Hurricane Carter quits advocacy group amid dispute over appointment of judge
Colin Perkel Canadian Press
Friday, August 13, 2004
Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter holds his fist up and smiles as he and Joyce Milgard enter the Law Courts Building in Winnipeg on Nov. 27. (CP/Ruth Bonneville)
TORONTO -- A dispute over the appointment of an Ontario judge prompted one of Canada's best-known legal crusaders to step down Friday from the pro-justice group he helped found more than a decade ago.
Former boxer Rubin (Hurricane) Carter quit the Association in the Defence of the Wrongly Convicted after five lawyers on the board refused to condemn the naming of former prosecutor Susan MacLean to the Ontario Court of Justice.
''These lawyers, in my estimation, have hopelessly compromised (the association),'' Carter told a news conference.
''I will no longer engage in a power struggle with the board of directors.''
MacLean was a Crown prosecutor in the case of Guy Paul Morin, who spent more than 10 years as the prime suspect in the 1984 death of nine-year-old Christine Jessop before DNA evidence finally cleared his name in 1995.
Morin was tried twice, first in 1986 when he was acquitted, and then again in 1992 when a jury pronounced him guilty of first-degree murder.
In March, MacLean was appointed by Attorney General Michael Bryant to the Ontario Court of Justice.
Carter and others with the association publicly spoke out against the decision, but the refusal of the five directors to do the same undermined the group's integrity, said Carter, who helped found the association in 1993.
At a meeting about 10 days ago, Carter demanded the directors resign from the 20-member board, but they refused.
''We weren't prepared to agree with him,'' said Toronto lawyer, Paul Copeland, one of the board members.
''We declined to do what he told us to do.''
Copeland said he and two other board lawyers, including James Lockyer, who served as one of Morin's lawyers, took part in a news conference in March to protest McLean's appointment to the bench.
He called it regrettable that Carter had quit but said the organization, which has garnered international acclaim, would continue its work and he rejected suggestions it could no longer be effective.
But Carter - whose two decades behind bars for a New Jersey triple murder he didn't commit have inspired books, a song and a Hollywood blockbuster - suggested that wasn't enough.
Sporting a lapel pin with the word ''attitude'' and sounding like a preacher, Carter said the lawyers' refusal to condemn MacLean's appointment more forcefully had ''crippled'' the organization.
''We can no longer stand up for the truth,'' he said.
As a result, he said he had no choice but to resign as both executive director and member of the association, which he called his ''baby.''
He refused to answer any questions about his decision.© The Canadian Press 2004
Madam Justice Susan MacLean
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