The name of Guy Paul Morin is always brought up by activists and lawyers when talking about wrongful convictions because of the text book mistakes made in his case.
Information from Torstar News Service:
Some experts have established 10 things they have learned from the wrongful conviction of Morin:
The dangers of tunnel vision
“We learned that wrongful convictions most often occur when somebody is an outsider – someone who seems strange to the rest of us: a loner: part of an unusual family; a ‘weird type of guy,’ as one of the police investigators so artfully described Morin in his notes,’’ says award-winning author Kirk Makin, whose book Redrum the Innocent remains the main read on this case.
- The police were highly criticized for fixating right away on Morin because they saw him as a weird individual.
The dangers of demeanor evidence
“Makin calls this drawing conclusions based on ‘’whether someone looked or behaved the way ‘we’ expect them to act under certain circumstances.’’
- Morin was criticized for his inappropriate facial expressions and the fact that he did not search for little Christine Jessop’ body or attend her funeral.
The need to be skeptical of ‘’experts
“Win Wahrer started the Guy Paul Morin Defence Committee to help prove his innocence and he declared ‘’we learned about junk science – the unreliability of so-called expert witnesses.’’
- In Morin’s case, hair and fiber evidence was incorrectly presented to the jury, making him appear guilty.
The need to take a broad look at the system and wrongful convictions
A commission presided by Fred Kaufman, a former Quebec Court of Appeal Judge, looked deeply into the institutional conditions that made the Morin conviction possible and made strong recommendations to improve the system. The wrongful conviction of Morin is often associated with the wrongful convictions of Canadians Donald Marshall and David Milgaard. “It was hopefully a crash course in the lengths to which lazy/inexperienced/over-heated/crusading police will go to get a conviction when they become convinced that somebody is their man.”
- The ‘’Three M’’ cases ‘’were a cold water shower for anyone who thought that when someone is arrested, the police must know they did it,’’ Makin says.
- ‘’The Morin case led to the creation of AIDWYC,’’ Makin says. ‘’It was formed out of the Guy Paul Morin Defence Committee, whose members decided there were too many systemic problems not to create something permanent. That’s a hell of a legacy in itself.’’
- The Guy Paul Morin Defence Committee subsequently became the Toronto-based Association in Defence of the Wrongfully Convicted (AIDWYC), with high-profile lawyers like James Lockyer.
The need for police not to bond too tightly with a victim’s family
- “We learned that police have to make effort to keep a victim’s family as a discreet distance from the investigation, lest officers be influenced by their lobbying and personal beliefs, and lest they feel a compulsion to make a premature or ill-considered arrest,” Makin says.
The dangers of jailhouse snitches
Kaufman had very harsh words for Robert Dean May, a fellow inmate of Morin at the Whitby jail.
- “May was diagnosed by mental health experts at the second trial as a pathological liar,” Kaufman writes. “He had a deficient conscience and was skilled at deceiving others.”
- Kaufman does not mince words in the chapter of his report that focuses on jailhouse informants, and how the Crown used their words to build the false case against Morin.
The realization that prosecutors are capable of misconduct
- “Their relationship with the police at times blinded them to the very serious reliability problems with their own officers,” Kaufman writes.
The dangers of withholding evidence
- Fibre evidence that supported Morin’s case was not provided to the court by the Centre for Forensic Sciences. Then this same fibre evidence was incorrectly summarized in the Crown’s closing argument.
The dangers of cutting a deal to avoid trial
- Morin’s first lawyer initially wanted him to cut a deal. He later hired a top criminal defence named Clayton Ruby and successfully fought to prove his innocence. But without the financial help of his parents, it could have never happened. If he was indigent at the time, he would probably still be in prison.
The need for full and accurate records of interviews with witnesses
“Hours of untaped interviews might be reflected in a single entry in a notebook or in an incomplete précis or description of the interview contained in a supplementary report,” Kaufman wrote.
The case of Guy Paul Morin
On July 30, 1992, Guy Paul Morin was convicted of the first degree murder of his nine-year old neighbor Christine Jessop who had been abducted from Queensville, Ontario, on October 3, 1984.
Morin was found not guilty at his first trial, but the Justice system opted for a do over and found him guilty at his second trial based on the false testimony of a fellow inmate and flimsy evidence. He was arrested, imprisoned and convicted.
Not surprisingly, the real killer has never been found because the investigation focused right away on Morin who was stigmatized and victimized by these criminal proceedings.
Christine Jessop was murdered on or after October 3, 1984 and Guy Paul Morin was charged on April 22, 1985 with her murder. On February 7, 1986, he was acquitted. A new trial was ordered by the Court of Appeal for Ontario on June 5, 1987 and that order was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada on November 17, 1988.
After the new trial, he was convicted of murder on July 30, 1992. He was subsequently acquitted by the Court of Appeal on January 23, 1995 on the basis of fresh evidence tendered by the Crown and defence counsel.
A Commission was created to inquire into the conduct of the investigation into the death of Christine Jessop and of the Centre for Forensic Sciences in relation to the maintenance, security and preservation of forensic evidence into the criminal proceedings.
That same Commission had to deliver its final report including its findings, conclusions and recommendations to the Attorney General on June 30, 1997.
When the Attorney General announced the appointment of this Commission, he said this, in part:
An inquiry cannot wipe away the years of pain and turmoil Mr. Morin suffered, but it can examine the complex circumstances surrounding the case, and allow us to learn from it and prevent any future miscarriage of justice.
As expected in a high-profile case, despite these public acknowledgements, some individuals still believed, despite Guy Paul Morin’s exoneration through DNA testing, that he was nonetheless guilty. Perhaps he committed the crime with others; perhaps the DNA testing was flawed.
As the evidence which supported his conviction was revisited at this Inquiry, the case against Guy Paul Morin undeniably unraveled before our very eyes.
The gullible public can be hard to convince when contaminated by the media and the authorities. Janet Jessop and Ken Jessop who was 14 when his sister was murdered, reached a reconciliation with Morin. But Ken had the nerve to express doubts about Morin’s guilt years later during an interview.
Bob Jessop broke ties with his family after the investigation process uncovered evidence that Ken and two other boys had sexually abused Christine. I would imagine that Janet stuck by her adopted son because she could not bear losing another child. What a difficult choice it must have been to side with her child instead of her husband after going through such a tragedy.
Guy Paul Morin’s family
Guy Paul Morin is French Canadian and had four sisters and one brother. Their cultural difference made them stand out in the Ontario neighborhood of Queensville because his family was very tight knit and could be perceived as bizarre according to typical Anglophone’s standards.
At twenty-four, Morin still lived at home, drove his parents’ car, kept bees in the backyard, played the saxophone and clarinet in three bands and loved the swing music of the 1940s. He worked for a furniture manufacturer and was, by all accounts, a responsible and serious employee.
They lived in a house with a very unkempt backyard littered with several car carcasses and various stuff perceived as junk by close neighbors. The siblings often stayed out late in the yard where they would dance, fiddle with motors or even wrestle on each other’s shoulders under the light of a regular indoor floor lamp plugged outside. They had developed a strong bond and their mentality was one of ‘us against the world.’ They actually seemed quite happy within their own family circle.
The abduction of Christine
When Janet and Ken Jessop arrived home on October 3, 1984, and Christine was nowhere to be found, but her school bag was in the kitchen, they indicated several times that they arrived home at 4:10 p.m. They were coming from the dentist’s office and this was corroborated by the staff.
At the second trial, Janet Jessop testified for the prosecution and indicated that she and Ken came home at 4:30 to 4:35 or even later. Ken Jessop was called by the defence and also testified to coming home a this later time. Then, at the Inquiry, Janet Jessop and Ken Jessop firmly maintained that they got home at 4:10. Ken Jessop stated that he lied at the second trial.
When Guy Paul Morin was first interviewed by detectives on February 22, 1985, he initially estimated that he returned home from work on October 3, 1984, at approximately 4:30 pm: Morin: That particular day I was starting in the morning about 7:00 and finished at I think was, ah, 3:30, then went shopping, got home around 4:30. It only takes me about 45 minutes to get home from where I work.
Later, in the unrecorded portion of the interview, he adjusted his arrival time home to between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. His parents, Alphonse and Ida Morin supported their son’s evidence that he came home with groceries, took a nap and worked on renovations to the family home after dinner.
It is quite clear that the Jessops altered their arrival time to allow Morin to be the culprit. He could not have come home after them and be the guilty party so they stretched the truth to keep the case against Morin from crumbling.
In fact, Mr. Morin’s time card documented that he did not leave his place of employment until 3:32. A police timing run confirmed the drive from Mr. Morin’s workplace to his residence to be 42 minutes.
Upon his arrest on April 22, 1985, almost seven months after Christine’s disappearance, Morin had this conversation with the Detectives relating to his arrival home: Morin: I got home at maybe 5:00 – 5:30 for sure.
Shephard: You told us 4:30, Guy.
Morin: Gosh 4:30 look it takes me an hour easily. I’m sure I’m quite sure, I know I had easily good, groceries bags. It takes time to shop and my time was immediately out of touch with Christine Jessop.
Shephard: You told us you were home at 4:30, you told us that 3 or 4 times.
Morin: You think I was home around 4:30, okay let’s say I was, if that’s what I told you I mean time usually I would get home around 4:30 but that day I told you I even went shopping. I remember coming in with all the grocery bags. Devine was there too, I do remember that for sure but even if I was home at 4:30 I have no idea, I never saw her that day.
The cops were fishing and trying to adjust his schedule so that he would have had enough time to kidnap and kill Christine even if 4 different witnesses corroborated his arrival home at 5:30. It was humanly impossible for Morin to have done this in so little time. And who remembers the exact time they get home, especially if they stopped for groceries? You usually have to reflect on it first. They had tunnel vision and during this precious time, Christine’s murderer was slipping away.
The investigation focused on demeanor evidence: why was he so calm? Why didn’t he participate in the search of the missing girl and why didn’t he attend her funeral? And finally, what a weird guy he was.
On the day of Christine’s disappearance, after Janet had scoured the neighborhood in a panic to find her daughter, she called the York Regional Police for help. Within minutes, a team arrived at the Jessop residence, including 15 emergency vehicles, 17 police offices, and the K-9 dog handler unit. They combed the neighborhood for clues and gathered evidence.
A few months later, on December 31st, 1984, her body was found in a ditch approximately 56km from her home. She had been sexually assaulted and murdered. There were traces of sperm but DNA testing was not an option at the time.
On the day of the disappearance, when the cops went next door to ask if they had heard or seen anything, Ida Morin was interviewed and the officer later stated that Guy Paul sat silently and looked straight ahead during the whole time. That’s all it took to direct all of their attention on him because they perceived his behaviour as suspicious.
The dog handler also reported that the police dog had placed its paws on the passenger side window of Guy Paul’s car.
Ken Jessop was asked to provide a statement that was later lost by the sergeant. No fingerprint evidence was collected at the Jessop’s home and Janet was coaxed into changing her time of arrival.
Even after uncovering that Ken and some of his friends had molested Christine before her disappearance, that Janet Jessop’s husband was in prison at the time and that the kidnapping might have meant an earlier release for him, or that Janet was strangely calm, Guy Paul Morin remained the main suspect.
Fiber and hair evidence
After finding fibers and hairs on Christine and in Morin’s car, the police obtained an arrest warrant. He proclaimed his innocence through a six-hour-long interrogation. The inquiry proved that the hair and fibre evidence collected from the body site, from Guy Paul Morin and from his car and home was essentially valueless even if it was crucial to the trial.
The Morin and Jessop families were in contact with one another. Morin’s father sat in the Jessops’ car to help them search for their daughter. Morin’s parents paid the victim’s family a condolence visit after Christine was buried. Morin himself assisted them with their furnace. All of these occasions provided an opportunity for various fibers to be transferred back and forth between the families.
But perhaps even more significant, is the fact that the Morins and the Jessops used the same laundromat.
The police were made aware of that fact and even if after a fiber transfer test was conducted, and it became obvious that it was a normal laundry transfer, they sat on it and kept it quiet. This illustrates the dangers of withholding evidence.
The Final Verdict
After the appeal was filed and the traces of semen were tested with new DNA techniques that proved Morin’s innocence, he was finally a free man and had his criminal record changed to indicate a complete acquittal.
The judicial inquiry into the case took place in 1997. It discovered that the inmates’ testimony was not reliable, as the court had been led to believe, since the prisoners obtained benefits in return for testifying against Morin. It also discovered that the analysis of the hairs and fibers was not as rigorous as had been first assumed. The laboratory where the forensic testing had taken place had been identified as having contamination problems, as the scientists did not always wear lab coats, so fibers from their clothing may have found their way onto microscope slides. Also, the importance of the evidence had been overstated – the hairs and fibres found on Christine Jessop had similarities with those found in Guy Paul’s car, but that did not prove that the girl had been in the car.
The final report made 119 recommendations. Many of them have been implemented since then, including the establishment of the DNA bank in 2001, and policies in Canadian Law are regularly under review with the aim of preventing miscarriages of justice in future.
Following the inquiry into his wrongful conviction, Guy Paul received a settlement of 1.25 million Canadian dollars to compensate him for the time he lost after spending 18 months in prison and having the charges hanging over him for more than ten years.
A huge chunk of that money went to his parents because of the fortune they spent to hire excellent defense attorneys. After his acquittal, Guy Paul managed to rebuild his life, married in 1995 and now has a family of his own. He continues working as a handyman but as a private contractor. His love of music and good nature have not faded a bit. The Jessops have suffered a lot and after their divorce, they both moved away from the area. They both hope the case will be solved one day.
International Wrongful Conviction Day is a great initiative to remind us all that things are not always as they seem and we must be very careful not prejudge a defendant because he stands on his head in the interrogation room, does not show the emotions expected, plays the banjo, smirks or seems plain weird. We have to be vigilant and keep an eye open so the system does not repeat the same tragic mistakes.
Video of Herbert Blitzer on Strengthening Forensic Science