Monday, October 13, 2008


I have a problem with the Sault Star editorial which appeared a few days after release of the Goudge report.

First the editorial - and then I will set out my problem.

"There's no way to provide true justice to William Mullins- Johnson, who spent 12 years in jail for the rape and suffocation of his niece, who actually died of natural causes," the editorial begins.

"But we must try to make things right for his sake and for the sake of our justice system," it continues.

"It's important to go beyond an apology and offer a generous compensation package.

We must make a determined effort to ensure such travesties don't happen in the future.

Justice Stephen Goudge just completed a 1,000-page report that offered 169 recommendations.

We're sure a number of these should be implemented, but we also believe some personal accountability is important, beginning with Dr. Charles Smith.

The disgraced pathologist was not involved in an isolated mistake.

He was the central figure in a long list of miscarriages of justice that touched hundreds, if not thousands of lives.

Mullins-Johnson said those responsible need to be held to further account.

"If they can't, then this whole thing of restoring public confidence goes for naught," he told Canadian Press.

Goudge said Dr. Smith deliberately frustrated attempts to call him to account and "actively misled" his superiors and the courts. If this isn't criminal, what is?

We're not looking for revenge.

Holding people to personal account serves as deterrents.

It sends a message to the public about how seriously we take such cases.

Was the system broken in the case of Mullins-Johnson and other victims?

Obviously it was, but though it arrived at a painfully slow pace, Mullins-Johnson was eventually set free and the truth is now coming out.

Let's remember that any system is only as good as the individuals involved. If we don't hold them accountable in some tangible way, we're certain to repeat these travesties over and over again."

Now here is my problem with the editorial.

The way it reads, William Mullins-Johnson's wrongful conviction could have taken place on Mars or Saturn - and not in the Sault as actually occurred.

No where is there a sense that this occurred in the Sault Star's own back-yard - if only to ask "did our community have anything to do with this miscarriage of justice?

What blame has to be shared by our local pathologist and other experts who took
part in the autopsy that led to the unconscionable rush to justice?

What blame, if any has to be shared by our police force - for laying a first-degre murder charge within 24-hours of Valin's death and before all of the forensic evidence was in?

Nor did the Sault Star take the trouble to question its reporting Valin's death - and its failure to intervene and ask tough questions when disturbing facts about William Mullins-Johnson's conviction were being revealed.

So the Star calls for systemic change and attribution of personal responsibility - while failing to look into its own soul - and that of the community it serves.

For shame.