COFFIN'S MINING CLAIMS AND EXPENSES
I post now a literal translation of part II of Chapter 4. I shall post soon Part III (the last part) of that chapter 4 concerning Coffin's expenses. Also coming soon, the posting of Chapter 7 on
COFFIN’S MINING CLAIMS AND EXPENSES
Coffin’s mining claims
(My literal translation)
It matters however to call attention to two more statements that Monsieur Jacques Hébert made in his second book .
First, while “admitting having no proof of it" (page 122), Monsieur Hébert writes that :
« some people interested in the prospector’s mining claims wished he were dead in order to appropriate them to themselves easily. Those people would not have anything to do with Coffin’s arrest but would have rejoiced about it and would have contributed to his ruin in intimidating witnesses.” (pages 121 and 122)
Moreover the author accuses the Crown of having concealed, at the trial, the importance of Coffin’s discovery. (page 122) :
«This theory bears a certain likeness, says he, when one examines Coffin’s attitude regarding his claims: he showed interest in them until his last breath, convinced of having struck it rich.
Two or three days after his arrest, he had declared to someone whose identity was not disclosed: « Tell them to look after the mountain with their life. It is rich and important. ».
This sentence, is it necessary to say so, was not reported at the trial and the police have never bothered asking Coffin the meaning of it.»
This last statement, underlined by the Commission is false like many others. In fact, constable Synnett has reported, at the trial, a conversation which had taken place in his presence between Wilbert Coffin and his father, during the adjournment in the course of the last sitting of the coroner inquiry on the 27th of August 1953; and Synnett has then testified as follows before the jury:
« Q. Now, will you tell us the conversation held between the father and the son?
A. Well, they spoke about different things, then it came to the subject about a mountain, and the accused, Wilbert Coffin, told his father, Mr. Albert Coffin, to tell the boys at home to guard that mountain with their lives because it was worthwhile, there was something rich in it.
Q. Did he say where that mountain was?
A. No, he didn’t state where the mountain was. And he added to this: “don’t worry,
Dad, I’ll be home soon because they are not man enough to break me.” and his father said: “hang on, son.” he shook hands on that and he left.
Q. Were those the last words of the conversation on either part?
A. Yes, these were the last words.”
It is false to pretend that Coffin’s statement regarding his mining claim has not been brought to the knowledge of the jury, and if Coffin had wanted to explain further, he could have testified on this matter in all freedom.
On the other hand, at page 122 of his same book, Monsieur Jacques Hébert derives from Coffin’s pseudo testament the following argument (page 122) :
« Coffin alluded to his mining claims which, according to him, were worth a fortune. One may recall that in his testament, drafted a few hours before his hanging, at the Bordeaux jail, the prospector had bequeathed all his property to his son: : « I bequeath everything I have or may have to my dear son James… » Coffin possessed nothing except mining claims which might have been worth a lot of money: « may have... ».
(The underlined words are from Jacques Hébert)
This text constitutes the « schedule » attached to the last statement written by Maître François-de-B. Gravel and signed by Wilbert Coffin on the eve of his execution. The Commission has therefore examined Maître Gravel on this matter and, in reply to the questions asked by the legal counsel of the Commission, Maître Gravel has testified as follows :
« Q. In other respects, monsieur Gravel, on the last page titled « Schedule “A”, appears the text that we already knew: « I bequeath everything I have or may have to my dear son James. » This is also your writing, isn’t it ?
Q. Could you tell us if this text was dictated to you by Coffin, or if it is of your own composition ?
A. … may be, there are certain words « bequeath », it was put – suggested by me. Before leaving and after the drafting of all of exhibit 293, I asked him if he wanted to leave something to his son. He told me that he wanted to leave everything to his son.
Q. He told you that he wanted to bequeath everything to his son ?
A. To his son, and it is for this reason…
Q. You then drafted this text ?
Q. What I wished to know, was : if there was a particular reason for reading in the text « Everything I have or may have ».
Q. Is there a particular reason for using the two expressions : « I have or may have » ?
A. I may tell you right away monsieur Deschênes, it’s… I knew that my client was affected by civil degradation, at that time, I knew that he did not have the right to transmit his property, and I used those words that you see in schedule A, and Wilbert Cofin also read it, has had the sheet in his hands, and signed it.
Q. Was there some motive that must be implied behind this text « Everything I have or may have » ?
A. Absolutely nothing.
Q. I ask you this question because in his book filed as exhibit number 13, you undoubtedly noticed that at page 122, monsieur Jacques Hébert derives an argument from those two expressions « I have or may have » regarding Wilbert Coffin’s mining claims. I refer you to the fifth paragraph. Were there such hidden intentions regarding Wilbert Coffin’s mining claims when this text was drafted « I bequeath everything I have or may have. » ?
A. No, monsieur Deschênes, I am sure, because those four sheets have been drafted within a few minutes, and it was meant in general regarding all the property Coffin had and that he could bequeath, if the law so permitted him.
Q. Has he spoken to you in particular of his mining claims at that time?
Q. Then, you gave to the word « may » the meaning of : « in futura » ?
A. In as far as the law would permit him. »
On the basis of the testimony of the drafter of the text, one must want to make into a novel to find some concealed intention that Coffin had not expressed nor wanted to put in it.
On the whole, the Commission comes to the conclusion that not only there is no proof that Coffin had held in 1953, mining claims particularly rich which may have had an impact on his trial and execution, but, on the contrary, the fact that Coffin has let go his claims when for a small amount of money he could have kept them in force. This would indicate that he himself did not attribute to them a great value. (to be followed)