Thursday, October 2, 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014; Wrongful Conviction Day: Romeo Phillion; Ontario, Canada; An innocent man locked up in penitentiary for 31-years in spite of a police report - not disclosed to the defence - which indicated that he was far away from the scene of the crime. And now the Ottawa Police and Province of Ontario are going to Canada's highest court in a bid to block his claim for compensation for negligence and prosecutorial wrongdoing. Reporter Colin Perkel; The Canadian Press. (What better argument for establishing Wrongful Conviction Day? Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;)

PUBLISHER' S VIEW (Editorial); Romeo Phillion spent 31-years in penitentiary as a murderer before having his conviction quashed by the Ontario Court of Appeal. He was never provided a police report that initially verified a alibi showing that he was far away from the murder scene when the crime was committed. If he had been provided that report he could have nailed down his alibi and sold it to the jury. Instead, deprived of one  of the most potent elements of a defence he was convicted, and the murderer went free. Ottawa police should be leaning  backwards to make amends to Phillion for their  flawed investigation with its  tragic consequence. The Government   of Ontario should be striving to learn from the ugly episode so that others will not be convicted in similar circumstances in the future. Instead, the police and Government are aligned in a bid in Canada's highest court to block Phillion from getting a cent in compensation. This is mean, unjust and perhaps cruel, when you consider  his lawyer  David Robins suggestion (I hope he is not right)  that, “They’re ragging the puck. (They’re) hoping that he’s going to get old and pass away while they appeal.” Shame on the Ottawa police. Shame on the Ontario government. Their actions in the Phillion case make perfectly clear why  we need a Wrongful Conviction Day in Canada or anywhere else  in the world  where criminal justice justice systems are subject not just to human error, but to abuse of power by police and governments. And show me any jurisdiction in the world  where this is not the case.

Harold Levy: Publisher The Charles Smith Blog.

STORY: "Top Court asked to block Romeo Phillion wrongful prosecution lawsuit,"  by reporter Colin Perkel, published by The Canadian Press  on October 2,  2014.

PHOTO CAPTION:  "Romeo Phillion looks on during a break in his appeal trial at the Ontario Courthouse in Ottawa, Monday Feb. 1, 2010. Phillion, the longest serving inmate in Canada to have a murder conviction thrown out, faces a potential new obstacle in his bid to sue those involved in his prosecution."

GIST:  "The longest serving inmate in Canada to have a murder conviction thrown out faces a potential new obstacle in his bid to sue those involved in his prosecution. Ottawa police and the province of Ontario are asking the Supreme Court of Canada to block Romeo Phillion, who spent 31 years in prison protesting his innocence, from pursuing his lawsuit for negligence and prosecutorial wrongdoing. “They’re ragging the puck,” his lawyer, David Robins, said Wednesday. “(They’re) hoping that he’s going to get old and pass away while they appeal.” While it is far from certain the country’s top court will agree to hear the appeal, Phillion’s supporters are unhappy at having to fight anew simply to have his lawsuit considered on its merits. The Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted planned a news conference for Thursday – on the first International Wrongful Conviction Day – to draw attention to the case.".........In quashing the conviction, the Appeal Court found that police had initially verified an alibi showing Phillion’s innocence but never told the defence about it, apparently because investigators subsequently found it to be untrue. Phillion sued for $14 million, alleging negligence and wrongdoing by prosecutors and two Ottawa police officers. In April last year, an Ontario Superior Court justice decided the suit would be an abuse of process because the Appeal Court had already rejected suggestions of wrongdoing by police or Crown and that too much time had passed to try Phillion’s claim now. However, the Court of Appeal ruled in July that Phillion should at least have a chance to put his case to a jury. “It would further bring the administration of justice into disrepute to grant a stay in these circumstances and deprive the appellant of any opportunity to seek financial redress for his conviction when he did not have the opportunity to present a full defence at his trial,” the Appeal Court ruled."

The entire story can be found at:

See also AIDWYC's account of the Phillion case, by Sarah Harland-Logan; "More than 20 years later, in 1998, Romeo’s case took a surprising turn. His parole officer gave him an envelope containing police reports from his Corrections Canada file. One of these documents was a police investigation report that had been prepared on April 12, 1968 by prepared by the investigating officer, Detective McCombie. This report appeared to provide Romeo with an alibi: it indicated that Detective McCombie had spoken to a Trenton service station operator who confirmed that Romeo had been in Trenton between 12 and 1 p.m. on August 9 – the day of Leopold’s murder – “therefore making it impossible for him to return to Ottawa by 2:45 p.m. at the time the murder was committed.”[20] This possible alibi had never been raised in Romeo’s trial. In fact, his lawyer specifically stated at trial that there was “no issue” with the fact that Romeo had been in Ottawa at the time of Leopold’s death.[21] Finally, Romeo had compelling evidence with which he could get his case reopened. He sent Detective McCombie’s report to the Innocence Project at Osgoode Hall Law School. On May 15, 2003, the Innocence Project and AIDWYC submitted a s. 696.1 application for ministerial review to determine whether Romeo’s conviction was a miscarriage of justice.[22] Romeo was awarded bail while the Minister of Justice considered the application, bringing an end to his 31 years spent in prison. Although Romeo could have applied for parole much earlier, he had refused to do so because he felt that that applying for parole would be tantamount to admitting that he had killed Leopold. Romeo continued to insist that he was innocent.[23] On August 2, 2006, the Minister of Justice ordered that the Ontario Court of Appeal reopen Romeo’s case.[24] The judges heard evidence to determine why Detective McCombie’s 1968 report giving Romeo a verified alibi for the time of the murder had never been disclosed to his lawyer.[25] In its decision, the majority of the Court concluded that the Crown had not intentionally pursued their case against him knowing that he was innocent.  The majority found that there was a great deal of confusion surrounding whether and when the police learned further information that discredited this alibi. Detective McCombie testified that after submitting the April 12, 1968 report, he had retrieved tow records of Romeo’s car showing that he could actually have made it back to Ottawa in time to have killed Leopold.[26] However, there was no evidence to confirm that Detective McCombie had in fact made this trip and found evidence that discredited the alibi. Justice Moldaver stated in his decision that “the tow records … and the occurrence report that Detective McCombie claims to have prepared upon his return from Trenton – if these items in fact existed and were deposited there – had gone missing from the [police] property room by January 1972 when … [Romeo] was charged” with Leopold’s murder.[27] Justice Moldaver did not conclude that Detective McCombie was lying, given his distinguished career and sterling professional reputation.[28] However, he found the complete lack of documentation confirming Detective McCombie’s supposed trip to Trenton to be “disturbing,” though perhaps not particularly surprising, given the numerous other exhibits that the police had lost and could not locate for Romeo’s trial.[29] Regardless of what exactly happened in the sloppy police investigation, it was perfectly clear that the Crown prosecutor had a copy of the April 1968 report, which was never disclosed to Mr. Cogan, Romeo’s lawyer.[30] As a result, Mr. Cogan was unable to use the report – which, as noted by Justice Moldaver, “would have been gold in his hands” – to cross-examine the officers about Romeo’s alibi.[31] Therefore if Mr. Cogan had known about the report, Romeo’s trial would likely have gone very differently, and Romeo probably would not have spent the following three decades in prison.[32] The Court of Appeal overturned Romeo’s conviction and ordered a new trial.[33] However, the Crown withdrew the murder charge against Romeo on April 29, 2010, since there was no reasonable chance that the new trial would result in his conviction."

See  AIDWYC press release announcing a press conference to be held later today, bearing the heading, "government and police continue in their effort  to halt Romeo Phillion's compensation claim."..."The Attorney General for Ontario and the Ottawa Police are once more trying to prevent Romeo Phillion from being compensated for the 31 years he spent in prison for a murder he did not commit.  The Attorney General and Police tried to stop his action for compensation as soon as he made it.  In July of this year, the Ontario Court of Appeal said his claim must proceed.  Now they are trying to stop it again by appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada.  It was earlier this week they appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Coincidentally, Thursday, October 2 is the first International Wrongful Conviction Day.  The day was created by the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) and at least eight countries will be involved.  It should be a day of celebration for Romeo Phillion, but instead it is another day of advocacy for him. Mr. Phillion, now 75, spent a decade longer in prison than any others of the wrongly convicted in Canada.  After more than 31 years, he was released and it was another 7 years before his name was finally cleared when the Crown withdrew the murder charge at his retrial in Ottawa.  Mr. Phillion commenced an action for compensation for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment.  Since then, the Attorney General and Ottawa Police have done everything they can to delay and obfuscate his action.   In July 2014, Justice Kathryn Feldman of the Court of Appeal for Ontario said: “It would further bring the administration of justice into disrepute to deprive Mr. Phillion of         the opportunity to seek financial redress for his conviction when he did not have the       opportunity to present a full defence at his trial.”"


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Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;