ST. JOHN'S, NFLD (CP) - A man wrongfully convicted of his mother's murder, Catherine Carroll, was jubilant Thursday upon learning he'll be awarded an additional $650,000 in compensation from the Newfoundland government.
"Everything is finally done and over with," said Greg Parsons. "It's like my lawyer just said to me, 'You'll never be compensated for your ordeal,' but I can honestly say I'm satisfied."
The province's decision brings the amount of compensation for Greg Parsons to a total of $1.3 million, including a previous settlement of $650,000.
"We feel that this is within the scope of packages that received by wrongfully convicted persons in Canada," provincial Justice Minister Tom Marshall said after announcing the additional funds.
Parsons said he's pleased a public inquiry is complete and the compensation issue settled for good.
"My biggest goal now is to live a private life with my family and just go on and be as normal as we can be," he said.
It has been 14 years since Parsons, then 19, found his mother's bloodied body in her home early one January morning.
He was convicted in 1994 of second-degree murder.
Parsons spent six weeks in prison before he was released pending an appeal, but he testified before a judicial inquiry that members of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary harassed him for years.
His car was pulled over daily. He was arrested twice, once with the use of a police dog that bit him so severely he needed 38 stitches to close the wounds.
With suspicion hanging over him, Parsons said he was unable to find a job and eventually turned to social services to feed his family.
Parsons was exonerated by DNA evidence and formally acquitted in 1998. A childhood friend has since pleaded guilty to the crime.
In 2002, Parsons accepted the $650,000 compensation offer from the province. The province also paid $198,000 to cover legal fees.
The case was one of a trio in the province under scrutiny at a public inquiry that wrapped up earlier this year.
Although compensation for Parsons was not within the scope of the inquiry, commissioner Antonio Lamer wrote to Marshall in June.
"The commissioner expressed concern that Mr. Parsons was under duress and in dire need when the original deal was agreed," Marshall said Thursday.
"He had suggested to methat the original deal was inadequate and he suggested that I revisit the question of compensation to ensure that a possible injustice did not take place and we have done so."
The justice minister said thedeal has already been approved by cabinet, although Premier Danny Williams was excluded because he acted as a lawyer for Parsons prior to joining politics.
The final report from the inquiry is expected by the end of the year.
Druken was convicted of the 1993 murder of his girlfriend Brenda Marie Young, largely on the testimony of a jailhouse informant who later recanted.
The provincial Appeal Court overturned the conviction and the charge was eventually stayed.
Druken spent nearly seven years in prison.
Dalton spent more than eight years behind bars for murdering his wife before the Appeal Court overturned the conviction. He was acquitted at a new trial.
Parsons said the family may go out for dinner and will probably do some renovations on their cabin, but he has no plans to quit his job as a firefighter and paramedic.
"That's one of my proudest accomplishments," he said. "I'd never be able to give that up."
JUSTICE REPORTER -- Within hours of seeing his mother's killer sent to prison for at least 18 years, Gregory Parsons had one thing on his mind -- a public inquiry into his own 1994 wrongful conviction for the murder.
"When I think of the millions and millions of dollars spent trying to convict me, why not find out what went wrong?" Mr. Parsons said in an interview yesterday.
He was exonerated of the crime in 1998. It came to light three years later that his onetime close friend, Brian Doyle, was the person who crept into Catherine Carroll's bedroom and stabbed her to death.
Chief Justice Derek Green of the Newfoundland Supreme Court sentenced Mr. Doyle, 33, to life in prison with no eligibility for parole until he has served at least 18 years.
Lawyer Jerome Kennedy, who represents Mr. Parsons, said Mr. Doyle's sentence "is one of the highest sentences that has ever been imposed for a second-degree murder.
"What we need now is to see the trial judge and the jurors testify at a public inquiry, so we can lift the veil of secrecy and find out what went wrong," Mr. Kennedy said.
If so, it would be the first such inquiry to subpoena judges and jurors. The Newfoundland government has promised nothing more than a closed review of documentary evidence in the case.
Chief Justice Green noted that Mr. Parsons trial ended with the prosecutor asking the jury: "If Greg Parsons didn't cause his mother's death, who did?"
It was a colossal error, Chief Justice Green said.
"The circumstances of the case now before the court provide a dramatic example of how the justice system can fail to function properly when a jury is invited to engage in such improper reasoning -- and the invitation goes uncorrected," he said.
However, he said, the Parsons case also proved that the justice system can work even as it is misfiring. Granted bail on several occasions even after his conviction, Mr. Parsons spent a total of just 41 days in prison.
It should have been the end of a chapter for Greg Parsons and the culmination of a good year. He has become a firefighting recruit, a suspect has been charged with his mother's 1991 murder and, Thursday, the provincial government awarded him $650,000 in compensation for wrongfully convicting him of the crime.
But Parsons was not the picture of vindication when he faced reporters to talk about the award he received on "humanitarian grounds" from the province earlier in the day.
"I don't agree that it's humanitarian. I asked (former premier) Brian Tobin himself for a job, and now, all of a sudden, it's a humanitarian thing?" he said, his bitterness over his 11-year struggle to find a job and care for his family simmering below the surface. "I'm trying not to be too angry today. I'm not overly happy about it, but I'm glad that my family is not going to have to want for groceries and that kind of thing, the way we've been living."
Parsons was exonerated by DNA testing in February 1998. He then launched a civil suit for his wrongful conviction. He was only 19 when he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Despite requests for financial assistance until a settlement could be reached, Parsons, who no one would hire, waited for justice, the wheels of which turned painfully slow.
"I would like to have seen something done from Day 1 when I was acquitted, anything, an interim payment at that time to make life a little bit easier," said Parsons, father of Zachary, 7, and Joshua, 2. "Nothing was done. I'm just glad I got my life together on my own, thank God, no help from the government." Parsons plowed on, becoming a firefighter, paramedic and commercial diver. He was diving Thursday and didn't attend the news conference announcing the settlement, which includes a $200,000 lump-sum payment and another $450,000 that will be invested, providing him with a monthly income of $2,100 a month for life.
He said it's not that big a sum after 11 years of debts and bills are paid. The province is paying out another $198,000 for legal fees and disbursements. Although unhappy with the settlement, Parsons said he wasn't looking forward to another trial to pursue his claim for compensation.
"I think that this justice system has put me through enough suffering," he said, proudly wearing a fire department belt buckle as a badge of honour. "I don't think I should have had to fight for three years to get compensation. I'm just tired of it, I'm just tired of living this life."
Parsons was looking for compensation more on scale with amounts paid to the growing list of other wrongfully convicted Canadians. "I feel I have one of the strongest cases. I was the first person in Canada ever convicted without one piece of evidence, pure hearsay evidence," he said. "I'm just glad to have this chapter over with."
On Jan. 2, 1991, Parsons discovered the body of his mother on the bathroom floor of her home at 16 James Pl. in St. John's. Catherine Carroll, 45, had been lying in a pool of blood for nearly two days after being cut more than 50 times. Parsons was charged with the killing and, despite the lack of physical evidence linking him to the scene, was convicted of second-degree murder in February 1994.
In 1997, the Newfoundland Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial, but in February 1998, DNA testing exonerated him. Parsons was obviously holding back in talking with reporters. That day will come, he said, but not while the first-degree murder case against Brian Joseph Doyle, in which he may be called as a witness, is before the courts and a review of his own wrongful conviction is outstanding.
"I will have a lot more to say in the future, but I just want to get this day done and over with and see where all the cards fall. But this is not my last say, by no means," he said.
Still, Parsons made it clear he wants to see a full public inquiry into his wrongful conviction and a say in which judge is appointed to oversee it. As Parsons closes yet another chapter - compensation - he's looking forward to closing the book for good. "I'm tired of being (in front of) the camera, it's been years now," he said. "I just can't wait to go on and live a normal life. I've been saying it for years."
After an 11-year legal battle, Greg Parsons, the Newfoundland bodybuilder wrongfully convicted of killing his mother, will receive $650,000 in compensation from the Newfoundland government.
"Another chapter is closed," Mr. Parsons said in an interview yesterday after the announcement. "At least this chapter is closed and I can get on with my life."
Catherine Carroll was killed in her St. John's home in 1991. Mr. Parsons was convicted of her murder in 1994, but four years later was exonerated by DNA evidence. Police later charged a former family friend with the murder. Brian Doyle, a former resident of St. John's, was arrested in Mississauga, Ont., and formally charged with first-degree murder last June.
The exoneration of Mr. Parsons led to an unconditional apology from the Newfoundland government and a legal review. A civil lawsuit seeking compensation also followed.
"D N A are my favorite letters in the alphabet," Mr. Parsons said. "I'm where I am today because of science. Science is what acquitted me."
Although he did not spend as much time in jail, Mr. Parsons has been compared to two other men wrongfully convicted of murder, David Milgaard and Guy Paul Morin.
Newfoundland's Justice Minister said it was regrettable that Mr. Parsons was convicted of a crime he did not commit. "The government has acknowledged this and apologized to Mr. Parsons and his family for the disruption to their lives and the extreme anguish they have endured," said Kelvin Parsons, who isn't related to Greg Parsons.
While the Justice Minister expressed his sympathy for the family, the government did not admit the justice system did anything wrong.
"This compensation is based on humanitarian grounds; it is not an admission of wrongdoing by the Crown," the minister said in a statement.
Mr. Parsons's financial compensation includes a $200,000 cash payment, $450,000 that will be invested to provide him with a monthly income, and an additional $198,000 for legal fees and other costs. The award ends his civil case.
Receiving the compensation after such a long wait comes as a relief, Mr. Parsons said. It will mean being able to put groceries on the table for his two young sons. "We were struggling to make ends meet," he said.
Mr. Parsons, who lives in St. John's, works as a recruit for the fire department.
In 1998, the province appointed a retired Supreme Court justice, Nathaniel Noel, to review the investigation and prosecution of Mr. Parsons and come up with recommendations for compensation in an interim report.
ST. JOHN'S - Gregory Parsons says he's not finished with the justice system. Parsons was wrongfully convicted of murdering his mother, Catherine Carroll, in 1991. He was cleared by DNA evidence in 1998.
On Thursday, the provincial government announced a $650,000 compensation package for Parsons. He says he's not fully satisfied with that, but he wants to get on with his life.
Parsons still wants a full-scale public inquiry into the justice system, and he wants a say in who conducts the inquiry.
The government plans a judicial review of the case after the trial of the man now charged with killing Carroll. Parsons says that limited review isn't enough to satisfy him.
ST. JOHN'S - The provincial government has agreed to pay Gregory Parsons $650,000 in compensation for his wrongful conviction of murder.
It will also pay Parsons $198,000 to cover his legal costs.
The compensation includes a cash payment of $200, 000 and an investment of $450,000 that will be used to generate monthly income.
Parsons said he's just glad it's all over and he and his family can get on with their lives.
Parsons was convicted in 1994 of murdering his mother, Catherine Carroll, but was later cleared by DNA evidence.
In announcing the award Thursday morning, Justice Minister Kelvin Parsons said the compensation was being made on humanitarian grounds, and was not an admission of wrongdoing by the crown.
The minister also said the government would complete an investigation into the circumstances of Parsons' conviction, once outstanding criminal charges in the case have been dealt with.
Another man, 31-year-old Brian Joseph Doyle, was charged in June 2001 for Carroll's murder.
Justice Minister Kelvin Parsons today announced the resolution of compensation for Greg Parsons.
"On behalf of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, I am pleased to announce that government has resolved the issue of compensation for Mr. Gregory Parsons," said the Minister. "The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and legal counsel for Mr. Parsons have agreed to a sum of $650,000 to compensate Mr. Parsons for his conviction in the death of Catherine Carroll."
"This compensation is based on humanitarian grounds, it is not an admission of wrongdoing by the Crown," said Minister Parsons.
This figure includes $450,000 that will be invested to provide Mr. Parsons with a monthly income, plus a $200,000 cash payment. In addition, $198,000 will be paid to cover the legal fees and disbursements incurred by Mr. Parsons.
In 1998, government appointed retired Supreme Court Justice Nathaniel Noel to complete a thorough and comprehensive review of the investigation and prosecution of the Parsons case and to make recommendations concerning compensation. Justice Noel's review was suspended once civil action was initiated by Mr. Parsons' counsel. To address the public interest question of whether or not there was any wrongdoing in the case, and to ensure the integrity of the justice system, government intends to retain the services of a judge to pick up where Justice Noel left off. This review will proceed when the outstanding charges on the matter have concluded.
Government's approach to the financial settlement follows the guidelines set by Mr. Justice Peter Cory in his report into the arrest and conviction of Thomas Sophonow. Minister Parsons stated: "In Mr. Parsons' case, government used the factual innocence model, in which the focus is not on attaching blame to individuals involved in the criminal justice process; rather, it acknowledges that harm can result from the conviction and imprisonment of the factually innocent."
The minister also noted that he agrees with Justice Cory's recommendation that a complete independent entity be established which can effectively, efficiently and quickly review cases in which wrongful conviction is alleged. The minister has written to the Federal Justice Minister, advising that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is wholly supportive of this recommendation and is prepared to work with the federal government and other provinces towards the establishment of such an entity.
June 16, 2001: It doesn't look as though the province will compensate Gregory Parsons anytime soon. Earlier this week, Premier Grimes said the government will review the latest developments in Parsons' case, to see if there's any reason to forgo the lawsuit that's before the courts. But Grimes told reporters today that the government won't be making the first move.
GRIMES CLIP: <<<<< if the lawyers for Gregory Parsons want to talk about a settlement outside of the court or some reasonable basis, that's always some option that's available but the gov't doesn't plan to take any interim action and if it does it will be reported to the people of the province by the minister of justice and the attorney-general, 'cause this is not a political matter. this is a very serious legal matter >>>>
Parsons wants compensation for being wrongfully convicted of killing his mother, Catherine Carroll ten years ago.
Gregory Parsons says he was starved into accepting a settlement from the government for his wrongful conviction for murder.
Parsons will receive a total of 650-thousand dollars, including a 200-thousand dollar lump sum payment. Parsons says the last three years have been extremely hard on him and his family.
Parsons says the settlement will mean a better life for his family, but he says no one can imagine the mental anguish they've been through. Parsons' lawyer, Steve Marshall, hopes his client has a sense of closure.
Marshall told VOCM Niteline with George MacLaren that Parsons' reputation was tarnished, but he's looking forward to moving on. The fallout from the Parsons case will be felt for a long time yet. Justice Minister Kelvin Parsons says the compensation to Parsons has no blame attached to it, but he agrees that a review of the circumstances of the investigation and prosecution should continue.