In an era of sensationalist and superficial courtroom coverage, of quickie paperbacks and titillating TV movies about high-profile cases, Redrum the Innocent stands out as a work of substance. Author Kirk Makin, who covered the trial of Guy Paul Morin for The Globe and Mail, has produced not only an impressive piece of journalism, but also a disturbing portrait of Canada’s criminal justice system. Redrum (which is “murder” spelled backwards, and refers to a key piece of evidence) mounts a convincing case for the theory that, in its handling of the vicious 1984 sex slaying of nine-year-old Christine Jessop and the two trials of Morin, the justice system failed both the victim and the accused.
REDRUM THE INNOCENT By Kirk Makin (Penguin, 795 pages, $27.99)
Based on 2 Vá years of research (including 200 hours interviewing Morin, who steadfastly maintains his innocence), Redrum provides revealing insights into the workings of the
police and the legal system.
The book begins with the disappearance of Jessop from her home in Queensville,
Ont., about 60 km north of Toronto, on Oct. 3,1984, and a farmer’s subsequent discovery of her shattered and decomposing body. In April,
1985, the Durham Regional Police arrested the Jessops’ next-door neighbor, Guy Paul Morin, for the murder. Almost a year after his arrest, a London, Ont., jury acquitted Morin. In June, 1987, the Ontario Supreme Court ordered -
another trial, which began in London in November, 1991, and ended with his sentence to life in prison in July.
With a complex eight-year legal battle as its subject, the narrative of Makin’s book sometimes wanders amid the sheer mass of material. But it never gets lost, and Makin’s presenta-
tion of the facts is rivetting. The most disturbing aspect of the book is its portrayal of the police investigation of Jessop’s murder. Apparently acting largely on their assessment of the admittedly eccentric Morin as “weird,” the Durham investigative team homed in on Morin and, by Makin’s account, too easily discounted other suspects. Aggravating that myopic investigation was the police’s clearly careless handling of evidence. Wiretap and interrogation tapes were lost or erased and potentially vindicating evidence was misplaced or tainted.
Missing in Redrum itself is the police response. Makin told Maclean’s that while he was covering the second trial for The Globe, “I knew I had to be on good behavior if I ever wanted to talk to them.” In the end, the officers refused to talk to Makin—a refusal that he attributes to his coverage of the trial.
Still, Makin has written a fascinating account of a hei-
nous crime and of one of the
most controversial convictions in Canadian judicial history. More than anything, Redrum the Innocent leaves an overwhelming impression of loss—of money, of time and, most poignantly, of a child’s life and a young man’s future.
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