The weeks leading up to Christmas have brought forth the unwrapping of presents for many of us -- and we are pushing hard to secure more such gifts in the new year. We are greedy for justice.
The gifts I am talking about are the many instances of secrets and lies which authorities have used to harm innocent people. These secrets and lies have been discovered in files and their discovery has led to the possibility of securing justice for the people they had previously been used to prosecute.
Two years ago, inJusticebusters was very excited as Saskatchewan government lawyer Donald McKillop turned over to Richard Klassen several boxes of material which enabled Klassen to finally put forward his claim in the lawsuit he had filed in January, 1994. The material in these boxes provided a road map of the exact routes taken by Saskatoon cop Brian Dueck, Social Services contract therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys, Crown prosecutors Matthew Miazga and Sonja Hansen and their boss, Richard Quinney in their journey to put 19 people in prison for molesting foster children.
Robert Borden, one of the original defence lawyers, had been brought before the Law Society of Saskatchewan several times for speaking publicly about the lack of proper disclosure in this case. Ed Holgate, who prepared and filed the lawsuit, had been chilled and scared: although he was in possession of several important documents, he had not shown them to Richard Klassen for fear we would make them public and he would also face sanctions.
It is all public, now, including an embarrassing list of lost files and lapsed memories. We count down to next Tuesday, when Judge George Baynton's judgment will be delivered. He has had only ten weeks to absorb the material, the disclosure material, which it took us almost ten years to get. Throughout that time, we called on anyone we could think of to help us. We wore out our welcome with more than a few people: this case was so deeply entrenched in the politics of Saskatchewan that many urged us to stop. We were told we were tilting at windmills or that we were obsessed.
Lawyers warned us that we were in dangerous territory or else dismissed us as not knowing what we were doing. As far as the details of knowing what we were doing, we had to learn those along the way. As far as knowing what we were doing, we did know that. We were seeking the truth and we believed that the truth would lead to justice. The pile of boxes we need to unwrap is very large and it grows larger each day. There will not likely ever be an end to it, as persons with motives other than the pursuit of justice continue to become officers of the court. We think we can make an impression in that pile, though. Already we have persuaded many people who had thought the task was hopeless to pitch in on the side of disclosing the truth.
Ray Zanidean - RCMP informant paid to perjure testimony against Jim Driskell. Allowed to get away with serious arson.
Meanwhile, next door in Manitoba, lawyers from The Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted in Toronto, along with Greg Brodsky in Winnipeg unwrapped the first layer of lies from a case of cold-blooded withholding of disclosure by Manitoba Crown prosecutors. That first layer took a dozen years to pry free and disclosed information which kept James Driskell in prison for almost fourteen years. The man who is now Chief of Police in Winnipeg, Jack Ewatski, played a significant role in keeping this important disclosure information secret from Driskell. Brodsky knew the Crown had made a dirty deal with Ray Zanidean: the Saskatchewan criminal had called him looking for a better deal. The more Brodsky looked for the evidence which would clear his client, the deeper the Crown buried the information he sought.
As Driskell is free on bail, awaiting the next stage in the unwrapping of his justice gift, he is having to renew a life which for almost 14 years consisted of taking one step at a time, crossing off days on the calendar, and accepting that his journey had no end in sight, although it might be there, right over that next hill. David Milgaard, Tom Sophonow, Guy Paul Morin, Donald Marshall, Gary Staples, Greg Parsons, Romeo Phillion: all were prosecuted by Crowns who took unconscionable liberties with the evidence they presented and the evidence they withheld.
Greg Brodsky is digging to get disclosure for another client, Monique Turenne who has been indicted for the murder of her husband in Florida. Through the efforts of Winnipeg Free Press reporter Dan Lett and private sources in Florida, Turenne knows that the evidence on which she was indicted (at a secret Grand Jury hearing) consisted of the sworn testimony of two liars: Ralph Crompton, who was already convicted of the murder and concocted a tall tale to avoid execution and Winnipeg cop Loren Schinkel who forged and swore to a confession he claimed to have got from Turenne.
We already know how difficult it has been to obtain disclosure when the law is on our side. Criminal and civil trials have rules establishing the procedures for orderly disclosure: when officials are caught disrespecting these rules, a remedy can be obtained by bringing the matter before a judge. In extradition cases, there is no law which entitles the person being extradited to disclosure of the reasons why.
Except for the Canadian constitution. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees us all certain legal rights.
Many agencies have been involved in the framing of Monique Turenne: The Canadian Armed Forces, Canadian Justice, Florida Justice and the Winnipeg Police. The laison among these groups is a federal agency called The International Assistance Group (IAG). This group, comprised of lawyers, makes recommendations and provides legal advice but it does not provide reasons for its recommendations. The IAG would seem to be a kind of star-chamber which, while holding arbitrary power over those who come under its authority, does not even take the trouble to look at its cases. The IAG would have told U.S. authorities to proceed to extradite Monique Turenne and would have given them the proper forms to fill out.
Then Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, on receiving the completed forms, and assurance from the Florida authorities that they would not seek the death penalty against Turenne, proceeded to extradite her last March.
When Turenne appealed the extradition to Manitoba Justice Steele, she was turned down because Steele said all the paperwork was in order. Mind you, Steele did not see any of the material on which the order was based. In a hearing before Manitoba Chief Justice Richard Scott, held earlier this month, it turned out the Crown prosecutor David Frayer didn't have it either.
Anthony Dalmyn from Brodsky's office has applied to the Manitoba Court of Appeal to get the material necessary to provide Turenne with full answer and defence. This legitimate request is based partly on Section 7 of the Charter: the right to life, liberty and secutiry of the person. This will be heard February 11, 2004. This case promises to be another disclosure nightmare for the Manitoba government.
In our greed for more justice, we promise in the New Year to do everything possible to bring to public attention the miscarriage of justice in the Leon Walchuk murder conviction. Leon Walchuk will be having his fourth Christmas in jail. This case involves malice in both the common and legal meanings of the word. No crime was ever committed. An ugly domestic dispute escalated into a horrible accident in which Cori Walchuk died. Cori Walchuk drove her vehicle into the side of the house; ths house caught fire, Cori attacked Leon with a hockey stick, Leon grabbed the stick from her and it broke, Cori fell down the basement stairs and Walchuk, overcome by smoke and injured from the hockey stick attack stumbled into the yard where he made emergency calls for help. While in a state of shock he was arrested and during the two years before his trial, the police and the Crown tailored a case against him for murder. As Walchuk has worked to free himself from conviction for a murder for which he had no motive, important evidence has disappeared: the hockey stick and the car. Forensic analysis has brought forth fresh evidence which strongly contradicts the case presented by the Crown's experts. But since the conviction has been unanimously upheld by the Saskatchewan Appeal Court, Walchuk remains in prison.
Don Smith was also convicted of having broken obscenity laws in Ontario by Crown sleight of hand and a jury picked from a prudish community. While he was able eventually to receive disclosure before his trial, much of it was kept out of court by the Crown. Brian Greenspan has taken the case to Ontario Court of Appeal and it will be heard during the spring of 2004. [He lost]
Abdulahi Mohamed (no name case) has been steadily gathering the evidence he needs to bring to account those who accepted false information and presented it as true. We'll be hearing more about this Edmonton case in 2004.
The John Chalmers case this past November really took the cake. After securing the conviction, the Crown prosecutor bragged to the media that since there was no evidence, she had to be ingenious and creative to make her case.
This artful manipulation of fiction into fact is exactly what the Crown did in the case of the Vopni family, whose story we highlighted in last week's sermonette.
Right now there are students studying law at the University of Saskatchewan and others who are training in law firms who have the ambition to be prosecutors. We hope they will have taken to heart those classes where the ideals are taught and that they do not become tainted with the cynicism of their older colleagues who have been practising "Win at all cost" prosecution in Saskatchewan for the last few decades. Justice at all costs must become their motto. We don't even need a whole class of them. As we have seen in the last months, a handful of honest, diligent lawyers can have a powerful impact.
These are some of the presents we are trying to unwrap. We thank and encourage everyone who has participated, and urge you all to hang around. 2004 should be a good year!
--Sheila Steele, December 24, 2003