Lawyer tack­les tough cases

The Barrie Examiner - - FRONT PAGE - MIRIAM KING

BRAD­FORD — Care­less po­lice work and “tun­nel vi­sion,” fo­cus­ing on a sin­gle sus­pect. Flawed foren­sics and er­rors in the pathol­o­gist’s re­port. Vul­ner­a­ble in­di­vid­u­als pushed to con­fess, or to ac­cept a plea bar­gain, with the threat of a lengthy sen­tence held over their head.

James Lock­yer has made it his mission to re­visit the cases of the wrong­fully con­victed, those who, over their years be­hind bars, have never wa­vered in their protes­ta­tions of in­no­cence.

He uses the very ma­te­ri­als col­lected through the orig­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions, but this time, ex­am­ined through the lens of ob­jec­tive anal­y­sis and new science.

Lock­yer was guest speaker at the Brad­ford West Gwillim­bury and District Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion’s Rooted in Com­mu­nity evening re­cently at Green Val­ley Al­liance Church in Brad­ford.

In front of a full house, Lock­yer de­scribed the care­ful analy­ses that cleared in­di­vid­u­als like former judge Jac­ques Delisle, 77, con­victed of mur­der­ing his wife of 50 years, Ni­cole Rainville.

Delisle spent five years in pri­son be­fore the ex­pert wit­nesses, brought in by Lock­yer to re­view the orig­i­nal X-rays, iden­ti­fied ev­i­dence that strongly sup­ported a the­ory of sui­cide, a the­ory al­ways main­tained by the fam­ily of the vic­tim.

“They never doubted that their grand­mother had in fact com­mit­ted sui­cide, and that their grand­fa­ther had noth­ing to do with it,” Lock­yer said.

Delisle spent five years be­hind bars for a crime that never hap­pened.

Wil­liam Mullins-John­son spent nearly 11 years in jail, branded a mur­derer and child mo­lester.

Mullins-John­son had been babysit­ting his four-year-old niece Valin and her lit­tle brother.

At bed­time, he tucked the lit­tle girl in, and af­ter check­ing on her once, went to sleep on a couch down­stairs. In the morn­ing, the par­ents dis­cov­ered Valin dead in a pool of vomit.

A pathol­o­gist claimed the lit­tle girl had been sex­u­ally mo­lested and stran­gled; Mullins-John­son was ar­rested.

Mullins-John­son, tes­ti­fy­ing at his ap­peal, said he never doubted the pathol­o­gist’s re­port. “They’re sup­posed to be the pro­tec­tors of so­ci­ety. Yeah, I be­lieved she was (mur­dered), but it wasn’t me. When I was con­victed, it de­stroyed me.”

It split apart his fam­ily. MullinsJohn­son ended up sus­pect­ing his brother of the crime. It shat­tered his life.

And it turned out that the pathol­o­gist was wrong. The re­port was based on mis rep­re­sen­ta­tion and “flawed” patho­log­i­cal ev­i­dence.

There was no sex­ual as­sault. There was no mur­der; Valin died of nat­u­ral causes.

Two years af­ter Lock­yer launched the ap­peal, Wil­liam MullinsJohn­son was ac­quit­ted, his con­vic­tion quashed, but the case re­mains an ex­am­ple “of the harm the mis­car­riage of justice can cause not only to the in­di­vid­ual, but the fam­i­lies,” Lock­yer said.

Oth­ers cleared through the ef­forts of Lock­yer and his As­so­ci­a­tion in De­fence of the Wrong­fully Con­victed in­clude Guy Paul Morin, Stephen Tr­us­cott, David Mil­gaard and Romeo Phillion, all con­victed of mur­der, all in­no­cent.

Lock­yer and his or­ga­ni­za­tion are cred­ited with 25 ex­on­er­a­tions of the wrongly con­victed.

As for how many peo­ple are sit­ting in jail for crimes they did not com­mit?

“I have no idea,” Lock­yer said, sug­gest­ing a “very con­ser­va­tive” es­ti­mate is 3%.

He sup­ports the cre­ation of a pub­licly funded, in­de­pen­dent tri­bunal to look into claims of wrong­ful con­vic­tion.

“Put it right out­side a court­house,” Lock­yer said.

MIRIAM KING/POST­MEDIA NETWORK

James Lock­yer, de­fender of the wrong­fully con­victed, was the guest speaker re­cently at an event in Brad­ford.

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