Monday, May 5, 2008
Part Five: Who Is Edward Charles Splatt? From Guy Paul Morin to Edward Splatt: Lessons Unfortunately Not Learned;
Guy Paul Morin;
Edward Charles Splatt with journalist Stuart Cockburn;
"INDEED, AT THE VERY SAME TIME THAT THE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON PROCEEDINGS INVOLVING GUY PAUL MORIN WAS SCRUTINIZING AND REPORTING ON THE INADEQUACIES OF THE CENTRE FOR FORENSIC SCIENCES THAT CONTRIBUTED TO THE WRONGFUL CONVICTION OF GUY PAUL MORIN, MANY SIMILAR OR ANALOGOUS PRACTICES WERE TAKING PLACE A STONE’S THROW AWAY AT THE OFFICE OF THE CHIEF CORONER FOR ONTARIO. IT IS IRONIC THAT AT THAT TIME, BOTH INSTITUTIONS WERE HEADED BY THE SAME PERSON."
CLOSING SUBMISSIONS; ASSOCIATION IN DEFENCE OF THE WRONGLY CONVICTED AND MULLINS-JOHNSON GROUP;
One of the most important perspectives coming out of the Goudge inquiry was provided by lawyers Louis Sokolov on behalf of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) in his closing submissions.
Sokolov pointed out that many of the flaws in the area of forensic science identified by Justice Fred Kaufman as contributing to the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin had been observed in cases involving Dr. Charles Smith being studied by Commissioner Goudge.
Justice Kaufman presided over the Inquiry into the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin: See earlier posts: Part Three: Who Is Edward Charles Splatt? The Guy Paul Morin Connection; Part Four; Who is Edward Charles Splatt? More on the Guy Paul Morin Connection;
The link between the Kaufman Inquiry and the injustices attributed to Dr. Charles Smith was made by lawyers representing the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) and the Mullins-Johnson Group in their closing submissions to the Goudge Commission.
"This is the seventh commission of inquiry in this country arising from miscarriages of justice, and the sixth that AIDWYC has taken part in," the lawyers pointed out.
"There is much in these submissions that has been said before by AIDWYC and others in the context of the other public inquiries, but nonetheless bears repeating because many of the factors than contribute to miscarriages of justice (e.g. tunnel vision, inadequate scientific evidence, poorly resourced defence counsel, lack of an independent and effective error correction body) continually reappear notwithstanding the good efforts of those commissions," they continued.
"Indeed, at the very same time that the Commission of Inquiry on Proceedings Involving Guy Paul Morin was scrutinizing and reporting on the inadequacies of the Centre For Forensic Sciences that contributed to the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin, many similar or analogous practices were taking place a stone’s throw away at the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario. It is ironic that at that time, both institutions were headed by the same person."
I have focused on Sokolov's submissions in an article published in the most recent issue of the AIDWYC Journal entitled, "AIDWYC lawyers cross-examine Dr. James Young at the Goudge Inquiry" - and sub-titled "Deja Vu."
According to the Internet Dictionary: "The phrase "Déjà vu" is French for "already seen" and is used to refer to when a person experiences the feeling that they have seen, experienced, or been someplace before even when they are sure that that is not really true."
"As the Goudge Inquiry winds to a close, most of us want to believe that important lessons will be learned so that in the future innocent parents and caregivers will be spared the horror of being cast as murderers because of the failings of forensic science and forensic scientists," the article began.
"However, the cross-examination of former Chief Coroner Dr. James Young by AIDWYC lawyers Lewis Sokolov and Vanora Simpson – with its evocation of the abuses of forensic science that led to the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin, might somewhat temper our optimism," it continued.
"After all, Dr. Young was also a witness at the Kaufman Inquiry into Morin's wrongful conviction as Assistant Deputy Solicitor General with responsibility for the Centre for Forensic Science which had come under intensive scrutiny for its role in connection with the Morin case.
Indeed, Justice Fred Kaufman concluded in his 1998 report that:
"A large number of CFS scientists perform their work with distinction. On the other hand, it would be a serious mistake to assume that the failings identified are confined to two (2) scientists. A number of those failings are rooted in systemic problems, many of which transcend, even the CFS and have been noted in cases worldwide where science has been misused. Dr. -- Dr. James Young, assistant Deputy, Solicitor General with responsibility for the CFS, apologized on behalf of the CFS for any role in Guy Paul Moran's conviction and advised the Commissioner that he had not appreciated the depth of issues which – which would arise at the Inquiry."
Flash forward almost ten years to 2007, and Dr. Young is in the hot-seat at the Goudge Inquiry where he is being questioned in the context of the positions he held as Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Coroner for many years.
I could not help but feel an enormous sense of "déjà vu" as Sokolov drew Dr Young's attention to some of Justice Kaufman's findings in Morin, including:
0: The limitations upon scientific findings were not accurately or adequately communicated to police, prosecutors, the defence, and – to the courts;
0: Scientific findings were overstated at times;
0: Evidence was lost;
0: There were at times a loss of object -- objectivity inconsistent with the proper role of a forensic scientist.
0: Forensic reports were not being reduced to writing so that they could later be viewed by others for purposes of certainty and accountability; (Justice Kaufman recommended that there should be a written policy for forensic reports);
Young agreed with Sokolov that, "Much of the findings and indeed the recommendations regarding the Morin Report, need not only concern the (Centre of Forensic Sciences) but concern the wider issues of forensic science."
Coming back to my sense of "déjà vu," here we were ten years later, Dr. Young was in the witness box admitting errors in the system, and we had spent the last three months hearing a mountain of evidence involving overstatement of scientific opinions, failure to disclose the limitations on scientific findings, sloppy forensic reports, loss of evidence - and, above all, forensic scientists testifying for the state who displayed lack of objectivity consistent with the proper role of a social scientist.
Haven't we heard that before?"
I concluded by signing the article: "Harold Levy; (Who in spite of all this believes the Goudge inquiry is immensely important, believes compensation for Dr. Smith's victims cannot come soon enough, and remains an incurable optimist)."
Admittedly, when one considers all of the alarm bells relating to Dr. Charles Smith over the years - and the failure of his superiors in the Chief Coroner's Office and the Hospital for Sick Children to reign him in - it is getting harder and harder to retain that sense of optimism.