Donna Laframboise a then freelance columnist for The Toronto Star wrote a series of 16 articles, about Guy Paul Morin, from 1992 to 1996.
Crime journalist Kirk Makin helped make Guy-Paul Morin into a celebrity for justice with his 1992 book, Redrum the Innocent, an 800 word journey through the world of incompetent cops, a hysterical community, misguided prosecutors and defence lawyers in way over their heads.
Along with David Milgaard and Donald Marshall, Guy-Paul Morin is now one of the best known wrongly convicted persons exonerated in Canada. CBC Ideas show "Trial by Jury" -- no longer available online -- used the Guy-Paul Morin case to illustrate some pitfalls in the justice system.
Perhaps the most significant (for the rest of us) event to come out of Morin's acquittal after many agonising years of being branded as the worst kind of murderer -- a man who rapes and kills a female child -- was the inquiry into what went wrong. The terms of Reference for the Morin Inquiry, 1996 are on the Internet. We have picked up some of the news reports and posted them here. The Kaufman report on Guy Paul Morin [Government of Ontario site]
Morin now works with the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted as well as leading the quiet (and private) life he had prior his harrowing ordeal with the justice system. Kirk Makin reports regularly on crime for the Globe and Mail and we have posted many of his pieces.
There are striking similarities in the way police handled the cases of two wrongfully convicted men, David Milgaard and Guy Paul Morin, says lawyer James Lockyer.
In both cases police -- desperate to solve horrible, high-profile crimes -- decided witnesses who had given evidence clearing suspects must be wrong, and in both cases police returned to the witnesses and, during long, unrecorded interviews, told the witnesses they were wrong, Lockyer has told the Milgaard inquiry.
Those crucial, undocumented interviews resulted in witnesses changing their earlier, exculpatory statements and saying things that helped convict Milgaard and Morin, Lockyer said last week at the inquiry, which continues today.
The inquiry is looking into the original investigation of Gail Miller's 1969 death, the prosecution of Milgaard and whether the case should have been reopened when police and justice officials received new information.
Morin, a 25-year-old furniture maker, was wrongfully convicted of rape and murder in the 1984 death of nine-year-old Christine Jessop near Queensville, Ont. In that case, two police officers decided that evidence given by Jessop's mother, Janet, and brother, Ken, must have been wrong, Justice Fred Kaufman found in his 1997 report on the commission of inquiry into that wrongful conviction.
The Jessops had originally said they arrived home at 4:10 p.m. on Oct. 3, 1984, to find that Christine was not there. Her body was found 56 kilometres away, almost three months later, on Dec. 31.
Suspicion turned to Morin, who lived next door with his parents, but police determined that Morin punched out of work at 3:32 p.m. and could not have arrived home any sooner than 4:14 p.m.
He and his parents said he stopped and bought groceries on the way home, so he would have arrived even later than 4:14.
Either way, the Jessops got home before he did.
According to Kaufman, when police returned to interview the Jessops on March 6, 1985, "the whole interview process was inappropriately calculated to persuade Ken and Janet Jessop that their earlier time were wrong and to modify those times."
During the 2 1/2 hour interview, "no formal statement was taken from them, nor did the officers preserve any detailed notes. (One of the investigating officers) admitted that they told the Jessops that their times were wrong," the judge said.
"After the interview, the officers recorded that it was found that the Jessops arrived home around 4:35 p.m. and that Janet Jessop said it was possible that her clock could have been slow," Kaufman wrote.
That change opened a window of opportunity for Morin to have abducted the girl and allowed him to be prosecuted. The conviction was overturned on appeal in 1995, when DNA evidence showed semen found on the victim's underclothes did not come from Morin.
At the 1997 inquiry, the Jessops told Kaufman they firmly believe their original 4:10 time.
Lockyer noted that in the Milgaard case, three months after Miller's death the only person suspected by police -- Milgaard -- had two witnesses saying he had been with them and so could not have committed the crime. The two were Nichol John and Ron Wilson.
'The smoking gun'
Police did have one piece of evidence that could be used in court: a statement from Albert Cadrain, who said he had seen blood on Milgaard's clothing.
Lockyer identified a meeting, held May 16, 1969, of three senior Saskatoon police officers where Lockyer says police decided John and Wilson were lying when they refused to implicate Milgaard.
Police decided John, Wilson and Cadrain would be brought to Saskatoon so the "true story" could be obtained, according to a five-page police briefing document.
Lockyer has referred to the document as "the smoking gun" because it shows the police theory, which included information John and Wilson later included in statements.
John and Wilson were brought to Saskatoon from their Regina homes between May 22 and 24, 1969, during which they gave new statements "that were in stark contrast to their original statements and which, to a considerable degree, matched the theory presented on the last page of the five-page briefing document," Lockyer said.
The Morin investigators decided the Jessops "must be wrong," just as Saskatoon police decided that John and Wilson must have been wrong.
In both cases the witnesses were re-interviewed "to get it right," and in both cases "there's a completely inadequate record of what happened," Lockyer said.
After 10 months of testimony and 120 witnesses, an Ontario judge has released his report on how Guy-Paul Morin came to be convicted of a crime he didn't commit. The reports says everyone involved made serious mistakes.
The final report says mistakes by forensic scientists, police and prosecutors all combined to send an innocent man to jail.
Kaufman made 119 recommendations in his report. He said there are problems with the system that have to be changed to prevent similar mistakes from happening again.
“If ordinary people had screwed up like that, they would have lost their jobs.”
Kaufman said that judges should be far more critical of hair and fibre comparisons before allowing them to be admitted as evidence. He also said judges should tread carefully before allowing the testimony of jailhouse informants.
Kaufman said the mistakes in Guy-Paul Morin's case were the result of poor judgement. He said he doesn't believe anyone purposely set out to put an innocent man in jail.
Morin was sent to prison for the 1985 murder of his nine-year-old neighbour, Christine Jessop. He was cleared by DNA evidence in 1995.
The crime is still unsolved.
A police task force set up to find the killer of Christine Jessop is calling off its review of the case.
Police have cleared more than 300 possible suspects. They won't re-open their investigation unless there's new information.
In October 1984 Jessop was stabbed and sexually assaulted.
Guy Paul Morin was wrongfully convicted of killing Jessop. His wrongful conviction sparked a lengthy inquiry into the miscarriage of justice.
The inquiry heard numerous allegations of how badly police bungled their investigation.
The special task force was set up three years ago after Morin's conviction was overturned when new DNA evidence exonerated him.
TORONTO -- The wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin for the killing of Christine Jessop was "not an aberration," but was rooted in a flawed justice system, commissioner Fred Kaufman concluded in a scathing report released yesterday.
In two volumes with 1,380 pages and 119 recommendations, the Report of the Commission on the Proceedings Involving Guy Paul Morin weaves a bleak tale. It tells how local police, Crown attorneys and forensic scientists convinced themselves of Mr. Morin's guilt, lost all objectivity, and then fell victim to what Mr. Kaufman called "tunnel vision in the most staggering proportions."
And the former Quebec Appeal Court judge concluded that the same "systemic problems" had undoubtedly led to the conviction of other innocent people.
For Mr. Morin, the end of the inquiry lays to rest an odyssey of accusation and vindication.
"In dealing with the system, I've always questioned why, why, why," he said after the release of the report. "Based on what's been given today, my questions have been answered."
To limit the chances of such a travesty happening again, Mr. Kaufman called for strict new limits on the use of forensic evidence and testimony of so-called jailhouse informants. He also called for extensive education and training for police, lawyers and scientists, and for the creation of a national DNA bank.
"Science helped convict him. Science helped exonerate him," Mr. Kaufman told a crowded room that contained Mr. Morin, his mother, and the mother and brother of Christine Jessop.
"We will never know if Guy Paul Morin would ever have been exonerated had DNA results not been available," Mr. Kaufman said. "One can expect that there are other innocent persons, swept up in the criminal process, for whom DNA results are not obtainable."
Mr. Morin was charged in 1985 with the murder of the nine-year-old Christine, who disappeared from her Queensville, Ont., home in 1984, and whose raped and battered body was found months later.
One jury acquitted Mr. Morin of the murder charge. But an appeal court ordered a new trial, and in 1992 he was found guilty.
He served a total of 14 months of incarceration before being released and finally declared innocent, after DNA evidence proved he could not have committed the crime.
While Mr. Morin welcomed the answers provided by the report, Tim Danson, the lawyer for the Jessop family, noted that "Christine is still dead and her murderer is still at large." For the Jessops, he added, "there is no closure until this case is solved."
A Toronto police task force into Christine's killing was abandoned last month for lack of leads.
Mr. Danson said he will be asking the Ontario government for financial compensation for her family.
The inquiry called by the Ontario government into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Morin's wrongful conviction conducted 146 days of public hearings, called 120 witnesses, and amassed 100,000 pages of court transcripts, depositions and other evidence.
Mr. Kaufman, who said the Ontario justice system is no worse and in some respects is better than other jurisdictions in Canada and the English-speaking world, targeted four key areas in which the system failed Mr. Morin and could fail others.
First, the Centre for Forensic Sciences in Toronto substantially contributed to the miscarriage of justice when scientists contaminated fibres from Christine's clothing and Mr. Morin's car. Mr. Kaufman also concluded that two scientists at the centre knew of the contamination but failed to disclose it. Further fibre evidence that might have helped exonerate Mr. Morin was not communicated to the prosecution or defence.
Second, the prosecution relied on two jailhouse informants who said they heard Mr. Morin confess, even though their testimony was "patently unreliable."
Third, police mishandled numerous aspects of the investigation, including the collecting of physical evidence and the interviewing of family members and Mr. Morin. They failed to dust for fingerprints at the Jessop residence and conducted interviews that led witnesses inadvertently or deliberately to alter their testimony to incriminate Mr. Morin.
Fourth, Crown prosecutors failed to question the evidence gathered by police. "Their relationship with the police at times blinded them to the very serious reliability problems with their own officers," Mr. Kaufman maintained.
In his recommendations, he urged that forensic fibre evidence be treated more skeptically in trials and that forensic scientists employ more rigorous standards in testing and presenting evidence.
He also urged more provincial funding for the Centre for Forensic Sciences, as well as for police and Crown attorneys, to reduce backlogs and improve training.
Mr. Kaufman also urged the creation of a registry of police informers to keep track of what is being offered to them for their information, along with strict limits on the use of jail inmates as informers. He stopped short of the recommendation of James Lockyer, Mr. Morin's lawyer, that their use be banned.
Mr. Lockyer, however, said he was so pleased with the bulk of Mr. Kaufman's recommendations that "you tend to focus on the 99 per cent, and not on the one per cent."
Mr. Kaufman recommended that missing persons investigations be treated as potential serious crimes from the outset, and that police immediately begin to collect and protect evidence if circumstances warrant.
He also recommended extensive additional training in investigative skills for police and Crown attorneys, including "the identification and avoidance of tunnel vision," which he defined as "the single-minded and overly narrow focus on a particular investigative or prosecutorial theory."
And Mr. Kaufman urged:
Limits on the use of "consciousness of guilt" evidence, in which the mere attitude of the suspect is used to implicate him or her;
That a person charged with an offence be allowed to sit with his or her lawyer rather than in a separate box, and be referred to by name, rather than as "the accused";
The increased use of videotaping when interviewing witnesses;
That increased importance be given to fresh evidence following a conviction that might have altered the verdict.
Attorney General Charles Harnick said the Ontario government will do whatever it takes to prevent another wrongful conviction such as Mr. Morin's.
"What happened to Guy Paul Morin was a tragedy," he told reporters. "We need to learn from this in order to prevent this from ever happening again."
The attorney general said he assured both Mr. Morin and the family of Christine Jessop during a meeting yesterday morning "that all necessary changes to the criminal justice system in Ontario will be made as quickly as possible."
"We want to implement these recommendations ... so these kinds of things don't happen again ... so families don't have to go through the tragedies of the Morin and the Jessop experience. It is a tragedy and it is unacceptable and it has ruined lives."
The report also contained several recommendations for the federal government that, if implemented, could significantly affect criminal trials.
Mr. Kaufman urged the federal government to consider limiting the ability of a trial judge to express an opinion on issues of credibility before a jury. It also recommended that the federal government consider restricting the right of the Crown to appeal an acquittal by a jury, unless there is "a reasonable degree of certainty that the verdict would likely have been different had the error of law not been committed."
And he threw his support behind legislation before Parliament that would establish a national DNA bank.
A spokesman for Justice Minister Anne McLellan said she was looking forward to reading Mr. Kaufman's report and will not comment until his recommendations are studied.