Friday 1 May 2020

INNOCENT PERSONS WRONGFULLY CONVICTED                                                    (Part one)

Being accused of committing a crime that you didn’t commit is a horrendous event in anyone’s personal life. I speak as an authority on this subject.

In the last century, I was accused twice of committing two minor crimes that I didn’t commit. I went after the two cops who had accused me of those minor crimes after I was acquitted of both crimes. The first cop I went after had his promotion s suspended for five years. I chose to wait seven years before I went after the second cop. I waited until he became the chief of police. I sent my report to the city council and they asked me to attend the chief’s hearing. I addressed the city council about how their chief had framed me for a crime I hadn’t committed and why he was fired from the Toronto Police Force when he was an ordinary police officer. When I was finished with my address, half an hour, later, the city council fired their dishonest chief of police. 

Being accused of those minor crimes was a terrible experience to me but I didn’t suffer as badly as some innocent persons did.

In 1969 I was the chairman of a task force that comprised of three members of the Ontario legislature, two criminal court judges, three law professors, and the city prosecutor, two lawyers in which one later became the chief justice of Ontario and the other became a member of Canada’s Supreme Court.  We were to advise the Ontario government as to whether or not innocent persons accused of crimes they didn’t commit should be compensated. After the government read our conclusion. that became the practice in Ontario and later all over Canada. One man spent 24 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. He was set free and awarded ten million dollars.

Many years ago, there was a man in New York City who was accused by a police detective of committing a murder that he didn’t commit. It was the detective’s testimony that the innocent man was convicted and sentenced to death. On one occasion, he was just two hours from being executed in the electric chair.  Several years later when the detective was on his death bed, he confessed that he framed the man for the crime he didn’t commit. The man was released from prison and awarded $2000 dollars which would be $8.000 in today’s money.

In 1964 when Ontario Legal Aid was created in Toronto, it comprised of three people which was the director, his secretary and me. My job was to investigate crimes committed by the applicants for Legal Aid and report my findings to the lawyers representing their accused clients.   

In one case, the convicted murderer was a young man who was charged and convicted of murdering his mother He was sentenced to life in prison. His lawyer asked me to investigate the murder. In the course of my investigation, I found small specks of blood on the wall in the woman's bedroom that the police missed. Without going into detail of my investigation, I was convinced that it was a left-handed man who had committed the murder. It was a right handed man who was serving life in prison. The prosecutor and the court agreed with my findings. The innocent man was released from prison and the left handed man was charged with the woman’s death but he died before his trial was scheduled. Incidentally, the innocent man was originally convicted because the left hand man testified that he saw the right-handed man commit the murder.

In another case I investigated, the man was accused of murdering a prostitute in his living room. He was facing the death penalty. When I interviewed him, he said that he heard a noise at his kitchen window and thought it was a burglar trying to break into his second story apartment. While he was choking the woman, he heard a voice in the short dead end lane that yelled, “What’s going on up there?” He told the police as to why he choked the woman and about the voice in the lane. He also told the police that he dragged the woman through the opened window and dragged her body to the living room and tried to resuscitate her but he failed.  He called the police and they didn’t believe his explanation. They were convinced that he killed the woman in his living room  so they charged him with capital murder. 

His lawyer asked me to find the unknown man in the city that then had a population of several million residents.  I found him the next y day because at the corner of the street was a tavern. I figured that the man had been in the tavern and when he left the tavern at one in the morning, he had to take a pee. He chose to pee in the mall lane next to the building the accused lived in. A man in the tavern told me that he was with the man who had to pee in the lane and he gave me his name. I found the man in the city jail and he gave me a written statement that it was him who saw the commotion at the window on the second floor. Further, the police didn’t even check to see if the fingerprints of the woman were on the metal fire escape that she had climbed up to get to the window. Her prints were on the fire escape.  The prosecutor withdrew the charge of capital murder and the man was charged with manslaughter because he killed the woman while he was drunk and forgot the arrangement he made with the woman the previous day in which he was expecting the woman at the kitchen window as previously arranged since the front door buzzer didn’t work. He was sentenced to five years in prison for manslaughter and was released after he served four years in prison.

The Canadian Parliament was debating the issue of capital punishment in 1975 soon after I returned from the United Nations Congress where I was a speaker at the Congress that was being held at the UN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.  One of the members of parliament asked the director of Ontario Legal Aid to locate and send him the transcript of a trial in which the lawyer who had been  representing a man charged with Capital murder, I found the transcript and It was sent to the member of Parliament.

 But I decided to look further into the execution of the man who was represented by the insane lawyer. The man was convicted of murdering a five-year-old girl. At his trial, he had claimed that he was beaten by the police into confessing  to the murder he hadn’t committed. Despite his appeal hearings in which were not successful,  he  was hanged.

During my investigation, I contacted the aunt of the murdered girl. She told me that years later after the man was hanged, the police told the family that the wrong man was hanged. They found out who really killed the small girl but they couldn’t arrest him since he was in a hospital for the insane. 

I sent my findings to the Canadian parliament and forty members of the House of Commons and the Senate  thanked me by writing me.  The former prime minister told me personally that when he read my report, he called his party together to vote for the abolishment of capital punishment.  One of them said in Parliament that I was right when I said that there is nothing more horrifying than executing a person for a murder he or she didn’t commit.

I have no qualms about child killers, persons who torture their victims to death, mass killers, serial killers and terrorists being put to death. That option isn’t available in Canada. However, murders inCanada who kill more than one person will serve 25 years in prison for every person they kill and the sentences are to be served consecutively. 

Recently, a man in Nova Scotia killed 22 persons in a small community. If he hadn’t been shot dead by the police, he would be sentenced 22 times of 25 years to be served consecutively which amounts to 550 years before he could apply for parole. Obviously, he wouldn’t have to serve that many years in prison but was a sure way of him serving the rest of his life in prison if he hadn’t been shot dead by the police.  

Capital punishment was removed from the Canadian Criminal Code in 1976. It was replaced with a mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole for 25 years for all first-degree murders. In 1998 capital punishment was also removed from the Canadian National Defence Act, bringing Canadian military law in line with the civil law in Canada.

In my next article, I will tell you about what killers  in other countries did and what their sentences were.

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