Monday, April 21, 2008

Mullins-Johnson: Vows To Be A Thorn In The Side Of Justice;

William Mullins-Johnson has displayed his inspiring resilience in an address he recently gave to the Manitoulin-Northshore Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Service conference.

Mullins-Johnson's address appears in today's Sudbury Star under the heading "Island group hears from MD's victim", as reported by Margo Little;

A Sault Ste. Marie man wrongfully convicted in the death of his four-year-old niece in 1993 pledges to be a thorn in the side of the Canadian justice system.

"William Mullins-Johnson spent more than a decade in prison before being acquitted in 2007," the story begins.

"I did go through 12 years of hell when I was in jail," he told delegates to the Manitoulin-Northshore Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Service conference Friday. "And in many ways I'm still going through hell," it continues.

"Mullins-Johnson shared his traumatic ordeal with a gathering of community volunteers trained to assist victims of tragic circumstances. The theme of the 9th annual VCARS forum held April 17-18 was "Through the Eyes of a Victim."

His nightmare started on June 27, 1993, when Valin Johnson's lifeless body was found in her bed around 7 a.m. Mullins-Johnson had been staying at his brother Paul's place while attending school and working at an electrical equipment warehouse. By 6:30 p.m., Mullins-Johnson had been arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

The prosecutors relied heavily on expert witness Dr. Charles Smith, then regarded as Ontario's leading expert on child deaths.

Smith had conducted more than 1,000 autopsies at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children. Eventually, a coroner's review of Smith's work would reveal questionable findings in 20 child autopsies. Thirteen of the 20 resulted in criminal convictions - including the Mullins-Johnson case.

Despite protestations of innocence, Mullins-Johnson was convicted in September 1994 after a two-week trial and sentenced to life imprisonment with no parole for 25 years. If prison authorities expected him to accept his fate, they would be proven wrong.

Since he had been labelled a child sexual offender, his life was in danger every moment. In prison hierarchy, child molesters, or "skinners," are viewed as "scum."

"Just the accusation destroys your life. It literally destroyed me," he said. "I went through an emotional breakdown in prison. I suffered insomnia, my head was churning and I couldn't sleep. I would have strung myself up or slit my wrists if it wasn't for a native elder I met there."

With the help of his spiritual advisor, he was able to shed some weight and set aside the pot and pills he had been taking. Through native sweat-lodge rituals, weight-training and exercise he grew strong enough to educate himself about his case and the inner workings of Canadian prisons.

Recognizing that knowledge is power, he started reading sociology and criminology. By January 2005, the association for the wrongly convicted took an interest in his battle for freedom.

"A major turning point came in February 2005 when the results of a review of the forensic file were released. The report authored by Dr. Michael Pollanen confirmed there was no positive medical evidence that Valin Johnson was murdered.

Also, there was no positive medical evidence that the child was sexually assaulted at any time.

The Pollanen conclusions were backed up by Dr. Bernard Knight of Wales as well. He confirmed there was no evidence of a homicide or of sexual injury."