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