. Mayor Atchison wanted it all kept secret.