Defence possibly misled, prosecutor admits


A prosecutor who convicted Romeo Phillion of murder in 1972 swore yesterday that he would never suppress evidence - but then conceded that the Phillion defence team may have been inadvertently misled on several occasions.

Testifying at a rare hearing into the case of Mr. Phillion, who spent 31 years in prison for the 1967 murder of Ottawa firefighter Leopold Roy, prosecutor Malcolm Lindsay led off with an unequivocal assertion.

"I just wouldn't suppress evidence that would be useful to an accused's defence," Mr. Lindsay declared to Crown counsel Lucy Cecchetto. "All I can rely on is my own practice at the time and my own integrity. I disclosed evidence that was favourable to the defence."

However, Phil Campbell, a lawyer representing Mr. Phillion at the Ontario Court of Appeal hearing, accused Mr. Lindsay of going to great lengths to prevent Mr. Phillion's lawyer at the time, Arthur Cogan, from learning that police had verified his client's alibi.

Throughout the day, Mr. Campbell recited instances at Mr. Phillion's preliminary inquiry and trial in which Mr. Cogan blundered about in the dark, ignorant of the vital information the Crown was concealing.

"Did this put Mr. Cogan off track?" Mr. Campbell asked, after reciting a typical excerpt.

"Yes, it's possible, sir," Mr. Lindsay said.

On the day that Mr. Roy was stabbed to death in his apartment building - Aug. 9, 1967 - Mr. Phillion claimed to have been 300 kilometres away at a service station in Trenton, Ont., trading his car radio in exchange for a tank of gas.

What he and Mr. Cogan did not know was that investigators had concluded in a 1968 report that it was "impossible" for Mr. Phillion to have killed Mr. Roy because a Trenton service station operator had confirmed his alibi.

In fact, far from disclosing the existence of the report, police witnesses actually discredited Mr. Phillion's alibi by saying that no service station operators in the Trenton area had remembered him.

Mr. Lindsay acknowledged yesterday that notations scrawled on the 1968 report prove that he had read it.

Mr. Campbell argued that the suppression of the 1968 report was even more shocking in light of the fact that Mr. Lindsay had prepared a list of Trenton service station operators he could potentially trot out at the Phillion trial who would testify that they had never seen Mr. Phillion.