Former prosecutor in Morin case appointed to bench



Feb. 7, 2004

Seven years after Ontario Crown prosecutor Susan MacLean told an inquiry into Guy Paul Morin's wrongful murder conviction that she was unable to accept his exoneration, Ms. MacLean has been appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice.

The only prosecutor to pursue Mr. Morin through both his 1986 trial and 1992 retrial for the murder of nine-year-old Christine Jessop, Ms. MacLean will serve in the very region where Mr. Morin was arrested and jailed for eight months prior to his first trial.

"You're kidding," Mr. Morin said this week. "I guess that's how this old system of ours works. But you know my saying -- anything that you say can and will be held against you -- so that's all I want to say."

Mr. Morin was acquitted at his original trial. The Crown appealed and he was convicted of first-degree murder at the retrial.

In 1995, he was exonerated by DNA testing. Mr. Justice Fred Kaufman, who headed the 1997 inquiry, said Mr. Morin had been a victim of startlingly flimsy evidence, terrible judgment and "tunnel vision" by police and prosecutors.

James Lockyer, Mr. Morin's lawyer at the inquiry, said the appointment is "troubling. A common thread to wrongful convictions in Canada and other countries is that those who played an important role are never held accountable," he said.

"As a member of the bench, it is essential to always have an open mind and not to be too closely associated with police -- as she was found to have been as one of the Morin prosecutors."

Jack Pinkofsky, Mr. Morin's trial lawyer, said it is worrisome that someone as "one-sided and strident" as Ms. MacLean was appointed. "We can only hope she will be a more balanced judge than she was a prosecutor," he said.

However, Kaufman commission counsel Mark Sandler applauded the appointment.

"It's quite clear that she took the inquiry as a learning experience," he said.

"It obviously made her a better Crown, and it will make her a better judge."

In a stunning moment at the year-long inquiry, Ms. MacLean said there was simply too much evidence for her to share her government's stated belief in Mr. Morin's innocence.

She rhymed off a list of evidence she continued to find compelling, saying it left her with conflicting emotions.

"I'm really appalled," Mr. Morin told reporters afterward.

"I'm disgusted to see this type of person the Attorney-General has representing the public."

Two days after her explosive statements, Ms. MacLean had a dramatic change of heart. She broke down in tears and apologized for having cast doubt on Mr. Morin's exoneration and acquittal. "I'm not proud of having been involved in the prosecution of someone who is innocent," she testified. "I've lost sleep over it. I'm still trying to grasp it."

In his final report, Judge Kaufman found that unsavoury jailhouse witnesses had been offered inducements, Crown witnesses were coached and dubious evidence was advanced by prosecutors who lost their objectivity and became far too close to the police.

In a typical example of this relationship, Ms. MacLean's private notes from the trial had referred to Mr. Morin modelling himself after exonerated killer Donald Marshall. "Should we let Morin ride on Marshall's coattails? Me, too? Me, too?" she wrote.

"Are we going to let Marshall be used to let rapist-murderers of nine-year-old girls get off?"

Mr. Morin reacted sharply to the Kaufman findings.

"If it were regular Joe Blows who screwed up this way, they would be out of their jobs," Mr. Morin said at the time.

"Well, these are just bigger Joe Blows. Will the Attorney-General follow through on the severity of these mistakes? Should charges be laid?"

The fate of Mr. Morin's other prosecutors:

Leo McGuigan retired shortly after the exoneration. He does occasional contract work for the Ministry of the Attorney-General.

Prosecutor Alex Smith is a senior manager at the ministry, working on law and technology projects.

Prosecutor John Scott continues to be chief Crown counsel for the Oshawa region.

Four other lawyers were appointed to the Ontario Court yesterday: Kofi Barnes, S. Ford Clements, Paul Currie and Howard Chisvin.



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 Madam Justice Susan MacLean