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Guy-Paul Morin's inner strength

the guy-paul morin story

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By Donna Laframboise, Toronto Star, 18 January 1993

Donna Laframboise

The visiting area at Kingston Penitentiary contains a dozen or so small, wooden tables, each surrounded by four chairs. There are a few plants, a drinking fountain and two vending machines - one of which dispenses tepid, flavorless tea. The room is monitored from above by guards in a glassed-in booth.

At 1 o'clock last Tuesday afternoon, nearly all of the tables had been taken. Wives or girlfriends, a few of them accompanied by toddlers, sat awaiting the arrival of the inmate they'd come to see. After a couple of minutes, the prisoners began to trickle in.

Guy-Paul Morin was among the last to enter the room. He came through the door looking a little rushed, a little uncertain. (Due to last week's storm warning, I'd shown up a day earlier than expected. He'd had no idea, therefore, that he'd be receiving a visitor.)

Dressed in green, prison-issue clothes, he apologized for his slightly disheveled appearance and sat down. Having crossed from one prison building to another in the minus-zero weather to get there, his hands were cold. And although this was only the second time I'd met him, I thought he looked a little worn and tired.

Physically, Guy-Paul isn't a large person. He's no taller than my own 5 feet 6 inches and is on the slender side. But once he relaxes a little, his quiet, self-possessed manner and understated sense of humor reveal an irrepressible inner strength.

He's been through the wringer since his arrest for the murder of 9-year-old Christine Jessop eight years ago. His two trials, in which he was acquitted by one jury and then convicted by another, have been a horrendous strain for both him and his family. But this isn't something he wants to talk about very much.

In his view, it's more important that this whole mess get sorted out, that the justice system realize it made a terrible mistake when it found him guilty of a crime he had nothing to do with.

Because, despite everything, Guy-Paul is an uncomplicated person. Even now, his approach to other people tends to be open, frank - some might say a little naive.

For example, when Maclean's magazine interviewed him recently, Guy-Paul impishly wanted to know whether the photographer's work measured up to National Geographic standards. Then, after patiently allowing dozens of photos to be taken of himself, he asked if he could take one of the man behind the camera.

During my first visit a few weeks earlier, Guy-Paul wanted to know what my favorite chocolate bar was. On returning from his cell after the lunch break, he brought me one as a gift - insisting that the prison canteen sells the freshest ones I'll ever taste.

I asked Guy-Paul what he thought he'd be doing now, if all of this hadn't happened to him. He thinks he'd probably have his papers in air-conditioning and refrigeration maintenance.

He tells me he's already completed the course work at community college, that there were more than 30 students at the start of the rigorous program but only 13 by the end, and that he was usually the last person to leave the room after writing tests in which he frequently scored in the range of 90 to 100 per cent.

You don't need to spend much time with Guy-Paul Morin to learn that he enjoys building and repairing things (he talks proudly about the cars he's rescued from the scrap heap and restored to working order - after first checking out their reliability in consumer magazines). Or that he likes cooking (he tells me about baking 11 pies by himself one day).

This is, after all, a young man who has kept bees, gardened, and played the clarinet in community bands. This is a young man who, by his very nature, respects orderliness (he says the wrecking yards near London, Ont., are the best he's ever seen because they're so organized, and he describes a fruit farm he used to visit as being "a paradise" because of the way the blueberry bushes were arranged in one section and the strawberry plants were carefully laid out elsewhere).

Is this really the person who killed Christine Jessop?