Author: Sarah Harland-Logan

Introduction

On October 3, 1984, nine-year-old Christine Jessop disappeared sometime after being dropped off at home by the school bus. When her parents came home, they found her school bag on the counter, but there was no sign of Christine. By early evening, her parents realized that something was terribly wrong and her mother called the police. Although the search for Christine lasted several days, there was no sign of her at all.[1]

Christine’s body was not found until December 31, 1984, over 50 kilometers from her home. Christine had been stabbed to death. Investigators discovered semen stains on her underwear. Christine’s mom described her as “a happy, sensitive, lively, caring” fourth grader who “loved school and … sports, particularly baseball.” On January 7, 1985, Christine was buried in the cemetery behind her family home where she used to play. Her shocking, untimely death is all the more tragic in that her killer has not yet been brought to justice.[2]

At the time of Christine’s disappearance, Guy Paul Morin was working as a finishing sander with a furniture manufacturing firm. He also played the saxophone and clarinet, was a bee-keeper, and helped his father with renovations on the family home. Guy and his parents would later testify that on the day Christine vanished, Guy had brought the groceries in, taken a nap and then worked on the renovations until after dinner.[3]

The police first became interested in Guy on February 14, 1985, when Christine’s mother mentioned that their neighbor was a “weird-type guy” who played the clarinet. On February 19, police set up surveillance of the Morin home. On February 22, Guy was interviewed by two police officers. During this interview, Guy did not say anything that objectively could have been construed as a confession nor did he give any indication that he was responsible for Christine’s death. Nonetheless, the officers suspected he was responsible for her murder. The police thought it strange that Guy knew that Christine’s remains had been found across the Ravenshoe Road despite the fact it was public knowledge at the time. They also did not like the sound of a comment he made to the effect that “All little girls are sweet and beautiful, but grow up to be corrupt.” In addition, Guy made a snarky remark about his innocence, perhaps because he was irritated at being treated as a suspect.

After this interview, the investigators obtained Guy’s time card from work, which suggested that it would have been difficult or impossible for Guy to return from his job and abduct Christine before her parents’ return. However, the police remained convinced that this “weird-type guy” had sexually assaulted and murdered her.[4]

Guy was arrested on April 22, 1985. Later that evening, the police searched the Morin home and took samples of his hair, blood, and saliva, which Guy voluntarily gave. During his six-hour interrogation, Guy repeatedly stated that he was innocent, but a full decade would elapse before his exoneration.[5]

Guy’s First Trial

On January 7, 1986, the first of Guy’s two trials began. During this four-week event, the jury heard expert evidence suggesting that a hair stuck in Christine’s necklace “matched” Guy’s hair sample, and similarly, that three hairs found in Guy’s car “matched” Christine’s. Further, the experts testified that a number of fibres located on Christine’s clothing and recorder case could have come from Guy’s home and car.

The jury also heard from two of Guy’s cellmates – Mr. May and someone identified only as “Mr. X” – that he had confessed to killing Christine while incarcerated prior to his trial. Guy, in fact, never confessed anything in prison.

The defence team maintained that it was impossible for Guy to have left work at the hour indicated on his time card and have arrived at Christine’s house with enough time to commit the crime. Guy’s lawyers also argued that the hair and fibre evidence did not really prove anything, and they called their own experts who disagreed with the Crown experts’ analysis.[6]

On February 7, 1986, the jury reached a verdict of not guilty. Guy was acquitted and set free. However, his struggle to clear his name had only just begun.[7]

The Crown’s Appeal and Guy’s Second Trial

On March 4, 1986, the Attorney General of Ontario launched an appeal of Guy’s acquittal. The Crown claimed that the trial judge had made a mistake in directing the jury about the meaning of “reasonable doubt” and that the acquittal should therefore be thrown out and Guy retried. The Court of Appeal agreed, and on June 5, 1987, it ordered a new trial. Guy appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, but that Court dismissed his appeal on November 17, 1988. Guy was out of options; he would have to stand trial again.[8]

This second trial began on May 28, 1990. The new jury heard similar evidence about the supposedly incriminating hairs and fibres, and about Guy’s alleged confession to Mr. May, overheard by Mr. X. Moreover, the jury also heard a great deal of new evidence from witnesses who had not testified at the first trial, but who had now recalled a wide range of damaging information – much of it focused on aspects of Guy’s behaviour shortly after Christine’s death that, in the witnesses’ opinion, had reflected his guilty conscience. For example, the Crown called a police constable who claimed to have visited the Morin residence on the night of Christine’s disappearance. The constable testified that he saw Guy, who appeared unconcerned that the young girl from next door had gone missing. Another member of Guy’s band testified that she had been shocked at the “very uncaring” way that he had remarked on Christine’s death. The Crown also called Christine’s best friend, who testified that the two girls had had several conversations with Guy – during which he had kept such a tight grip on his hedge clippers that his knuckles turned white. Another neighbor, Paddy Hester, testified that Guy had chased her away from his car (where the incriminating hair and fiber evidence had been found). Finally, Christine’s mother testified at the second trial that after Christine’s funeral, she and several guests had heard a man’s voice screaming, “Help me, help me, Oh God, help me.” She believed that this frightened, desperate voice was Guy’s.[9]

On July 30, 1992, Guy was found guilty of first degree murder.[10]

Guy’s Appeal and Acquittal

Fortunately, not everyone believed that Guy had committed this heinous crime. Immediately after Guy’s wrongful conviction, a grass-roots organization sprang up to aid him in his quest for exoneration. This group was called the Justice for Guy Paul Morin Committee, and it was the seed from which AIDWYC was born. The group’s first objective was to help Guy to appeal his conviction and in the meantime, to apply for his release on bail while he waited for the appeal to be decided. Guy and the Committee were successful: despite his murder conviction, Guy was granted bail on February 9, 1993.[11]  In the wake of this decision, the Committee reconstituted itself as the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC), having decided to broaden its mandate from defending Guy, to working on behalf of all wrongly convicted Canadians.

Guy and what became the AIDWYC team had intended to win his appeal by demonstrating that neither the Crown’s hair and fibre evidence, nor the “jailhouse informant” evidence about his supposed confession, was reliable. But just days before they were to present these arguments to the Ontario Court of Appeal, DNA test results came in that made these issues moot. Several previous attempts to perform DNA testing on the semen stains found on Christine’s underpants had been unsuccessful, but the technology had now advanced enough that a more sophisticated test could be conducted. This test proved that the DNA in question could not belong to Guy. The Crown prosecutor explained the new findings to the Court as follows: “The evidence proves as an indisputable scientific fact that Mr. Morin is not guilty of the first degree murder of Christine Jessop, and should be acquitted.”[12]

On January 23, 1995, the Ontario Court of Appeal set aside Guy’s conviction and entered an acquittal instead. The Crown prosecutor expressed his “deepest regret for all that” Guy and his family “had to endure.” Ten years after his arrest – and having spent 18 months in prison – Guy had finally proven his innocence and cleared his name.[13]

On June 26, 1996, the Lieutenant Governor ordered that a public inquiry be conducted into the causes of Guy’s wrongful conviction. The resulting report, which was released in April 1998, identified numerous factors that had contributed to this egregious miscarriage of justice.[14]

Causes of Guy’s Wrongful Conviction: Tunnel Vision

The root cause of Guy’s wrongful conviction is a dangerous and all too common phenomenon known as “tunnel vision.” Commissioner Kaufman, who wrote the Inquiry’s report described tunnel vision as “the single minded and overly narrow focus on an investigation or prosecutorial theory” – in this case, the theory that Guy had killed Christine – “so as to unreasonably colour the evaluation of information received and one’s conduct in response to the information.”[15] It is easy for police and prosecutors to fall into tunnel vision, particularly if they are under intense pressure to solve or prosecute a case. Tunnel vision is therefore a common feature found in many miscarriages of justice.[16] Moreover, “it is a trap that can capture even the best police officer or prosecutor,” because “it is mutually reinforcing amongst police officers [and] … prosecutors.” Tunnel vision must therefore “be guarded against vigilantly.”[17]

One way that prosecutors must guard against this trap is by keeping in mind that their role is not to secure a conviction, but rather to ensure that justice is done. This means that their role “excludes any notion of winning or losing,” as the Supreme Court put it in the now-famous case R v Boucher. In fact, the current Ontario Crown Policy Manual specifically comments that prosecutors must be “open to the possibility of the innocence of the accused person and avoid ‘tunnel vision.’”[18]

Sadly, the prosecutors who worked on Guy’s case lost sight of these obligations. Commissioner Kaufman observed in his report that there were “various instances where the prosecutors called evidence which, objectively viewed, was highly suspect. At times, their perspective was coloured by their strong views as to [Guy Paul] Morin’s guilt,” and “they were unable … to objectively view the evidence” or to “be at all introspective about the very serious reliability problems with a number of their own witnesses.” Commissioner Kaufman also found that some of the people involved in Guy’s investigation and prosecution still suffered from “‘tunnel vision’ in the most staggering proportions” at the inquiry proceedings, despite the fact that Guy had been acquitted due to incontrovertible DNA evidence.[19]

Causes of Guy’s Wrongful Conviction: Bad Science

In the Conclusion to his Report, Commissioner Kaufman commented that, “An innocent person was convicted of a heinous crime he did not commit. Science helped convict him. Science exonerated him.” It is very fortunate that we now live in an era where miscarriages of justice like Guy’s can be rectified through DNA testing. However, Guy was wrongly convicted in the first place due in part to the hair and fibre evidence that supposedly linked him to Christine’s murder. Commissioner Kaufman found that the forensic scientist who analyzed the hairs failed to adequately explain the limitations of these findings, meaning that the police thought that they provided stronger evidence linking Guy to Christine than was actually true. Moreover, it is generally agreed today that hair comparison evidence is not reliable enough to be used in a criminal trial, due to the “inherent frailties” of this type of evidence. James Driskell’s and Kyle Unger’s cases are two known cases where hair microscopy evidence contributed to a wrongful conviction.[20]

The fibre evidence put forward by the Crown proved to be similarly unreliable. In fact, it was contaminated during the forensic investigation and although the scientists working with the fibres realized what had happened, they kept this information from the police and prosecutors. Leaving aside the contamination problem, the fibre evidence simply did not support the Crown’s position that it provided a link between Guy and Christine. Rather, the similarities observed between the fibres found on Christine’s clothing and those from Guy’s home and car were “equally explainable by random occurrence or environmental contamination” at the scene.[21]

Disquietingly, as forensic science continues to evolve, it has become clear that many other forensic scientific techniques are much less reliable than we once believed. Shoe print comparison, bite mark analysis, firearm tool mark analysis, and other such techniques that have never been properly tested remain potential causes of wrongful convictions. Furthermore, even generally reliable, properly validated forensic techniques such as DNA typing and serology can produce inaccurate results if the samples are contaminated (as the fibre samples were in this case). Finally, the experts tasked with interpreting forensic scientific evidence for the court may make mistakes that can contribute to miscarriages of justice, as in the many wrongful convictions resulting from the infamously inaccurate testimony of Dr. Charles Smith.[22]

Causes of Guy’s Wrongful Conviction: Unreliable Witness Testimony

As discussed above, a number of witnesses testified at Guy’s second trial to a range of damaging things, all of which turned out to be untrue. In fact, by the time of the Inquiry, some of the witnesses had realized and admitted that the evidence they had given was wrong. Commissioner Kaufman found that there were several problems with these witnesses’ “late-breaking revelations.” First, this type of “consciousness of guilt” evidence – i.e., evidence that is meant to show that the accused felt guilty or was otherwise displaying inappropriate emotions – is in general of very little value. Second, some witnesses actively decided to change their testimony in order to help convict Guy, since they strongly believed that he was guilty. These witnesses were influenced by the police and prosecutorial tunnel vision discussed above, and by the understandable but pernicious need to believe that the man who had committed this terrible crime would indeed be brought to justice. It is a sad irony – and a common one in wrongful conviction cases – that the miscarriage of justice that Guy suffered may have ensured that the real killer will never be caught.[23]

The third reason for the unreliability of these witnesses’ testimony is simply that human memory is far more malleable than most people realize. In the words of Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, one of the leading experts on human memory, people are “particularly prone to having their memories be affected by misinformation when it is introduced after the passage of time has allowed the original event memory to fade.”[24] Commissioner Kaufman caustically noted that “it is truly remarkable the extent to which the memories of a number of Crown witnesses improved as the proceedings progressed” and that some of this “improvement” was “a product of an interviewing process … that was not designed to create unreliable evidence, but which nonetheless had that very effect.” For example, prior to Ms. Hester’s informing the police that Guy had chased her away from his car, the police had actually told her about the forensic evidence that had been found there, and that they believed that Guy was indeed guilty.[25]

Causes of Guy’s Wrongful Conviction: Reliance on Jailhouse Informants

Another cause of this miscarriage of justice was the false testimony of the jailhouse informants, Mr. May and Mr. X, who claimed that while he was incarcerated, Guy had confessed to killing Christine. Unlike the witnesses described above – who believed that they were telling the truth, and/or that they were helping to put a heinous criminal away – these informants deliberately lied, simply to further their own interests. Both Mr. May and Mr. X. had lengthy criminal records, and had made offers to implicate other inmates in addition to Guy. Moreover, Mr. May was diagnosed as a pathological liar by experts at Guy’s second trial and he went on to tell several people that he had committed perjury at both trials. Mr. X had been diagnosed as having a personality disorder with sociopathic tendencies, including suggestibility and a propensity to lie.[26]

Jailhouse informants have contributed to many wrongful convictions. According to statistics compiled by the Innocence Project at the Cardozo Law School in New York:

In more than 15% of wrongful conviction cases overturned through DNA testing, an informant testified against the defendant at the original trial. Often, statements from people with incentives to testify – particularly incentives that are not disclosed to the jury – are the central evidence in convicting an innocent person.[27]

Given the alarming unreliability of jailhouse informers’ testimony, Commissioner Kaufman concluded that the prosecutorial policy at the time did not adequately take into account the dangers of using this type of evidence. He noted that most jailhouse informants “wish to benefit for their contemplated participation as witnesses for the prosecution,” and that the use of these informants in criminal proceedings should therefore be “significantly limit[ed]” in order to avoid further miscarriages of justice.[28]

Today, Crown Prosecutors are required to view jailhouse informers’ purported evidence in a much more skeptical and vigilant light. For example, the Ontario Crown Policy Manual states that jailhouse informants’ evidence “requires a rigorous, objective assessment of the informer’s account of the accused person’s alleged statement, the circumstances in which that account was provided to the authorities and the in-custody informer’s general reliability.” The Manual notes that “a principal purpose of this policy is to help prevent miscarriages of justice, which can occur when in-custody informers falsely implicate accused persons” – as did the two jailhouse informants in Guy’s case. [29]

Wounds that AIDWYC Cannot Heal

Guy spent 10 years of his life – and 18 months in prison – living with the stigma of a horrifying crime: the sexual assault and murder of a nine-year-old girl. As Commissioner Kaufman phrased it:

The criminal proceedings against Guy Paul Morin represent a tragedy not only for Mr. Morin and his family, but also for the community at large: the system failed him – a system for which we, the community, must bear responsibility. An       innocent man was arrested, stigmatized, imprisoned and convicted. The real killer has never been found. The trail grows colder with each passing year. For Christine Jessop’s family there is no closure.[30]

Although nothing can restore to Guy the years of his life and the peace of mind that were taken from him, he received $1.25 million and a public apology in compensation for his wrongful conviction. Despite this miscarriage of justice, Guy has been able to get married, raise children, produce a CD of his clarinet music, and develop his skills as a repairperson. As the years go by, however, it becomes less and less likely that Christine’s real killer will ever be caught and that this little girl and her family will ever get the justice they deserve.[31]



[1] The Honourable Fred Kaufman, CM, QC. “Chapter 1: The Scope and Nature of the Inquiry,” Report of the Kaufman Commisssion on Proceedings Involving Guy Paul Morin (1998), pp. 54-55, available at: http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/morin/morin_ch1.pdf [“Inquiry”].

[2] Ibid at pp. 51, 53; The Honourable Fred Kaufman, CM, QC. “Executive Summary,” Report of the Kaufman Commisssion on Proceedings Involving Guy Paul Morin (1998), pp. 3, 31, available at: http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/morin/morin_esumm.pdf [“Executive Summary”].

[3] “Inquiry,” supra note 1 at pp. 52-53; “Executive Summary,” supra note 2 at pp. 2, 34.

[4] “Inquiry,” supra note 1 at pp. 64-66; “Executive Summary,” supra note 2 at pp. 21-22, 26.

[5] “Inquiry,” supra note 1 at p 66; “Executive Summary,” supra note 2 at p. 26.

[6] “Inquiry,” supra note 1 at p. 64, 68-70.

[7] “Inquiry,” supra note 1 at p. 71.

[8] “Inquiry,” supra note 1 at pp. 2, 71.

[9] “Inquiry,” supra note 1 at pp. 69, 73, 77; “Executive Summary,” supra note 2 at pp. 26-33.

[10] “Inquiry,” supra note 1 at p. 1.

[11] Ibid at p. 78

[12] “Inquiry,” supra note 1 at pp. 1, 12, 78-79.

[13] Ibid at p. 12; R v Morin, [1995] OJ No 350, 37 CR (4th) 395 (Dubin CJO) at para 13; Cynthia J. Faryon. Real Justice: Guilty of Being Weird: The Story of Guy Paul Morin. Toronto: James Lorimer & Co., Ltd., 2012, at pp. 127, 135 [Guilty of Being Weird].

[14] Guilty of Being Weird, supra note 13 at p. 135.

[15] The Honourable Fred Kaufman, C.M., Q.C.: “Recommendation 74,” Report of The Kaufman Commission on Proceedings Involving Guy Paul Morin: Recommendations, p. 26, available at: http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/morin/morin_recom.pdf [“Recommendations”].

[16] See discussion in Truscott (Re), 2007 ONCA 575, 225 C.C.C. (3d) 321.

[17] The Right Honourable Antonio Lamer, Commissioner. The Lamer Commission of Inquiry Pertaining to the Cases of: Ronald Dalton; Gregory Parsons; Randy Druken – Report and Annexes. June 21, 2006, p. 71, available at: http://www.justice.gov.nl.ca/just/publications/lamerreport.pdf; “4. Tunnel Vision.” FTP Heads of Prosecutions Committee Report of the Working Group on the Prevention of Miscarriages of Justice: http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/cj-jp/ccr-rc/pmj-pej/p4.html#foot114.

[18] “Role of the Crown: Preamble to the Crown Policy Manual” (pp. 1-2), Ontario Crown Policy Manual, 2005, available at: http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/crim/cpm/2005/CPMPreamble.pdf (citing R v Boucher (1954), 110 CCC 263).

[19] “Executive Summary,” supra note 2 at pp. 11, 26, 39.

[20] Ibid at p. 5; The Honourable Fred Kaufman, CM, QC. “Conclusion,” Report of the Kaufman Commisssion on Proceedings Involving Guy Paul Morin (1998) at p. 1, available at: http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/morin/morin_concl.pdf [“Conclusion”]; The Honourable Patrick J. LeSage, Q.C. Commissioner. Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Certain Aspects of the Trial and Conviction of James Driskell, January 2007, p. 180, available at: http://www.driskellinquiry.ca/.

[21] “Executive Summary,” supra note 2 at pp. 6-7.

[22] For more information on these topics, see The Innocence Project, “Understand the Causes: Unreliable or Improper Forensic Science,” at http://www.innocenceproject.org/understand/Unreliable-Limited-Science.php.

[23] “Executive Summary,” supra note 2 at pp. 20, 26, 33.

[24] Elizabeth F Loftus, “Planting Misinformation in the Human Mind: A 30-year Investigation of the Malleability of Memory” (2005) 12 Learning & Memory 361-366 at 361.

[25] “Executive Summary,” supra note 2 at pp. 20, 29.

[26] Ibid at pp. 9-10.

[27] “Understand the Causes: Informants.” The Innocence Project: http://www.innocenceproject.org/understand/Snitches-Informants.php

[28] “Recommendations,” supra note 15, #37 and #37 (pp. 11-12).

[29] Ontario Crown Policy Manual: “In-Custody Informers,” available at: http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/crim/cpm/2005/InCustodyInformers.pdf.

[30] “Inquiry,” supra note 1 at p. 1.

[31] Ibid at p. 3; Guilty of Being Weird, supra note 13 at pp. 127-128.