By Donna Laframboise, Toronto Star, 30 November 1992
I've never met Guy-Paul Morin. Nor do I know his family. Rather, I became interested in his case the way most people have: through the news media.
As Morin's trial unfolded during the first half of this year, I read about the hundreds of pieces of evidence that have been lost, overlooked or faked. About how the police neglected to tape crucial interviews and deliberately erased important wiretap recordings. About how a key investigator kept two sets of notes on the case - with a different version of events in each.
As the trial wore on, I became increasingly alarmed. How was it possible, in view of all this, to be sure of anything? How could we even consider convicting Morin when there were such grave doubts about the quality of the evidence against him?
When I heard that the jury had found him guilty anyway, my heart sank. It was the same feeling I'd experienced a few months previous when the Rodney King jury had absolved four police officers of wrongdoing - even though their brutal assault of an unarmed man had been caught on videotape.
“...then none of us [are] safe”
Every bone in my body, every instinct, told me that this conviction fell far short of what I understood by the word "justice." That if a jury was willing to consign someone to life imprisonment when it knew full well the authorities had been, at the very least, dreadfully sloppy in their handling of the case, then none of us were safe. That I - or someone I loved - could also be convicted of a serious crime on the flimsiest of evidence.
In the months following the verdict, I began researching the case. I read trial transcripts and reference works. I interviewed forensic experts and prominent lawyers. I began to discover that the news reports had contained only the tip of the iceberg. That there seemed to be no end to the incompetence and irregularities, to the myopia and outright bias on the part of some of the officials involved.
Warning bells began ringing in my brain. I began to wonder whether the Guy-Paul Morin case was so unusual after all.
While I'd like to believe the vast majority of people are dealt with fairly by our judicial system, I began to wonder what we'd find if more cases received the kind of scrutiny Morin's has.
It's a frightening notion. And, unfortunately, I've seen little to assuage my fears.
Indeed, one gets the sense that none of these people - the police who failed to properly investigate other suspects in the murder, the analysts from the Centre of Forensic Sciences whose findings were seriously called into question, the prosecution which didn't disclose significant information to the defence until being forced to do so - have learned anything from this.
And, if they aren't prepared to acknowledge that mistakes have been made, it follows that they won't be doing much to avoid repeating them in future.
The Federal government released the Report on the Prevention of Miscarriages of Justice This should be required reading for every prosecutor, cop, and criminal defence lawyer in the country. Federal prosecutor's report 2005
Surely the victims of criminal acts deserve better than this. Accused persons deserve better than this. And the families of both these groups of people deserve better.
It is, therefore, our responsibility as citizens to start making some noise. If we want to have faith in our justice system, it's up to us to make it clear that we expect concrete action to be taken so the kinds of things which occurred in the Guy-Paul Morin case will never happen again.