JUSTICE

Morin fights back

A murder case stirs the legal community

D'ARCY JENISH January 18 1993
JUSTICE

Morin fights back

A murder case stirs the legal community

D'ARCY JENISH January 18 1993

Morin fights back

JUSTICE

A murder case stirs the legal community

D'ARCY JENISH

On a day last week when the skies above Kingston Penitentiary were as gray as the prison’s massive limestone walls, Guy Paul Morin sat in the institution’s visitors’ centre discussing his uncertain, and potentially grim, future. Morin was clean-shaven, his hair was neatly combed and his prison-issue green work pants matched the green pullover he wore. It has been almost eight years since Morin, now 33, was charged with the murder of Christine Jessop, his nineyear-old neighbor in the village of Queensville, Ont., 60 km north of Toronto. And it has been nearly six months since a jury in London, Ont., convicted him of first-degree murder following the longest murder trial in Canadian history. Since then, some legal experts have claimed that a flawed police investigation and errors at Morin’s trial may have led to the conviction of an innocent man. On Jan. 18, Morin’s lawyers will begin presenting arguments to the Ontario Court of Appeal aimed at securing his release on bail while his case is appealed before the same court. As he waited in prison last week, Morin proclaimed his innocence—just as he has since the moment he was arrested. Morin told Maclean’s: “I should not have been in here for one second.”

An intense man with a quiet but forceful voice, Morin rarely displayed anger, dejection or bitterness as he discussed the legal ordeal that began with his arrest on April 22, 1985. In February, 1986, a jury found him not guilty of killing Jessop after a five-week trial. But the Ontario Court of Appeal later overturned that verdict on the grounds that the judge made legal errors in his charge to the jury. The appeal court ordered a second trial. After nearly two years of pretrial legal arguments, Morin’s second trial began in November, 1991, and lasted 8V2 months before ending with a guilty verdict. In an exclusive interview Morin stated: “I never believed that I would be found guilty during either trial because I know I’m innocent.” In fact, last week there were reports that the

police investigated a possible new suspect— Christine Jessop’s grandfather, Gordon Simpson, a wealthy stockbroker who died in 1985.

Morin expressed delight over the reports that police had reopened the Jessop investigation. “I’ve been hoping for this to happen,” Morin said. “It’s good news.” But the truth behind those reports remained unclear. In

Toronto, lawyer James Lockyer, one of four lawyers working on Morin’s appeal, told Ontario Chief Justice Charles Dubin that investigators with the Durham Regional Police force had reopened their case and may have a new suspect. According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, police recently investigated the possibility that Gordon Simpson might have been the murderer. But a spokesman for the Durham force, which handled the murder investigation, denied that any new investigation was under way.

Barring new developments in the case, or the granting of bail, Morin could spend two years behind bars before his appeal is resolved. Lockyer said that it may take that long to

prepare the legal arguments because the transcripts from Morin’s case run to nearly 70,000 pages. In the meantime, there are signs of growing public interest in the case. In Redrum the Innocent, a best-selling book about the Christine Jessop case published in November, author Kirk Makin raises doubts about Morin’s conviction (page 54). And many Toronto criminal lawyers apparently share Makin’s opinion. Said one lawyer, who spoke to Maclean’s on the condition that he would not be identified: “The view of the profession is as unanimous as I’ve ever seen it. They’re horrified by this verdict, and this is a profession full of cynics.” The long and tangled case began when Christine Jessop, a frail young girl, was brutally murdered after she disappeared from her home on Oct. 3, 1984. According to a school bus driver, the girl arrived home from school at about 3:45 p.m. that day but her parents, Robert and Janet Jessop, who have since separated, and her adoptive brother, Kenneth, then 13, were not at home. Janet Jessop and her son arrived later, but by then Christine had been abducted. Her disappearance triggered a massive search involving hundreds of Queensville residents.

Almost three months later, on New Year’s Eve, the girl’s body was discovered on an isolated piece of wooded property in the municipality of Durham, about 50 km east of Queensville. One of the investigating officers, Durham detective Bernard Fitzpatrick, observed that scavenging animals appeared to have eaten the upper half of the body and scattered her skull and some other bones around the site, while the bot•ç tom half of the body was badly ¿ decomposed. An autopsy sub^ sequently showed that ChrisM tine Jessop probably died of I stab wounds, and that she y may have been raped before I her death.

u In the ensuing weeks, Fitzpatrick, his partner John ■ Shephard and other Durham police officers began focusing on Morin as a suspect. According to trial testimony, the detectives became suspicious of Morin because of the way he lived and as a result of statements that they claimed he made during an interview in a police cruiser. Morin, who lived at home with his parents, had worked briefly in a furniture factory after completing a refrigeration and air conditioning course at George Brown College in Toronto. He was considered a loner with eclectic interests: he was a talented amateur clarinetist, a beekeeper and a tinkerer who liked to rebuild automobile engines and do home renovations.

According to Morin and his lawyers, part of the Crown’s case rested on the assessment of

the accused man’s character. “In the notebooks of one of the officers, I’m a weird type guy,” Morin said. “Why? Because I keep some bees, because I do some gardening, because I enjoy camping and fishing. Big deal. Once the police believe they’ve focused on the right suspect, they put their blindfolds on. Other suspects are ruled out.”

The investigating officers found two pieces of circumstantial evidence to link Morin with the murder.

The officers, along with experts from the Centre for Forensic Science in Toronto, found microscopic fibres in Morin’s car similar to those in Jessop’s clothing. The forensic experts could not determine the source of the fibres even after scrutinizing dozens of different items that the investigating officers had seized from the Morin residence. The officers also obtained a hair sample from Morin that the forensic experts concluded was similar in some ways to a hair found on the body of Christine Jessop.

Other than that, the case against Morin rested heavily on his own allegedly incriminating statements. At his second trial, Fitzpatrick testified that he and Shephard became suspicious of Morin after he told them in an interview that “All little girls are sweet and innocent, but grow up to be corrupt.” Another prosecution witness, Robert May, testified that Morin had confessed the crime to him one night in June, 1985, before Morin's first trial, while the two men shared a cell at the municipal jail in Whitby, Ont. May, who was co-

operating with the police, subsequently wore a concealed recording device in the cell, but failed to obtain an incriminating statement from Morin. Under cross-examination by defence lawyer Jack Pinkofsky in Morin’s second trial, May admitted that he had been a chronic liar who, at different times, had passed bad cheques, forged educational credentials and missed court appearances.

Besides the length and complexity of the proceedings, Morin’s second trial also produced startling revelations from some of the witnesses. Kenneth Jessop admitted that he and two other boys had been having sexual relations with Christine for several years before her death. Other testimony revealed sloppy police work in which evidence was either I lost, overlooked or damaged, g Robert Jessop testified that in I May, 1985, after his son com° plained repeatedly of having disturbing dreams about Christine’s death, he, his wife and Kenneth visited the place where the girl’s body had been found five months earlier. There they discovered four human bones lying on the exact spot where the girl’s body had been found. The Jessops turned the bones over to the Durham police, who later had the body exhumed and re-examined. A coroner determined that the bones were from the girl’s corpse.

Immediately after his conviction, Morin told Justice James Donnelly that he would appeal the verdict. By mid-December, his lawyers had submitted a formal notice to the Ontario Court

of Appeal giving 22 reasons why the conviction should be overturned. According to the defence team, Donnelly made numerous errors in law during his charge to the jury, which led to a charge that favored the prosecution case. The defence contends that the judge also erred when he refused to allow the defence to introduce evidence about other suspects.

For his part, Morin said that he remains confident that he will eventually win exoneration. For now, he said, he is concentrating on trying to adjust to life in prison. His parents, who have insisted from the start on their son’s innocence, visit him regularly. According to Q Morin, his parents exhausted

their personal savings to pay

for their son’s legal bills, u Morin said that his fellow injz mates at Kingston Penitentiary have generally been sympathetic. Many prisoners convicted of sexual crimes or

offences against children go into protective custody in special wards because they risk attack by other inmates. But Morin is living in the general population at the institution.

Still, he has had difficulty coping with the monotonous daily routine of prison life. Morin is allowed to have a personal computer in his cell, on which he plays chess and other games. He is also learning to type on the computer. Morin, who once spent his free time rebuilding engines, renovating the family home and building canoes, now works about six hours a day in a prison shop on the tedious job of repairing letter carrier mail bags for Canada Post. “Between my trials, my brother Ray and I built three cedar strip canoes,” he recalled. “They were so light one person could lift them. They were gorgeous.”

Morin said that he frequently dreams of regaining his freedom and being able to go fishing and canoeing, or to work in his garden and tend to his bees. He also said that he refuses to become dejected about what he insists was his unjust arrest, conviction and imprisonment. “I would still love to believe that the person who killed Christine Jessop will come forward on his own, or someone who knows this person will tell the authorities,” he said. But barring that unlikely development, Morin said that he will continue to fight to clear his name. “I will eventually prove that the police and the courts have done wrong,” he said, “no matter how long it takes.” Given the complexities and contradictions involved in the case, it could be several years before the courts decide whether Guy Paul Morin was treated fairly, or unjustly convicted of a crime he did not commit.

D’ARCY JENISH in Kingston