29 mars 2008

LES DERNIÈRES VOLONTÉS ET LE TESTAMENT DE WILBERT COFFIN COMMENT LE TORONTO DAILY STAR LES A-T-IL OBTENUS?









LES DERNIÈRES VOLONTÉS ET LE TESTAMENT DE WILBERT COFFIN - COMMENT LE TORONTO DAILY STAR LES A-T-IL OBTENUS?
EXTRAIT DU RAPPORT DE LA COMMISSION BROSSARD
PARTIE VII, VOL. III
SUR CERTAINS INCIDENTS MAJEURS DE L’AFFAIRE COFFIN
Chapitre13 : LES DERNIÈRES VOLONTÉS DE WILBERT COFFIN – COMMENT UN JOURNAL LES CONNUT

Dans le dernier chapitre de son volume intitulé « Last Will and Testament », l’auteur Belliveau écrivit ce qui suit :

Page 152
« On the last day of his life, Wilbert Coffin wrote his will in the Bordeaux death cell in the presence of François Gravel, Rev. Sam Pollard and three police witnesses. He asked that this and a sworn statement he had made to lawyers in jail some months earlier be published by the Toronto Star because of its sympathetic and accurate coverage of his long case.
This was the will:”

Suit le texte de ce qui aurait constitué ce « Last Will and Testament » et le texte d’un « codicille » par lequel Coffin laissait « everything I have or may have to my dear son James ». À la fin du deuxième texte ainsi reproduit, on lit les mots suivants : « Copyright, Toronto Daily Star 1956 ». Ce document ne pouvait manifestement constituer une disposition testamentaire légale ni être l’objet d’un Copyright dans les conditions où il fut remis au Toronto Star dans les circonstances que nous allons examiner.
Au tout début de cette enquête, monsieur Belliveau, interrogé au sujet des circonstances dans lesquelles lui ou son employeur le Toronto Daily Star auraient obtenu possession de ce document et l’autorisation de le reproduire ne put le faire par suite du maintien par le président de cette Commission d’une objection formulée contre la légalité de cette preuve à ce stade de l’enquête.
Lorsque monsieur Belliveau revint témoigner lors de l’une des dernières séances tenues par la Commission, la preuve de ces circonstances fut permise pour le motif qu’elles étaient de nature à permettre à la Commission de juger des agissements de monsieur Gravel avant l’exécution de Coffin.
Ce ne fut pas sans difficulté que la Commission réussit à obtenir de Me Gravel la production d’un document original dont des reproductions étaient censées avoir été données tant dans le Toronto Daily Star du 10 février 1956, après l’exécution de Coffin, que dans le volume de monsieur Belliveau.
Le document produit par Me Gravel, sauf la signature de Wilbert CVoffin et ses initiales au bas de chaque page, fut entièrement écrit de la main de Me Gravel ; il comportait plusieurs ratures, un certain nombre de mots étaient parfaitement illisibles.
Une comparaison de ce document avec ce qui était censé en être une reproduction dans le livre de monsieur Belliveau, a révélé, entre le document original et la reproduction, les différences suivantes :
Dans le paragraphe relatif au refus essuyé par Coffin sur sa demande de se marier à sa « common law wife » Marion Petrie, les mots « due to Québec Authorities » furent remplacés par « due to a Government order ».
Dans le paragraphe relatif aux injustices dont Coffin se plaignait, les mots « I never had a fair deal » furent remplacés par les mots « I was not fairly treated. »
Le paragraphe suivant de l’original : « It is my express and firm wish that a statement I made to Mr. Gravel and Maloney in October 1955, be divulged to the public by my attorney François de B. Gravel, the whole at his own discretion” fut remplacé par ce qui suit: “It is my express and firm wish and desire that a statement which I made to my attorneys, Arthur E. M. Maloney of Toronto and François de B. Gravel of Québec City, when visiting me last October at the Bordeaux jail, be divulged to the public”.
Un paragraphe illisible de l’original dans lequel un mot seulement peut-être déchiffré semble avoir été reproduit par ce qui suit : « I greatly thank all those who worked in my defence ».
Le paragraphe original se lisant comme suit : « I will like express my thanks Maloney and Gravel and it is hard for me to tell them all my gratitude » a été remplacé par ce qui suit : « I would like to express my most sincere thanks to my counsels, François Gravel and Arthur Maloney, for all the work they have given my case… I am sorry to say that it is very hard for me to express all my gratitude”.
Les trois paragraphes suivants qui apparaissent dans le texte original n’apparaissent pas dans la reproduction du texte:
« I would like an allowance to son as victim of an unjust trial »
“Ask Marion to look after the child I would”
“Allow François to write for public a true story of my case”.
Devant cette Commission, monsieur John Edward Belliveau a donné les explications suivantes des circonstances dans lesquelles ce document signé par Coffin a été obtenu aux fins de reproduction dans le Toronto Daily Star.
À cause de la rivalité qui existait entre le Toronto Daily Star et le Toronto Telegram, chacun de ces deux journaux s’intéressa vivement aux derniers événements et développements de l’affaire Coffin. Belliveau était à Montréal avec un nommé John Gail, un reporter photographe, le matin du 9 février 1956 ; ils devaient se rendre à la prison tous deux pour s’y informer, entre autres choses, de la question de la commutation de la sentence et de la question du mariage possible entre Coffin et Marion Petrie.
Ils rencontrèrent Me Gravel le même matin; celui-ci devait lui aussi se rendre à la prison pour rendre une dernière et pénible visite à son client. Me Gravel, M. Belliveau et M. Gail firent route ensemble. M. Belliveau croit qu’au cours de ce voyage en automobile, il aurait dit à Me Gravel « that if coffin made any statement, any dying statement, or any statement before his death, of that character, that we would want it ».
Lorsque Me Gravel sortit de la prison, il leur parut fort affaissé.
Belliveau revit Me Gravel le même soir et croit que « they were together alone for a good deal of that time, a good deal of the evening », il croit que c’est à ce moment “that the question of the Last Will and Testament came up for discussion”.
Pour plus d’exactitude, je citerai certaines déclarations de M. Belliveau ou les résumerait en langue anglaise :
I may have asked Gravel to specifically see if there was anything that the accused man would say for publication, such discussions would have taken place, I imagine, some time on the 9th.
He supposed he would have learned about the Last Will and Testament during the evening from Gravel; he then asked him for the content of the document.
He thinks it was then that he also learned about the long affidavit of October; it was during that same evening that Gravel agreed to give him the content of these two documents.
He recalls that he made some conditions which would give the Toronto Daily Star the exclusive rights to the first use of this information.
There was a discussion of financial considerations along the line that the family had been put to a very great deal of expenses during the original trial and the various appeals and that Gravel had, in his association, gotten little or nothing from the family or any other source and that we might be assisting the family in some way, if we could make some financial consideration…
Ce serait au cours de la nuit qui suivit l’exécution de Coffin, cependant, que les tractations entre lui et Me Gravel, mais surtout entre Me Gravel et les représentants du Toronto Star à Toronto, par téléphone, au sujet d’une rémunération pour Me Gravel, se firent et que la transmission des textes, de Montréal à Toronto fut effectuée.
M. Belliveau ne croit pas avoir vu l’original du testament ou à tout événement avoir pu le lire en entier, car : « He has a feeling that, for some reason or other, Gravel did not let him see the entire document ». M. Belliveau ajoute : « I am quite certain that Mr. Gravel, in a room in the Mount Royal Hotel in Montréal, read this to me or read from a document that he had in his possession ».
M. Belliveau croit que, lorsqu’il transmit à son journal par télétype ou par téléphone le texte du testament qui lui avait été dicté par Me Gravel, il était au courant qu’une entente s’était conclue entre Me Gravel et ses employeurs.
Quant aux divergences entre l’original et la reproduction, M. Belliveau explique : « It seems possible that an attempt was made to provide a readable document. The changes, basically are changes in a language which make this into common English ».
Quant aux omissions que nous avons soulignées plus haut, M. Belliveau les attribue au fait que Me Gravel ne les lui a pas dictées. Il ne croit pas qu’elles soient imputables à l’ « Editorial Staff » du Toronto Daily Star, quoique cela soit toujours possible.
Monsieur Belliveau n’a pas vérifié sur l’original si le testament comportait véritablement une autorisation de publier soit le dernier testament, soit un affidavit antérieur, celui du 9 octobre 1955 ; il suppose qu’il y avait eu discussion entre lui et Me Gravel, antérieurement, quant à la possibilité pour Me Gravel d’obtenir une autorisation de son client à la publication de son affidavit ou de son testament et que cette discussion a dû prendre place le jour qui a précédé l’exécution, très probablement, le matin, durant le voyage à la prison.
Quant à l’affidavit du 9 octobre 1955, qui fut aussi reproduit dès le lendemain matin par le Toronto Star, les explications de M. Belliveau qu’il a dû obtenir une copie de cet affidavit de Me Gravel en même temps qu’il obtenait connaissance du dernier testament, sont beaucoup moins claires et concluantes. De cette partie du témoignage de monsieur Belliveau, il est permis de se demander si, en fait, cet affidavit n’était pas en la possession du Toronto Daily Star depuis avant l’exécution de Coffin et dans ce cas, qui aurait pu le lui remettre. On ne peut d’autre part constater qu’avec un certain étonnement la rapidité avec laquelle se serait effectuée, au cours de la nuit qui a suivi l’exécution de Coffin, la transcription du testament en une langue lisible, sa transmission au Toronto Daily Star à Toronto, la transmission d’une photocopie de la cédule « A » annexée au testament, la transmission du long affidavit du 9 octobre 1955 que Me Gravel aurait eu en sa possession, à Montréal, le jour de l’exécution, le tout en temps utile pour être reproduit dans la première édition du Toronto Star du lendemain avant-midi ; il a fallu que tout ceci se fasse avec grande rapidité peu de temps après le moment de l’exécution de Coffin.
Dans son contre-interrogatoire de monsieur Belliveau comme d’ailleurs dans son propre témoignage subséquent à celui de monsieur Belliveau, Me Gravel a tenté, sans succès quant à nous, d’établir que tout ce qui a trait à la communication par lui à monsieur Belliveau du testament de Coffin, aux ententes relatives à la reproduction de ce testament dans le Toronto Star, avec un prétendu droit de « Copyright », s’est exclusivement passé au cours de la nuit qui a suivi l’exécution.
Eu égard aux déclarations formelles de monsieur Belliveau, aux désirs exprimés par celui –ci, avant la visite à la prison le matin du 9, eu égard surtout aux dispositions qui ont été insérées dans le testament de Coffin, rédigé comme nous l’avons vu par Me Gravel et écrit de sa main, afin de donner à Me Gravel, et à lui seul, le pouvoir absolument discrétionnaire de publier son affidavit du 9 octobre 1955 et d’écrire « A true story of my case » et au soin pris par Me Gravel d’insérer dans le « testament » une clause à l’effet qu’il était fort difficile pour Coffin d’exprimer à ses deux avocats toute sa gratitude, il ne me paraît pas faire de doute que le matin du 9 février 1956, lorsque fut rédigé et exécuté ce « dernier testament », Me Gravel songeait déjà à l’utilisation possible de ce testament pour lui permettre de compenser par une somme à être reçue du Toronto Daily Star les honoraires professionnels auxquels il avait indubitablement droit, mais que ni Wilbert Coffin ni sa famille n’étaient en mesure de lui payer.
J’ajoute que, d’après la preuve, Me Gravel a touché quelques jours après l’exécution de Coffin du Toronto Daily Star une somme de $3,000.00.
Tout ceci n’est guère édifiant.
Je me dois de souligner que non seulement aucune preuve ne nous a été offerte à l’effet que ce testament aurait été signé en la présence du Rév. Sam Pollard, le chapelain de la prison de Bordeaux, et de trois officiers de police, comme l’affirme monsieur Belliveau dans son volume, mais qu’au contraire, il appert du témoignage qu’a rendu devant nous Me Gravel et du document qu’il nous a produit qu’il était seul avec son client Wilbert Coffin lors de l’exécution de ce testament. Je crois devoir souligner également l’inexactitude de l’affirmation de monsieur Belliveau que Coffin avait demandé que son testament et son affidavit d’octobre soient publiés dans le Toronto Star « because of its sympathetic and accurate coverage of his long case ». C’est un moyen pour le moins peu élégant d’effacer des pages du Toronto Star les « indélicatesses » qui furent commises au moins le lendemain de l’exécution de Coffin.
Se rattache à ce qui précède le passage suivant de l’ouvrage de monsieur Belliveau :
« In the afternoon and evening before his execution, Wilbert Coffin busied himself preparing his will and writing two letters. One was for his family, and it bore a secret, something which they alone may know: the other was to his chaplain. What the letters contain is, of course, known only to the recipients.
It is believed that the family letter contained information concerning Coffin’s mining claims, about which he talked much on the last day. He wanted his brother to look after his maps and his ore samples so that one day his son might profit by what they would bring, for he had willed them to the boy.”
Or, nous avons interrogé à ce sujet tous les membres de la famille Coffin qui ont comparu devant nous; ni madame Albert Coffin, ni sa fille madame Stanley, ni ses fils Leslie and Donald, ni son gendre Weston Eagle, ni madame Marion Petrie, ni le frère de cette dernière n’ont reçu de lettres qui leur auraient été écrites par Wilbert Coffin peu de temps avant son exécution ou n’ont eu connaissance de telles lettres.
Questionné à ce sujet, monsieur Belliveau nous a déclaré que sa seule source d’informations lui serait parvenue de Me François Gravel ; celui-ci nous a déclaré, pour sa part, n’avoir jamais eu connaissance que de telles lettres aient été écrites et transmises par son client, et il ne se souvient pas d’avoir fait de déclarations dans ce genre à monsieur Belliveau.
La mention de ces lettres était peut-être touchante, mais elle n’était sûrement pas un exemple frappant de l’objectivité et de la probité intellectuelles dont doivent faire montre les journalistes. (Fin de ce chapitre)
LA SEMAINE PROCHAINE, J'AFFICHERAI "LES INTERVENTIONS ÉTRANGÈRES"
Quelle influence le U.S. State Department a-t-il exercée sur le gouvernement Duplessis?

COFFIN'S LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT HOW THE TORONTO STAR KNEW ABOUT IT





WILBERT COFFIN'S LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT - HOW THE TORONTO DAILY STAR KNEW ABOUT IT

EXCERPT FROM THE BROSSARD COMMISSION REPORT
PART VII, VOL. III
ON CERTAIN MAJOR INCIDENTS OF THE COFFIN AFFAIR

Chapter13 : WILBERT COFFIN’S LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT – HOW THE TORONTO STAR KNEW ABOUT IT
(A literal translation by Clément Fortin)
In the last chapter of his book titled « Last Will and Testament », the author Belliveau writes what follows :

Page 152
« On the last day of his life, Wilbert Coffin wrote his will in the Bordeaux death cell in the presence of François Gravel, Rev. Sam Pollard and three police witnesses. He asked that this and a sworn statement he had made to lawyers in jail some months earlier be published by the Toronto Star because of its sympathetic and accurate coverage of his long case.
This was the will:”

Follows the text that might have been that « Last Will and Testament » and the text of a “codicil » according to which Coffin bequeathed « everything I have or may have to my dear son James ». At the end of the second text so reproduced, one reads the following words: « Copyright, Toronto Daily Star 1956 ». This document could not obviously constitute a legal testamentary disposition nor be the object of a Copyright under the conditions it were sent to the Toronto Star and in the circumstances that we shall examine.
At the very beginning of this enquiry, Mr. Belliveau, examined on the circumstances he and his employer, the Toronto Daily Star, might have obtained possession of this document and the authorization to reproduce it, but could not do so because an objection to the legality of this proof, at this stage of this enquiry, was granted by the chairman of this Commission.
When Mr. Belliveau came back to the stand, in the course of one of the last sittings of this Commission, the proof of these circumstances were permitted for the reason that they were likely to allow the Commission to judge the doings of monsieur Gravel before Coffin’s execution..
It was not without difficulty that the Commission succeeded in obtaining from Mtre Gravel the filing of an original document, the reproduction of which was supposed to have been given to the Toronto Daily Star on the 10th of February, after Coffin’s execution, as well as to Mr. Belliveau for his book.
The document filed by Mtre Gravel, except for Wilbert Coffin’s signature and his initials at the bottom of each page, was entirely hand written by Mtre Gravel ; there were many words crossed out and a certain number of words were perfectly unreadable.
A comparison of this document with what was supposed to be a reproduction in Mr. Belliveau’s book, has revealed, between the original document and the reproduction, the following differences :
In the paragraph concerning the refusal Coffin received to his petition to marry his “ common law wife » Marion Petrie, the words « due to Québec Authorities » were replaced by « due to a Government order ».
In the paragraph concerning the injustices Coffin was complaining of, the words « I never had a fair deal » were replaced by the words « I was not fairly treated. »
The following paragraph of the original : « It is my express and firm wish that a statement I made to Mr. Gravel and Maloney in October 1955, be divulged to the public by my attorney François de B. Gravel, the whole at his own discretion” was replaced by what follows: “It is my express and firm wish and desire that a statement which I made to my attorneys, Arthur E. M. Maloney of Toronto and François de B. Gravel of Québec City, when visiting me last October at the Bordeaux jail, be divulged to the public”.
An unreadable paragraph of the original in which a word only may be difficult to read seems to have been reproduced by what follows : « I greatly thank all those who worked in my defence ».
The original paragraph read as follows : « I will like express my thanks Maloney and Gravel and it is hard for me to tell them all my gratitude » was replaced by what follows : « I would like to express my most sincere thanks to my counsels, François Gravel and Arthur Maloney, for all the work they have given my case… I am sorry to say that it is very hard for me to express all my gratitude”.
The following three paragraphs which appear in the original text do not appear in the reproduction of the text:
« I would like an allowance to son as victim of an unjust trial »
“Ask Marion to look after the child I would”
“Allow François to write for public a true story of my case”.
Before this Commission, Mr. John Edward Belliveau has given the following explanations of the circumstances in which this document, signed by Coffin, was obtained for reproduction purpose in the Toronto Daily Star.
Because of rivalry that existed between the Toronto Daily Star and the Toronto Telegram, these two newspapers became eagerly interested in the last events and developments in the Coffin affair. Belliveau was in Montréal with a man of the name John Gail, a reporter photographer, the morning of the 9th of February 1956 ; they were to go to the Bordeaux jail, both of them, to inquire about, among other things, the matter of commutation of the sentence and of the possible marriage between Coffin and Marion Petrie.
They met Mtre Gravel the same morning ; he too was supposed to go to the Bordeaux jail, to pay a last and painful visit to his client. Mtre Gravel, Mr. Belliveau and Mr. Gail went together. Mr. Belliveau believes that in the course of this trip in an automobile, he might have said to Mtre Gravel « that if coffin made any statement, any dying statement, or any statement before his death, of that character, that we would want it ».
When Mtre Gravel came out of the jail, he appeared to them much depressed.
Belliveau saw Mtre Gravel the same night and believes that « they were together alone for a good deal of that time, a good deal of the evening », he believes that it is at that moment “that the question of the Last Will and Testament came up for discussion”.
For more accuracy, I shall quote certain statements made by Mr. Belliveau or summarized them in the English language :
“I may have asked Gravel to specifically see if there was anything that the accused man would say for publication, such discussions would have taken place, I imagine, some time on the 9th.
He supposed he would have learned about the Last Will and Testament during the evening from Gravel; he then asked him for the content of the document.
He thinks it was then that he also learned about the long affidavit of October; it was during that same evening that Gravel agreed to give him the content of these two documents.
He recalls that he made some conditions which would give the Toronto Daily Star the exclusive rights to the first use of this information.
There was a discussion of financial considerations along the line that the family had been put to a very great deal of expenses during the original trial and the various appeals and that Gravel had, in his association, gotten little or nothing from the family or any other source and that we might be assisting the family in some way, if we could make some financial consideration…
It would be during the night that followed Coffin’s execution, however, that dealings between him and Mtre Gravel, but above all between Mtre Gravel and the representatives of the Toronto Star in Toronto, by telephone, about Mtre Gravel’s remuneration, were made and that the transmission of the texts, from Montréal to Toronto were made.
Mr. Belliveau does not believe having seen the original testament or, at any event, having been able to read it in whole, because: « He has a feeling that, for some reason or other, Gravel did not let him see the entire document ». Mr. Belliveau adds : « I am quite certain that Mr. Gravel, in a room in the Mount Royal Hotel, in Montréal, read this to me or read from a document that he had in his possession ».
Mr. Belliveau believes that, when he transmitted to his newspaper, by teletype or by telephone, the text of the testament that Mtre Gravel had dictated to him, he knew that an agreement had been concluded between Mtre Gravel and his employers.
As to the differences between the original and the reproduction, Mr. Belliveau explains : « It seems possible that an attempt was made to provide a readable document. The changes basically are changes in a language which make this into common English ».
As to the omissions that we have underlined sooner, Mr. Belliveau attributes them to the fact that Mtre Gravel has not dictated them to him. He does not believe that there are imputable to the « Editorial Staff » of the Toronto Daily Star, although it is always possible.
Mr. Belliveau has not verified the original to find out if the testament comprised truly an authorization to publish either the last testament or a prior affidavit, the one of the 9th of October 1955 ; he supposes that a discussion had taken place between himself and Mtre Gravel, previously, as to the possibility for Mtre Gravel of obtaining an authorization from his client to publish his affidavit or his testament and that this discussion might have taken place the day before the execution, most probably, in the morning, during the trip to the jail.
As to the affidavit of the 9th October 1955, which was also reproduced the next morning by the Toronto Star, the explanations of Mr. Belliveau that he must have obtained a copy of this affidavit from Mtre Gravel at the same time he obtained knowledge of the last testament, are less clear and conclusive. From this part of Mr. Belliveau’s testimony, one may ask if, in fact, this affidavit was not already in the possession of the Toronto Daily Star even before Coffin’s execution and in this case, who might have remitted it to it. We may, on the other hand, observe with a certain astonishment the speed with which it was made, during the night that followed Coffin’s execution, the transcription of the testament in a readable language, its transmission to the Toronto Daily Star in Toronto, the transmission of a photocopy of the schedule « A » joined to the testament, the transmission of the long affidavit of the 9th October 1955 that Mtre Gravel might have had in his possession, in Montréal, the day of the execution, every thing arriving on time to be reproduced in the first edition of the Toronto Star the next day before noon; this must have been done at great speed a little time after Coffin’s execution.
In Mr. Belliveau’s cross-examination as well as in his own testimony subsequent to the one of Mr. Belliveau, Mtre Gravel has attempted, without success with regard to us, to establish that everything concerning the communication by him to Mr. Belliveau of Coffin’s testament, to the agreements pertaining to the reproduction of this testament in the Toronto Star, with would-be right to « Copyright », occurred exclusively during the night that followed the execution.
Having regard to Mr. Belliveau’s formal statements, to the desires expressed by him before his visit to the jail, the morning of the 9th, having regard, above all, to the dispositions that have been included in Coffin’s testament, drafted, as we have seen, by Mtre Gravel and written with his own hand, in order to give Mtre Gravel, and to him alone, the absolute and discretionary power to publish his affidavit of the 9th October 1955 and to write « A true story of my case » and to the care taken by Mtre Gravel to include in the « testament » a clause saying that it was much difficult for Coffin to express to his two lawyers all his gratitude, there is no doubt in my mind that on the morning of the 9th February, when that “last testament” was drafted and executed, Mtre Gravel was thinking already of the possible use of that testament that would allow him to be compensated with a sum of money received from the Toronto Daily Star the professional fees to which he was no doubt entitled, but that neither Wilbert Coffin nor his family could afford to pay him.
I add, that according to the proof, Mtre Gravel has received a few days following the Coffin’s execution from the Toronto Daily Star a sum of $3,000.00
All this is but little edifying.
I must underline that not only no proof was offered us showing that this testament had been signed in the presence of Rev. Sam Pollard, the chaplain of the Bordeaux jail, and of three police officers, as affirms Mr. Belliveau in his book, but on the contrary, it appears from the testimony given to us by Mtre Gravel and from the document that he has filed with us that he was alone with his client Wilbert Coffin when this testament was drafted. I must also underline the inaccuracy of Mr. Belliveau’s statement that Coffin had asked that his testament and his affidavit of October be published in the Toronto Star « because of its sympathetic and accurate coverage of his long case ». It is a way, little elegant to say the least, to erase pages of the Toronto Star’s « indelicacies » that were committed, at least, the day following Coffin’s execution.
Is connected to what precedes the following passage from Mr. Belliveau’s book :
« In the afternoon and evening before his execution, Wilbert Coffin busied himself preparing his will and writing two letters. One was for his family, and it bore a secret, something which they alone may know; the other was to his chaplain. What the letters contain is, of course, known to the recipients.
It is believed that the family letter contained information concerning Coffin’s mining claims, about which he talked much on the last day. He wanted his brother to look after his maps and his ore samples to that one day his son might profit by what they would bring, for he had willed them to the boy.”
On this matter, we have examined all the members of the Coffin family who appeared before us; neither Mrs. Albert Coffin, nor his daughter Mrs. Stanley, neither his sons, Leslie and Donald, neither his son-in-law Weston Eagle, nor Mrs. Marion Petrie, nor the brother of the latter have received letters written by Wilbert Coffin a little time before his execution or obtained knowledge of these letters.
Examined on this matter, Mr. Belliveau has stated that his sole source of information was from Mtre François Gravel ; the latter has declared to us, for his part, having never had knowledge of such letters written and transmitted by his client, and he does not remember having made such declarations to Mr. Belliveau.
To make mention of these letters was probably moving, but it was not for sure a striking example of objectivity and intellectual honesty which newspapermen must show. (The end of this chapter)
TO BE POSTED NEXT WEEK: Foreign intervention
What pressure the U.S. State Department exerted on the Duplessis government?

26 mars 2008

COMMENT COFFIN A AIDÉ LES TROIS CHASSEURS AMÉRICAINS



Ci-contre, une photo de la camionnette d’Eugene Lindsey. Lloyd Annett, un mécanicien de Wakeham, a constaté qu’on n’avait pas touché à la pompe à essence. Il a posé une batterie neuve et l’a conduite jusqu’à Gaspé. À droite, en haut, une photo de la pompe à essence que la police a trouvée à l’appartement de Marion Petrie, la concubine de Coffin, à Montréal, et, ci-contre, le couteau que Coffin aurait censément reçu en cadeau pour avoir aidé les trois chasseurs américains
Centre d'archives de la Gaspésie/Musée de la Gaspésie. P123 Fonds Georges-Étienne Blanchard. Boîte 1.


Le jeune Richard Lindsey, l’un des trois chasseurs américains, dont les ossements furent trouvés dans la forêt gaspésienne en juillet 1953, aurait donné à Coffin ce couteau de poche à usage multiple pour les avoir aidés à réparer leur camionnette. Ce couteau était un cadeau qu’il avait reçu à sa collation de grade d’un parent au service des forces aériennes des États-Unis, au Japon. Coffin avait diagnostiqué que la pompe à essence était défectueuse. Le jeune Lindsey a accompagné Coffin à Gaspé pour en acheter une neuve. Ils en ont vraiment acheté une neuve que la police a trouvée plus tard dans l’appartement de la concubine de Coffin à Montréal.
Cette affaire vous intéresse ! Vous aimerez lire mon livre L’affaire Coffin : une supercherie ?

HOW COFFIN HELPED THE THREE AMERICAN HUNTERS








Above, on your left, a picture of Richard Lindsey's pocket knife that Coffin supposedly received as a gift for having helped the three American hunters. Lower, on your left, Eugene Lindsey’s pick-up truck. Lloyd Annett, a mechanics of Wakeham, noticed that the gas pump had not been touched, he put a new battery and drove it to Gaspé. On your right, the gas pump that the police found in the apartment of Coffin’s concubine Marion Petrie in Montreal.
Centre d'archives de la Gaspésie/Musée de la Gaspésie. P123 Fonds Georges-Étienne Blanchard. Boîte 1.


Young Richard Lindsey, one of the three American hunters, whose remains were found in the Gaspé bush in July 1953, would have given Coffin this multi-use pocket knife for having helped them to fix the pick-up truck. That knife was a graduation gift he had received from a relative in the US Air Force in Japan. Coffin had diagnosed that the gas pump was defective. The young Lindsey accompanied Coffin to Gaspé to buy a new one. They indeed bought a new one but it was never installed. This brand new gas pump was later on found in the apartment of Coffin’s mistress in Montréal.
The Coffin affair is of interest to you! You willl enjoy reading my book L’affaire Coffin : une supercherie ?

POURQUOI LES AVOCATS DE COFFIN SE SONT-ILS TUS? (DERNIÈRE PARTIE)



EXTRAIT DU RAPPORT BROSSARD
PARTIE IV
LA PREUVE DÉLAISSÉE, IGNORÉE OU.. ABSENTE
Chapitre 2
POURQUOI LA DÉFENSE S’EST TUE

Me FRANÇOIS DE B. GRAVEL, autre défenseur de Wilbert Coffin, fut lui aussi longuement interrogé devant cette Commission. Son témoignage qui dura plusieurs jours ne fut ni le plus clair, ni le plus serein, ni le plus persuasif, ni le plus satisfaisant des témoignages reçus par cette Commission ; il en fut même, à maintes reprises, le plus décevant surtout lorsqu’il porta sur des faits qui touchaient directement ou indirectement aux allégations contenues dans l’affidavit de son client Coffin, aux circonstances qui entourèrent l’obtention de la preuve documentaire dont le Ministère de la Justice fut saisi et sur les renseignements qu’il aurait pu communiquer lui-même à Hébert pour la préparation de son premier ouvrage. Sur tous ces points, son témoignage fut malheureusement rempli d’explications boiteuses, de tergiversations, d’hésitations, de prétendues nécessités de référer à son dossier et à ses « offices mémos », de faux-fuyants, de tangentes en direction de faits ne relevant nullement des questions qui lui étaient posées et, malheureusement aussi, de contradictions. La partie de son témoignage afférente à la décision qui fut prise de ne pas faire entendre Coffin ou des témoins en sa faveur ne fut pas elle-même exempte de « ces faiblesses". Plus particulièrement :
Sont plus que boiteuses ses explications quant à son affirmation qu’était vraie la déclaration de Coffin « I twas my personal desire to testify for my own defence » ; ce n’est qu’après beaucoup d’hésitation qu’il consent à admettre ne pas croire que Coffin « aurait souvent voulu intervenir pour confondre un témoin qui entraînait le jury sur une fausse piste» ni savoir que Coffin aurait supplié son avocat de le laisser parler.
Sur des questions plus que suggestives de M. Hébert, Me Gravel déclare qu’à plusieurs reprises que Coffin lui aurait manifesté le désir de témoigner au procès ; mais il affaiblit la force de l’affirmation précédente en déclarant que dans ses entrevues avec sont client, au sous-sol du Palais de Justice à Percé (pendant le procès) « on ne discutait pas du tout d’une possibilité de témoigner, mais on discutait des témoignages rendus».
Après avoir déclaré que Wilbert Coffin lui a demandé de témoigner, à la question qui lui fut posée pour savoir s’il en avait discuté avec son collègue, Me Maher, il répond : « Il y a eu plusieurs discussions entre Wilbert Coffin et moi-même et après, M. Maher et moi-même, seuls, ou M. Maher, Louis Doiron et moi-même».
Il admet, à regret, qu’il a pris connaissance des procédures de l’enquête préliminaire (sic); (en fait, la preuve démontre qu’il s’en était fait venir des copies peu de temps après avoir produit sa comparution en septembre 1953, plusieurs mois avant le procès).
Il se serait écoulé à peine vingt-quatre heures entre le moment où la Couronne a fini sa preuve et celui où Me Maher a fait sa déclaration « the defence rests ».
Me Gravel fait de la haute voltige pour tenter de faire retomber sur Me Maner seul la responsabilité de la décision de ne pas faire de défense, et ce, en faisant des distinctions subtiles entre le mandat qu’avait Me Maher de conduire l’enquête et de son mandat exclusif à lui de ne s’occuper que des questions de droit, en laissant entendre qu’il n’était pas au courant des témoins qu’il y aurait possibilité de faire entendre. (La preuve a révélé le contraire en ce qui a trait aux témoins relatifs à la jeep Arnold, à la prétendue jeep Lorne Patterson, et en ce qui a trait aux membres de la famille de Wilbert Coffin ; elle a révélé aussi que Me Gravel a contre-interrogé un certain nombre de témoins de la Couronne).
Me Gravel laisse entendre qu’il avait été avisé par Me Maloney de faire entendre Coffin comme témoin, alors que nous savons par le témoignage de Me Maloney que ses conseils sur ce point ne furent que conditionnels et sous toute réserve.
Enfin, Me Gravel admet que lorsque Me Maher déclara « the defence rests », il n’a fait aucune déclaration et s’est contenté de se taire.
Fut plus particulièrement caractéristique de l’attitude de Me Gravel devant cette Commission la réponse suivante qu’il fit à une question que lui posa le Président du Tribunal pour savoir s’il se rappelait avoir entendu son père lui dire, au vestiaire du Palais de Justice de Québec, en lui montrant le volume de M. Hébert : « voilà ton livre » : « Avant le début de cette enquête, M. le président, jamais, au meilleur de mon souvenir. Je serais très surpris. Permettez-moi de réitérer : Sûrement non ». (Or, nous savons aujourd’hui par la preuve subséquente que cette remarque de Me Gravel, père, fut véritablement faite à son fils.)
Sont également caractéristiques de l’attitude ambiguë de Me Gravel d’une part ses déclarations que la défense avait déjà tous les éléments nécessaires pour présenter une défense « positive» ( ?) et que les éléments de cette défense « positive » résultaient exclusivement des conversations qu’il avait eues avec son client et nullement de témoignages de l’extérieur, et d’autre part sa déclaration subséquente que, lorsqu’il déclara (devant la Commission) que la défense était prête (à faire entendre des témoins), il n’avait pas dit que Coffin était prêt à témoigner et que la défense reposerait surtout sur le témoignage éventuel de Coffin.
Me Gravel s’est réfugié derrière le secret professionnel pour refuser de mentionner les noms des témoins sur lesquels il pouvait compter et dont des listes auraient été dressées ; puis, il finit par donner des renseignements qui tendent à établir qu’il était parfaitement au courant des témoins auxquels Me Maher songeait relativement à l’affaire de la jeep Arnold.
C’est avec beaucoup de réticences et d’hésitations que Me Gravel admet qu’il avait pris connaissance du dossier de l’enquête préliminaire; prié par Me Noël Dorion de dire s’il a vérifié si l’affidavit de Coffin (d’octobre 1955) était conforme à sa déclaration « statutaire » d’août 1953, il refuse de répondre directement à la question et se réfugie derrière Me Maloney dont il dit qu’il a eu tout le dossier complet en sa possession.
Comment, dans les circonstances, accorder beaucoup de force à toute cette partie du témoignage de Me Gravel et tout simplement à cette partie de son témoignage qui se réfère à la question de la décision de ne pas faire entendre Coffin ?
Après s’être réfugié une fois de plus derrière le secret professionnel pour refuser de répondre à des questions portant sur la décision qui aurait été prise par lui et ses collègues de ne pas faire entendre Coffin, mais à la suite de la décision du Président de la Commission de rejeter l’objection formulée par Me Gravel pour le motif que Me Maher et lui-même avaient été relevés de leur secret sur ce point particulier par leur client par suite de l’affirmation contenue au paragraphe 3 de l’affidavit de Coffin à l’effet qu’on ne le laissa pas témoigner bien qu’il eût désiré le faire, Me Gravel donne les renseignements suivants :
Il savait depuis plusieurs jours que Me Maher dirait : « the defence rests ».
S’il n’a pas protesté, c’est parce qu’il croyait, comme il le croit encore, que les procureurs de la défense doivent être unanimes devant les jurés.
Il n’y a jamais eu de décision unanime prise entre lui et Me Maher et Me Doiron.
Le matin du jour où la déclaration fut faite, il savait qu’elle serait faite lorsqu’il s’est rendu à la Cour et il en connaissait les conséquences.
Il se ravise et déclare qu’il croit que c’est le matin même que Me Maher lui a dit ce qu’il dirait.
Il admet que deux jours avant que la Couronne ne termine sa preuve, Me Doiron avait été choisi pour plaider en français (et l’on sait qu’à ce moment Me Doiron savait qu’il parlerait après les procureurs de la Couronne).
Il admet qu’entre le verdict et la sentence, Coffin n’a rien dit et n’a pas répondu à la question du greffier : « Have you something to say before sentence is passed upon you ? »
Il ignore si Me Maher ou Me Doiron ont averti Coffin qu’aucune défense ne serait faite.
Il prétend que lui-même n’en a jamais averti Coffin.
Si l’on tient compte du fait que Me Gravel connaissait, comme Me Maher, la déclaration de Coffin du 6 août 1953, le droit qu’aurait eu la Couronne de produire cette déclaration et de contre-interroger Coffin advenant le cas où il témoignerait, du fait que Me Maher était d’opinion (avec raisons comme nous le verrons plus tard) que cette déclaration contenait des déclarations de Coffin dangereuses pour lui, du fait que Me Maher et Me Gravel logèrent pendant toute la durée du procès dans la même cabine et s’y rencontrèrent tous les jours, de la collaboration et de la coopération que doivent nécessairement s’accorder un avocat et son conseil et qui, aux dires de Me Maher ont été accordées, de la gravité des conséquences de la décision qui fut prise, il est inconcevable que cette décision n’ait pas été discutée, comme l’affirment catégoriquement Me Maher et Me Doiron, entre les trois procureurs de la défense, et que Me Gravel n’y ait pas acquiescé en fin de compte, même si, à l’origine, il avait pu entretenir, comme Me Maher, une opinion contraire. (Fin de ce chapitre)

WHY COFFIN'S COUNSELS KEPT SILENT (THIRD AND LAST PART)

EXCERPT FROM THE BROSSARD REPORT
PART IV
PROOF ABANDONED, IGNORED OR… ABSENT
Chapter 2
WHY COFFIN’S COUNSELS KEPT SILENT
(A literal translation by Clément Fortin)

Mtre FRANÇOIS DE B. GRAVEL, another Wilbert Coffin’s counsel, was also lengthily examined before this Commission. His testimony which lasted several days was not the clearest nor the most serene, nor the most persuasive, nor the most satisfying this Commission had received; it was even, on several occasions, the most deceiving, especially when it concerned facts related directly or indirectly to the allegations contained in the affidavit of his client Coffin, the circumstances surrounding the obtainment of documentary proof of which the Department of Justice was seized and on the information he might have himself communicated to Hébert for the preparation of his first book. On all these items, his testimony was unfortunately filled with incomplete explanations, tergiversations, hesitations, pretended needs to refer to his file or to his “office memos”, excuses, to dodge the questions in referring to facts completely irrelevant to that he was being asked and, unfortunately also, with contradictions. The part of his testimony relevant to the decision that was taken not to call Coffin to the stand or witnesses in his favour was not itself exempt of these weaknesses. Most particularly:
His explanations are more than incomplete when affirming that Coffin’s declaration « It was my personal desire to testify for my own defence » was true ; it is only after much hesitation that he admitted to not believing that Coffin « would have wanted to intervene to silence a witness who was leading the jury on a false path” or knowing that Coffin would have implored his lawyer to let him speak.
On questions more than leading from M. Hébert, Mtre Gravel declares that, on several occasions, Coffin would have told him his desire to be called to the stand at trial ; but he lessens the strength of his preceding affirmation in declaring that during interviews with his client, in the basement of the Percé Court House (during the trial) « we did not discuss at all the possibility for him to witness, but we discussed the testimonies rendered”.
After having declared that Wilbert Coffin has asked him to testify, to the question that was posed to him to know if he has discussed with his colleague Mtre Maher, he answers : « There were many discussions between Wilbert Coffin and myself, and afterwards, Mtre Maher and myself, alone, or Mtre Maher, Louis Doiron and myself”.
He admits, with regrets, that he went through the proceedings of the preliminary enquiry (sic); (in fact, the proof shows that he had sent for copies a short time after having filed his appearance in September 1953, several months before the trial).
Barely twenty-four hours would have passed between the moment the Crown rested its case and that where Mtre Maher made his declaration « the defence rests ».
Mtre Gravel is flying high in attempting to lay on Mtre Maher alone the responsibility to not submit a defence, and in so doing, he makes subtle distinctions between the mandate that Maher was given to lead the trial and the one he had which was an exclusive mandate whereby he was to look after matters of law, and leading us to believe that he was not aware of witnesses who could have possibly been heard. (The proof has revealed the contrary with reference to the witnesses regarding the Arnold jeep, the would-be Lorne Patterson jeep, and in reference to members of the Coffin family ; it has shown also that Mtre Gravel has cross-examined a certain number of Crown witnesses).
Mtre Gravel leads us to believe that he had been advised by Mtre Maloney to call Coffin to the stand, while we know from Mtre Maloney’s testimony that his advice on this point was conditional and under reserve.
Finally, Mtre Gravel admits that when Mtre Maher declared « the defence rests », he has not made any declaration and he was satisfied to keep silent.
Before this Commission, Mtre Gravel’s attitude was more particularly characteristic when he gave the following answer to a question the President of the Commission asked him if he recalled having heard his father saying to him, in the locker room at the Québec Court House, while showing him M. Hébert’s book : « here’s your book » : « Before the beginning of this enquiry, Mr. President, never, to the best of my recollection. I would be surprised. Allow me to repeat : Surely not ». (Then we know today with the subsequent proof that this remark from Mtre Gravel, senior, was really made to his son.)
Are also characteristic Mtre Gravel’s ambiguous attitude, on the one hand, his declarations according to which it had already all the necessary elements to present a « positive » defence ( ?) and that the elements of this « positive » defence resulted exclusively from conversations he had had with his client and not at all on testimonies from the outside, and, on the other hand, his subsequent declarations that, when he declared (before the Commission) that the defence was ready (to call witnesses to the stand), he had not said that Coffin was ready to testify and that the defence would lay above all on Coffin’s possible testimony.
Mtre Gravel took refuge behind the professional secret to refuse to mention the names of the witnesses on whom he could count and for whom lists might have been made ; then, he gives information which tends to establish that he was well aware of the witnesses Mtre Maher thought of with reference to the Arnold jeep.
With much reticence and hesitation, Mtre Gravel admits that he has examined the dossier of the preliminary enquiry ; asked by Mtre Noël Dorion if he had verified if Coffin’s affidavit (of October 1955) was consistent with his « statutory » declaration of August 1953, he refuses to answer directly the question and takes refuge behind Mtre Maloney of whom he says that he has all the dossier in his possession.
Under the circumstances, how is it possible to grant much strength to that part of Mtre Gravel’s testimony and only to this part of his testimony which concerns the decision to not call Coffin to the stand ?
After having, once more, taken refuge behind professional secret to refuse to answer questions concerning the decision which might have been taken by him and his colleagues to not hear Coffin, but following the decision of the President of the Commission to reject the objection raised by Mtre Gravel for the reason that Mtre Maher and himself had been released of their professional secret following the declaration contained in paragraph 3 of Coffin’s affidavit according to which he was not allowed to testify even although he had so wished, Mtre Gravel gives the following information :
He knew for several days that Mtre Maher would say : « the defence rests ».
If he has not objected, it is because, he believed, as he still believes, that the defence counsels have to be unanimous before the jurors.
There never was a unanimous decision taken between him, Mtre Maher and Mtre Doiron.
On the morning where that declaration was made, he knew that it would be made when he went to the Court and he knew the consequences.
He changes his mind and declares that he believes that it was on the same morning that Maher told him what he would say.
He admits that two days before the Crown rested its case that Mtre Doiron had been chosen to plead in French (and we know at that moment Mtre Doiron knew that he would talk after the Crown’s counsels)
He admits that between the verdict and the sentence, Coffin has said nothing or answered the clerk’s question : « Have you something to say before sentence is passed upon you ? »
He ignores if Mtre Maher or Mtre Doiron have informed Coffin that no defence would be made.
He pretends that he, himself, has never informed Coffin.
If we take into account the fact that Mtre Gravel knew, as well as Mtre Maher, Coffin’s declaration of August 6th 1953, the right that the Crown had to adduce in evidence this declaration and to cross-examine Coffin in the event Coffin would testify, the fact that Mtre Maher was of the opinion (with reasons as we shall see later) that this declaration contained declarations made by Coffin dangerous for him, the fact that Mtre Maher and Mtre Gravel shared for the whole duration of the trial the same cabin, and met every day, the collaboration and the cooperation that must necessarily take place between a lawyer and his counsel and that, according to Mtre Maher were granted, the gravity of the consequences of the decision that was taken, it is unconceivable that this decision was not discussed, as affirms categorically Mtre Maher and Mtre Doiron, between the three defence attorneys, and that Mtre Gravel has not agreed to, at the end, even though, at the onset, he might have had, as well as Mtre Maher, a contrary opinion
In other respects, if one takes into account Coffin’s attitude during the trial, his silence, his non intervention, specially, his attitude and his countenance when fateful words were pronounced « the defence rests », Mtre Maher’s categorical declarations that this decision was taken after numerous consultations between him and his client Coffin, the absence of intervention on the part of members of the Coffin family during and after the trial until the Fall 1955, the fact that none of them was invited, during the fateful months of September 1955 to February 1956, to attest that Coffin had expressed to them the desire to be heard, lastly, Coffin’s own silence after the verdict was rendered and before the sentence was pronounced and from there until October 1955, it appears, not only undeniable that it was to his knowledge and with his acquiescence that no defence be presented, but above all that the contrary declaration in his affidavit of 9th October 1955 was only made because he realized, for whatever reason, that it was indispensable a) to explain his original silence and his prolonged silence during the months that followed the Percé verdict and b) to give rise to all subsequent declarations in his affidavit as to the proof that he might have submitted, so he pretended, and the explanations that he would have given if he had testified at the trial.

CONCLUSIONS

Considering the reasons for the decision Mtre Maher communicated to this Commission, the proof submitted by the Crown at the trial, Coffin’s declaration of the 6th August 1953, the other declarations reported at the trial and those who were not, namely the declaration of the 27th July 1953, during the Coroner’s inquest, I believe that I am justified to express to you, without hesitation, the opinion that the decision to not submit a defence was a wise decision, under the circumstances, and above all it was not taken against the will of Wilbert Coffin.
I shall, however, venture to express, also, the other following opinion : Contrarily to what has affirmed Mtre Maher, the proof that was submitted to us, allows us to say that it is not because there had been doubts as to the merits of Appeal Courts’ decisions establishing that « the Crown had proven its case » that the present royal enquiry was instituted, but because doubts have been, after these decisions were rendered, cleverly raised, created or suggested with the allegations of facts different than those that had been proven at the trial.
I therefore report to you, in my humble opinion, that the decision not to call Coffin to the stand and to not call witnesses in his favour was not taken against his will, that it was taken, on the contrary, to his knowledge and with his acquiescence, on the common agreement of all defence counsels, for wise and serious reasons relating to his behaviour and to avoid the risk almost fatal to have to call him to the witness stand.
For these reasons, and by means of suggestion, I therefore come to the conclusion that the allegations in paragraph 3 of Coffin’s affidavit are false and that the declarations made to the same effect than those of that paragraph 3 of Coffin’s affidavit, made by Mr. Belliveau and Mr Hébert in their books, are also false.
To the preceding reasons, allowing us to conclude to that falsehood, I must add the reasons deriving from the following facts established before this Commission :
a) The proof made before this Commission that the majority of the other affirmations contained in Coffin’s affidavit were inexact, in all or in major part, and based on facts which, for the most part, Coffin might not have had personal knowledge of and which have been themselves shown to be wholly or partly false;
b) Specially, specially, the proof made before us that it is upon Coffin’s instructions that, the same night he was accused of murder, Mtre Maher went to Coffin’s camp to pick a package where Coffin had (as he admits in paragraph 32 of his affidavit), hidden Eagle’s rifle, that this package contained effectively Eagle’s rifle, that the fact of that removal was, before the trial, discussed with Coffin by Mtre Gravel, and that no effort seems to have been made subsequently by the defence attorneys or by Coffin’s parents to find that Jack Eagle’s rifle, the whole as I shall discuss more at length hereafter. The fact that Coffin complained of the silence that might have been imposed on him at the trial against his will after more than a year following his condemnation.
I consider, therefore, that they were extremely unjust towards Mtre Maher, in particular, and towards the other two Coffin’s counsels, the blames addressed, in brutal and injurious terms, especially by Mr. Hébert, to the defence attorneys.
I do not believe opportune, otherwise, to engage in a discussion of juridical character on the justness (or unjustness) of the right that is granted to anyone accused, whether to be heard in defence or not to be heard, whether he deems it useful to his cause, justness about which M. Hébert seems to have doubts. (The end of this chapter)

17 mars 2008

LE COUTEAU QUE COFFIN A REÇU EN CADEAU D'UN CHASSEUR AMÉRICAIN











Centre d'archives de la Gaspésie/Musée de la Gaspésie. P123 Fonds Georges-Étienne Blanchard. Boîte 1.
LE COUTEAU QUE COFFIN A REÇU EN CADEAU D’UN CHASSEUR AMÉRICAIN
Ci-contre, une photo montrant le couteau à usage multiple ayant appartenu à Richard Lindsey, l’un des trois chasseurs américains dont les ossements ont été retrouvés dans la forêt gaspésienne en juillet 1953. Quand Coffin est sorti du bois le 12 juin 1953, il a exhibé ce couteau à quelques personnes de son entourage, notamment à sa sœur Rhoda. Il disait l’avoir reçu en cadeau d’un des chasseurs américains pour le remercier de les avoir aidés à remettre en marche leur camionnette. Toutefois, dans sa déclaration statutaire du 6 août 1953, Coffin affirme ce qui suit : (ma traduction) « Les Américains ne m’ont donné aucun cadeau. »

À VENIR : Je vais vous montrer comment Coffin a aidé ces chasseurs américains. J’afficherai une photo de la pompe à essence qu’il est censé avoir remplacée pour remettre en marche leur camionnette. J’afficherai aussi une photo de la camionnette d’Eugene Lindsey, l’un des trois chasseurs américains.

Validation automatique

THE KNIFE COFFIN RECEIVED FROM AN AMERICAN HUNTER













Centre d'archives de la Gaspésie/Musée de la Gaspésie. P123 Fonds Georges-Étienne Blanchard. Boîte 1.
THE KNIFE COFFIN RECEIVED FROM AN AMERICAN HUNTER
Opposite, a picture showing the multiple-use knife having belonged to Richard Lindsey, one of the three American hunters which remains were found in the Gaspé forest in July 1953. When Coffin came out of the bush on the 12th of June 1953, he showed this knife to some of his familiars, namely to his sister Rhoda. He claimed it was given to him as a gift from an American hunter for having helped them out with their broken-down pick-up truck. However, in his statutory declaration of the 6th of August 1953, Coffin states: “The Americans didn’t give me any gift at all.”

COMING SOON: I’ll show you in what way Coffin helped those American hunters. I’ll post a picture of the gas pump he is supposed to have replaced on their broken-down pick-up truck. I’ll also post a picture of Eugene Lindsey’s pick-up, one of the three American hunters.

16 mars 2008

LA COMMISSION BROSSARD: DU CAMOUFLAGE?








Ci-contre, une photo prise au lancement

de L'affaire Coffin: une supercherie?

à la bibliothèque municipale de Matane

LA COMMISSION BROSSARD : DU CAMOUFLAGE ?
Quand on ne s’en prend pas à Maurice Duplessis, on tente de dénigrer les travaux de la Commission Brossard. Et on met en doute l’intégrité de l’honorable juge Roger Brossard qui l’a présidée.
Roger Brossard était un grand juriste. Par son intelligence supérieure, il imposait le respect à tous ses pairs. En 1921, il est devenu boursier Rhodes. Il a été juge à la Cour supérieure de 1950 à 1964 et à la Cour d’appel de 1964 à 1976. Il a été aussi professeur à la Faculté de Droit de l’Université de Montréal. J’étais à l’époque un jeune avocat et un professeur de droit. Je me souviens de ses grandes qualités de juriste.
En 1964, il a présidé la Commission royale d’enquête sur l’affaire Coffin instituée par le gouvernement libéral de Jean Lesage.
Des avis ont été publiés dans les journaux pour inviter tous ceux qui avaient quelque chose à dire au sujet de l’affaire Coffin de se présenter devant la Commission.
La Commission Brossard a tenu 67 SÉANCES PUBLIQUES qui ont été couvertes par les grands médias, elle a siégé 415 heures et a reçu 436 pièces à conviction.
Le nombre de pages de transcriptions des témoignages entendus par la Commission est de 16 041.

NOMBRE D’ENQUÊTES FAITES POUR LE COMPTE DE LA COMMISSION :
a) par la Police de Vancouver (1)
b) par la Police de Toronto (6)
c) par la Gendarmerie royale (3)
d) par la Sûreté provinciale (32)
e) par le procureur de la Commission (23)
f) par l'effort concerté de la Sûreté provinciale, de la Gendarmerie royale, de la Police de Toronto, de la Police de l'État de Pennsylvanie, de la police de l'État de New Jersey et de la Police municipale de Plainfield, New Jersey (1)

Il est vrai que dès l’ouverture de l’enquête, les avocats de Jacques Hébert, Pierre Eliot Trudeau et Raymond Daoust, ont soulevé des objections sur le rôle joué par la police. On s’opposait à ce que le capitaine Jean-Claude Vanhoutte soit responsable de l’enquête. Il était l’un de ceux qu’Hébert accusait d’être un assassin. On lui confiait le soin, prétendait-on, de faire enquête sur lui-même, sur son ancien collègue (le capitaine) Raoul Sirois, et sur son patron, l’inspecteur général Alphonse Matte. Selon eux la Commission était en conflit d’intérêt.
Ceux qui reprennent à leur compte ces objections n’ont jamais pris connaissance des rapports de police ci-haut cités. Vingt-trois enquêtes ont été faites par Jules Deschênes, c.r., le procureur de la Commission. Dernièrement, j’ai obtenu l’autorisation d’examiner ces rapports. Prochainement, je vous dirai si ces détracteurs ont raison ou non.
Depuis que j’étudie cette affaire, je me rends compte que beaucoup écrivent sans avoir lu les documents pertinents. On semble se complaire dans les ragots. C’est une constante que j’observe depuis que j’ai commencé à étudier l’affaire Coffin. Beaucoup écrivent n’importe quoi sur cette affaire sans avoir évidemment fait les démarches pour se procurer et lire les documents pertinents. Après toutes ces années, je suis le premier à avoir obtenu de LA COMMISSION D’ACCÈS À L’INFORMATION, l’autorisation de consulter les dossiers de police. Tous les commentateurs de cette affaire imiteraient-ils Jacques Hébert? Comme lui, ils n’ont pas besoin de lire ces documents pour écrire sur l’affaire Coffin. Il n’est pas étonnant qu’il y ait tant de confusion dans le public.

THE BROSSARD COMMISSION: WINDOW DRESSING?







Above left, a photo taken at the launching of
L'affaire Coffin: une supercherie?
at the municipal library of Matane

THE BROSSARD COMMISSION: WINDOW DRESSING ?
There are those who go after Maurice Duplessis, there are those who attempt to belittle the works of the Brossard Commission and there are those who cast doubt on the integrity of the Honourable Justice Roger Brossard. He was a great jurist. As a man of superior intelligence, he compelled recognition from all his peers. In 1921, he became a Rhodes Scholar. He was justice of the Superior Court from 1950 to 1964 and of the Court of Appeal from 1964 to 1976. He was also professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Montreal. I was then a young lawyer and professor of law. I remember him for his legal turn of mind.
In 1964, a Royal Commission of enquiry on the Coffin affair was instituted by the Lesage government. As we know, it was presided over by the Honourable Justice Roger Brossard of the Superior Court.
Notices were published in newspapers inviting all those who had something to say about the Coffin affair to come forward.

The Brossard Commission has heard 214 witnesses in the Coffin affair. It held 67 PUBLIC SITTINGS, covered by local and national medias, sat for 415 hours and received 436 exhibits.
The testimonies heard amounted to 16 041 pages of transcripts.

MANY INVESTIGATIONS WERE MADE ON BEHALF OF THE COMMISSION:
a) by the Vancouver Police (1)
b) by the Toronto Police (6)
c) by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (3)
d) by the Provincial Police (32)
e) by the attorney for the Commission (23)
f) by the concerted effort of the Provincial Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Toronto Police, the Pennsylvania State Police, the New Jersey State Police and the Plainfield, New Jersey, Municipal Police (1)

At the very beginning of the Enquiry, Jacques Hébert’s counsels, Pierre Eliot Trudeau and Raymond Daoust objected to the role played by the police. According to them, captain Jean-Claude Vanhoutte, one of those Hébert was accusing of being an assassin, should not be in charge of investigating for the Commission. His role amounted, so they pretended, to investigating on himself, on his former colleague captain Raoul Sirois and on his boss, inspector general Alphonse Matte. In short, the Brossard Commission was in conflict of interest.

Those who still use those objections have never taken knowledge of the police reports above mentioned. I bring to your attention that twenty-three investigations were made by Jules Deschênes, Q.C., counsel for the Commission. Not long ago, I was authorized by the COMMISSIONS D’ACCÈS À L’INFORMATION, to examine all those police reports.
Since I began my research in the Coffin Affair, I noticed that a lot of people write on this subject without having obtained and read the relevant documents. They seem to delight in gossiping. Indeed, a great many write, affirm, declare, enunciate, facts based on hearsay and obviously without having read the relevant documents. After all those years, how is it, that I am the first one to have asked permission to see those police files? Do they wish to imitate late Jacques Hébert’s example. Like him, they do not need to read those documents to write about the Coffin affair. It is no wonder so many people are thrown into confusion!

IS MAURICE DUPLESSIS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE EXECUTION OF COFFIN?











IS MAURICE DUPLESSIS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE EXECUTION OF COFFIN?

When I hear comments from those who believe that Coffin was a victim of a miscarriage of justice, I come to the conclusion that their approach is based on this principle: This trial having taken place while Maurice Duplessis was Québec premier, it must necessarily be a miscarriage of justice.
Justice Gérard Lacroix, who presided over Coffin’s trial before the Percé jury, was appointed by the federal government. In 1950, he was the bâtonnier of the Québec Bar. An authority in criminal law, he taught at Laval University. His Alma Mater conferred on him the degree of doctorate honoris causa in 1952. Duplessis had nothing to do with his appointment.
Unanimously, the Québec Appeal Court maintained the verdict of the Percé jury. These justices were not appointed by Duplessis.
The Supreme Court, through justice Abbott, refused to hear Coffin’s appeal. The Supreme Court refused to revise that decision. The federal cabinet transmitted Coffin’s dossier to the Supreme Court and asked what decision it would have rendered if Coffin’s appeal had been allowed. Three justices out of five would have confirmed the verdict.
The minister of justice Stuart Garson refused to intervene in the execution of the sentence. Vincent Massey, Governor-General of Canada, signed the ministerial decree ordaining that Coffin be executed. Still, Duplessis had nothing to do with these decisions. Then, why go at Duplessis with such fierceness.
Photo ci-contre prise au Salon du Livre de Montréal

MAURICE DUPLESSIS EST-IL RESPONSABLE DE L'EXÉCUTION DE COFFIN?










Photo ci-contre prise au Salon du Livre de Montréal

MAURICE DUPLESSIS EST-IL RESPONSABLE DE L’EXÉCUTION DE COFFIN ?

À lire les commentaires de ceux qui croient que Coffin a été victime d’une erreur judiciaire, j’en viens à la conclusion que leur démarche repose sur le principe suivant : ce procès ayant eu lieu pendant que Maurice Duplessis était le premier ministre du Québec, il doit nécessairement être entaché d’une erreur judiciaire.
L’honorable juge Gérard Lacroix qui a présidé le procès de Coffin devant un jury, à Percé, a été nommé par le gouvernement fédéral. En 1950, il a été bâtonnier du barreau du Québec. Une autorité en droit pénal, il a enseigné à l’Université Laval. Son alma mater lui a conféré un doctorat honoris causa en 1952. Ce n’est pas Duplessis qui l’a nommé à cette fonction.
À l’unanimité, la Cour d’appel du Québec a maintenu le verdict du jury de Percé. Ces juges n’ont pas été nommés par Duplessis.
La Cour Suprême, par l’intermédiaire du juge Abbott, a refusé d’entendre l’appel de Coffin. La Cour suprême a refusé de réviser cette décision. Le Cabinet fédéral a transmis le dossier à la Cour suprême et lui a demandé quel avis elle aurait donné si l’appel de Coffin avait été permis. Trois juges sur cinq l’auraient confirmé.
Le ministre fédéral de la Justice Stuart Garson a refusé d’intervenir dans l’exécution de la sentence. Vincent Massey, gouverneur général du Canada, a signé l’arrêté ministériel ordonnant l’exécution de Coffin. Encore là, Duplessis n’a rien à voir dans ces décisions. Alors pourquoi s’acharner ainsi sur Duplessis?

14 mars 2008

POURQUOI LES AVOCATS DE COFFIN SE SONT-ILS TUS? (DEUXIÈME PARTIE)



POURQUOI LA DÉFENSE S'EST TUE (DEUXIÈME PARTIE)
EXTRAIT DU RAPPORT BROSSARD
PARTIE IV
LA PREUVE DÉLAISSÉE, IGNORÉE OU.. ABSENTE
Chapitre 2
POURQUOI LA DÉFENSE S’EST TUE

Un des deux autres avocats de Wilbert Coffin, Me Louis Doiron, ancien confrère de Me Gravel et de Me Maher à l’Université, et dont les services ne furent retenus qu’au tout début de l’audition du procès, à Percé, alors que l’on procédait au choix des membres du jury, témoigna devant cette Commission. Voici le résumé de parties de son témoignage pertinent à cette question de la décision de ne pas présenter de défense :
Transcriptions pages 6043 et suivantes :
« Si des témoins n’ont pas été entendus, c’est à la suite de la décision de ne pas faire entendre Coffin et de ne pas présenter de défense au procès, ce qui justifiait la décision de ne pas assigner les témoins.
Il y a eu à un moment donné une décision de prise de ne pas faire de preuve en défense ni par l’accusé, ni par d’autres témoins.
On avait pensé, à un moment donné, présenter une défense, mais par la suite, il y a eu discussion, et les avocats de la défense sont venus d’accord pour ne pas présenter de témoins.
Un jour, il est arrivé à la cabine qu’occupaient ses collègues et Me Maher lui formula une foule de raisons qui justifiaient de ne pas présenter de témoins; c’est alors qu’il signifia qu’il était parfaitement d’accord.
Quant à lui, il s’agissait d’une décision purement d’assentiment, car il n’avait pas vu Coffin et n’avait pas discuté avec lui.
La décision fut prise à la cabine alors que les deux procureurs, Me Gravel et Me Maher, étaient présents. Mais celui qui a présenté des arguments c’est Me Maher. Il a eu l’impression que Mes Maher et Gravel étaient d’accord lorsqu’ils lui parlèrent.
Il n’y a pas eu de dissidence.
Il croit que c’est au dernier jour du procès, au dernier jour de la preuve de la Couronne, qu’il a été décidé qu’on ne présenterait pas de défense.
En aucun moment, Coffin n’a-t-il manifesté d’une façon quelconque son désir de témoigner.
Il ne se souvient pas qu’au cours du procès, Coffin ait jamais fait de geste ou laissé entendre qu’il voudrait à un moment donné intervenir ou que l’un ou l’autre des deux avocats ait mentionné quel pouvait être le désir de Coffin sur ce sujet-là.
La raison principale de la décision fut que, à toutes fins pratiques, le témoignage de Coffin n’apporterait rien à ce qui avait été rapporté par la police à son sujet. (il s’agit des déclarations qu’il avait faites à Doyon au cours de son voyage dans le bois avec lui et Synnett).
Il n’a pas été témoin que la décision ait été transmise à Coffin, soit par l’un ou l’autre des deux avocats, sûrement pas par lui.
Il ne se souvient pas que lorsque Maher a déclaré « the defence rests », Coffin ait manifesté extérieurement et physiquement quelque sentiment que ce soit.
Il a eu connaissance qu’il fut question de Me Maloney dans la cabine, mais il ne se souvient pas d’appel à Me Maloney. Il croit que les téléphones à Me Maloney ont été faits relativement à la légalité de la preuve de Madame Petrie qui était la concubine ou la femme de Coffin.
Il croit aussi qu’il y a eu des téléphones à Me Maloney relativement à la présomption de vol récent dans le cas d’une cause de meurtre.
S’il se souvient bien, lorsque dans la cabine de Me Maher et de Me Gravel, il fut décidé de ne pas présenter de défense ou de témoins, il y a eu une discussion à savoir de quelle façon on s’exprimerait devant le Tribunal et il croit que c’est la formule qui a été adoptée « The defence rests ».
On tomba d’accord sur cette formule à la fin de la preuve de la Couronne.
Jusqu’à une phase assez avancée du procès, il y avait entente entre les procureurs de la défense à l’effet qu’on présenterait une défense, mais, à un moment donné, il est entré dans la cabine et à ce moment-là, on lui a demandé son opinion sur l’opportunité de faire entendre Coffin ou de ne pas faire entendre ; à ce moment-là, on a invoqué certains arguments pour demander son adhésion, et c’est alors qu’il a donné son assentiment croyant, à ce moment-là, que Me Gravel et Me Maher en avaient discuté entre eux et en étaient venus d’accord sur ce point.
À compter de ce moment, il croit qu’il n’y a plus eu de discussion pour décider si on devait présenter une défense ou non.
C’est à la fin du procès, alors que la preuve de la Couronne tirait à sa fin, qu’il fut invité par ses collègues de défense à présenter la plaidoirie en français, mais ce, avant que la preuve de la Couronne n’ait été terminée.
Ce serait quatre ou cinq jours avant que la preuve de la Couronne ne fût terminée qu’il aurait été invité à prononcer le plaidoyer en français. IL CROIT QU’À CE MOMENT IL SAVAIT QU’IL SERAIT APPELÉ À PLAIDER APRÈS LES PROCUREURS DE LA COURONNE (ce qui signifiait qu’aucune défense ne serait offerte). »
L’un des jurés, M. Romuald Caron, nous a, d’autre part, informés (le dossier conjoint ne l’indique pas) que la Couronne a terminé sa preuve un jeudi et que la Cour les informa alors que la défense commencerait sa preuve le lundi suivant. Il se serait donc écoulé trois jours francs entre la fin de l’enquête et la déclaration « The defence rests ».
Me FRANÇOIS DE B. GRAVEL, autre défenseur de Wilbert Coffin, fut lui aussi longuement interrogé devant cette Commission. (à suivre)
J’AFFICHERAI LA SEMAINE PROCHAINE DES EXTRAITS DU TÉMOIGNAGE DE MTRE GRAVEL SUR CETTE QUESTION.

WHY COFFIN'S COUNSELS KEPT SILENT (PART II)

EXCERPT FROM THE BROSSARD REPORT

PART IV
PROOF ABANDONED, IGNORED OR .. ABSENT
Chapter 2
WHY COFFIN’S COUNSELS KEPT SILENT (PART II)
(Literal translation by Clément Fortin)
One of the two other Wilbert Coffin’s lawyers, Mtre Doiron, a former Mtre Gravel’s and Mtre Maher’s university confrere, whose services were only retained at the very beginning of the trial in Percé, when they proceeded to the selection of the members of the jury, testified before this Commission. Here is a summary of parts of his testimony relevant to the decision to not present a defence :
Transcripts pages 6043 et suivantes :
« If witnesses were not heard, it is following the decision to not call Coffin to the witness stand and to not present a defence at the trial that justified the decision to not summon witnesses.
There was, at one time, a decision taken to submit a defence neither by the accused nor by other witnesses.
We thought, at a given time, of presenting a defence, but afterwards, there was a discussion, and the defence attorneys agreed to not present witnesses.
One day, he arrived at the cabin, occupied by his colleagues, and Mtre Maher submitted to him many reasons justifying to not present witnesses ; he indicated then that he was in perfect agreement.
As to him, that was purely a decision of consent because he had not seen Coffin and had not discussed with him.
The decision was taken at the cabin where the two attorneys, Mtre Gravel and Mtre Maher, were present. But the one who submitted arguments was Mtre Maher. He had the impression that Mtre Maher and Mtre Gravel were in agreement when they spoke to him.
There was no dissent.
He believes that, on the last day of the trial, on the last day of the Crown’s proof, it was decided that we would not present a defence.
At any time, Coffin has manifested, one way or the other, his desire to testify.
He does not recall that during the trial, Coffin had ever made a gesture or implied that he would want, at a given time, to intervene or that one or the other of the two lawyers had mentioned what Coffin’s wish might be on that subject.
The main reason for the decision was that, for all practical purposes, Coffin’s testimony would bring nothing to what had been reported by the police about him. (It concerns the declarations he had made to Doyon during his trip in the bush with him and Synnett).
He has not witnessed that the decision was transmitted to Coffin, either by one or the other two lawyers, surely not by him...
He does not recall, when Maher declared « the defence rests », that Coffin had manifested outwardly and physically whatever feeling.
He was aware of what was said about Mtre Maloney, in the cabin, but he does not remember that a call was made to Mtre Maloney. He believes that the telephone calls to Mtre Maloney were made regarding the lawfulness of the proof made about Madame Petrie, who was Coffin’s concubine or wife.
He believes also that there were telephone calls to Mtre Maloney with regard to the presumption of recent theft in a murder case.
If he does not recall well when, in Mtre Maher’s and Gravel’s cabin, it was decided to not present a defence or witnesses, there was a discussion about the way it would be said before the Court, and he believes that this is the formula that was adopted « The defence rests ».
We reached an agreement on this formula when the Crown rested its case.
Until late in the trial, there was an agreement between the defence attorneys in order that a defence be presented, but, at a given time, he came to the cabin and, at that time, we asked for his opinion on the opportunity to call Coffin to the stand or not ; at that moment, certain arguments were put forward to seek his adhesion, and then he gave his assent believing, at that moment, that Mtre Gravel and Mtre Maher had discussed the matter and had agreed on that point.
From that moment, he believes that there was no more discussion to decide whether or not a defence would be presented.
It is at the end of the trial, when the proof of the Crown was coming to a close, that he was invited by his defence colleagues to present his pleading in French, but before the Crown had rested its case.
This would be four or five days before the Crown had rested its case, that he was invited to present his pleading in French. HE BELIVES THAT, AT THAT MOMENT, HE KNEW THAT HE WOULD BE CALLED TO PLEAD AFTER THE CROWN’S ATTORNEYS (This meant that no defence would be submitted).”
One of the jurors, Mr. Romuald Caron, told us, on the other end, (The joint file does not indicate this.) that the Crown had rested its case on Thursday and that the Court informed them that the defence would present its proof the following Monday. Three clear days had passed between the moment the Crown rested its case and the declaration « The Defence Rests ».
Mtre FRANÇOIS DE B. GRAVEL, another Wilbert Coffin’s counsel was also examined at length before this Commission (to be followed)
NEXT WEEK, I SHALL POST A SUMMARY OF GRAVEL’S TESTIMONY ON THAT SUBJECT..

12 mars 2008

LE DERNIER TESTAMENT DE WILBERT COFFIN - COMMENT LE TORONTO STAR L'A-T-IL OBTENU?












À LIRE PROCHAINEMENT:
LE DERNIER TESTAMENT DE WILBERT COFFIN - COMMENT LE TORONTO STAR L'A-T-IL OBTENU?
DANS LES COULISSES, VOUS APPRENDREZ DES FAITS SURPRENANTS.

Ci-contre, le Palais de justice de Percé où Coffin a subi son procès pour le meurtre de Richard Lindsey. Il faisait la chasse à l'ours avec son père Eugene, et un ami du nom de Frederik Claar. Leurs ossements ont été retrouvés dans la forêt aux environs de Gaspé.

Centre d'archives de la Gaspésie/Musée de la Gaspésie. P167 Fonds Jacques Hébert. P167/A,1.

WILBERT COFFIN'S LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT HOW THE TORONTO STAR KNEW ABOUT IT?












COMING SOON:
WILBERT COFFIN'S LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT - HOW THE TORONTO STAR KNEW ABOUT IT? - BEHIND THE SCENES INFORMATION THAT WILL SURPRISE YOU!

Opposite, the Percé Court House where Coffin was tried for the murder of Richard Lindsey. The latter was on a hunting party with his father Eugene and a friend, Frederik Claar. Their remains were found in the bush in the vicinity of Gaspé.
Thanks to the Musée de la Gaspésie.
Centre d'archives de la Gaspésie/Musée de la Gaspésie. P167 Fonds Jacques Hébert. P167/A,1.

7 mars 2008

WHY COFFIN'S COUNSELS KEPT SILENT? (PART I)



I invite you to read these two books written in easy-to-read French. On s’amuse à mort (a literal translation “We enjoy ourselves to death”) revives the Poisson affair. In 1964, at the College of Matane, brother Oscar Lalonde is knocked down with a hammer. Three students are arrested and brought to justice. A good judiciary suspense.

“(a literal translation) A retired lawyer makes a solid case study in his book On s’amuse à mort at the College of Matane.”
Michel Auger, Le journal de Montréal

In L’affaire Coffin : une supercherie ? (a literal translation The Coffin Affair : a Hoax ? » you will be hearing the proof that has been submitted to the Percé jury. In this book, I invite you to pretend that you are a juror and to render a verdict in taking into account the facts that have been submitted to you. My blog is more or less the continuation of this book.

I post today other excerpts from the Brossard report. Here is the first of three parts of this other excerpt from the Brossard report:

EXCERPT FROM THE BROSSARD COMMISSION REPORT
PART IV
PROOF ABANDONED, IGNORED OR… ABSENT
Chapter 2 : Why Coffin’s counsels kept silent (PART I)
(A literal translation by Clément Fortin)
Let us remember that the honourable justice Edouard Rinfret of the Court of Appeal mentioned that one of the facts that the Percé jury might have retained or was entitled to was that of Coffin’s silence and the absence, consequently, of explanations from his part on the incriminating facts proven by the Crown.
As we have seen already, Coffin, realizing, by himself or by his counsels, the terrible importance of the establishment of this fact and of the learned justice’s opinion, had recourse, as a foundation for his doubtful right to make, under oath, the allegations in his affidavit of the 9th of October 1955, by invoking that « even although it was his desire to testify in his own defence, he had been advised not to do so by one of his counsels ».
Impressed, without doubt, by the honourable justice Rinfret’s opinion which comprised the declaration of a principle of law, but did not direct any blame to Wilbert Coffins’ attorneys and did not comment their decision, Mr. John Edward Belliveau (he was not a lawyer, but had covered Coffin’s trial) also drawing his inspiration, and without doubt, from the extra-judicial allegations in Coffin’s affidavit of the 9th of October 1955 and of certain documents filed with the Department of Justice, expressed his surprise to the fact that Coffin’s counsels had not called him to be heard at trial, and did so, in terms susceptible to raise doubts as to the wisdom of this decision.
From his part, M. Hébert (he was not a lawyer and had neither attended the trial nor read the proof submitted to the jury) wrote, in « Coffin was Innocent" and in « I Accuse the Assassins of Coffin », the most brutal lines, the most injurious and the hardest on Mtre Maher ; he accused him of incompetence, of having « committed so many serious errors that one may believe that he was not in the full possession of his faculties », of not having had « the conduct of a man on whom depended the life of a man », of having caused an irreparable wrong to Coffin « in keeping him from testifying and from explaining what had happened in his own terms to his Gaspesian compatriots who composed the jury », in accusing him “of having bluffed all through the trial”, on the one hand, and on the other, in insinuating that Coffin had been forced to keep silent by Mtre Maher…” while Coffin was imploring his counsel to let him talk”.
Then, let us see what Mtres Maher et Doiron, two of Coffin’s counsels, had to say about this matter when they testified before this Commission and let us study Mtre Gravel’s testimony on this same subject.
I could not better explain Mtre Maher’s conduct than by quoting, in extenso, the explanations he himself gave before this Commission.
After having said why a certain number of witnesses from New Brunswick whom he had summoned were not heard, as we shall see hereafter when we shall deal with the Arnold’s jeep, after having recalled that « when one presents a defence, the Crown may always, in criminal matters, present a counter-proof », after having underlined that he had had to take into consideration a) the statutory declaration that Wilbert Coffin made to Mr. Vanhoutte on the 6th of August 1953, b) that this declaration filed at the preliminary enquiry was not presented to the Percé jury, and that c) since it was a declaration which was not in itself incriminating, it might be used to contradict Coffin if he testified, after having also recalled « that all the proof of the Crown at the trial has been in greater part a denial of various facts alleged by Coffin in his statutory declaration”, Mtre Maher gave the following explanations in support of his decision for not having called witnesses:
Transcripts pages 9300 à 9310 :
« And then obviously with my client, I do not want to report what was said between me and my client, but my client knew from A to Z what I was going to do, the Coffin family, mister Albert Coffin and then Donald, and that I did not want that it be known too fast, the fact that I would not call witnesses to the stand, when the decision was taken towards the end of the trial, because we had considered and discussed all possible means of defence and held in suspense until the end, and then, I learned that Mtre Miquelon wished to rest the prosecution on Saturday, the twenty-ninth (29) or the thirtieth (30), I’ll see, I think that it is the thirtieth (30) of July, Saturday, and then I asked to hold that in suspense. Then, he has not rested his case on Saturday, but we knew, how shall I say.. you see, Saturday was the thirty first (31) of July, and then on the thirtieth of July, I knew that the Crown had finished, and it is then and there that I had a conference with Mtre Gravel and then with Mtre Doiron, and it is on that Saturday that it was decided that we would not offer a defence.

Now, we had a discussion, and a part of the discussion was on that, we wanted to know what formula to adopt for announcing that we would not offer a defence, because, in a case as important as this one, that of a murder, to stand up and say : « we have no witnesses to offer, no defence, it looks more awkward than to say : « the defence rests », well it was an expression recognized and proven through the experience of eminent English counsels, but I wanted to say simply « the defence rests », it did not mean that we had no defence to offer, it meant that we figured that the Crown had not proven the case beyond reasonable doubt, and that we were not obliged to submit a defence.

And then one of the main arguments was what Mtre Gravel kept telling me, and upon relying on Morabito vs. The King or the Queen, The Morabito case, that the degree of proof required, that the degree or the weight required had not been reached by the Crown.

Besides, I believe that the decision is good, I would take the same decision in the same circumstances, and if the decision based on the fact that the Crown had proven its case beyond all reasonable doubt, how is it that we have a Royal Commission, and then how is it that during eleven years every body had talked it over, if there were no doubt? I repeat that our decision was good, it was taken by three, by four, by all those interested, first, the client, then the counsels, we were in perfect agreement, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, in taking into consideration what the Crown might have done if we had called Wilbert Coffin to the stand, and then in taking into account the quality of the proof that the Crown had submitted, or the weight of the proof that had been offered by the Crown during the trial.

And then, more over, the disculpatory facts that Wilbert Coffin might have told under oath in the witness stand had already been stated by witnesses, I may give you the names, disculpatory or exculpatory facts that Wilbert Coffin might have told, had already been said in cross-examination by Crown witnesses, and when I speak of Crown witness, there was her own sister, there was Bill Baker, there was… One moment, please, then the only thing that we might have done in calling Wilbert Coffin to the stand, we would have exposed him to Mtres Noël Dorion and Paul Miquelon and Blanchard’s cross-examination, and the whole Provincial Police and the whole general quarter of the Provincial Police was there with a most complete investigation, one was watching everything, who might have controlled no matter what at a moment’s notice, let’s face it, if we had called him to the stand, sir, there would not be a Royal Enquiry, in my opinion.

Q. Then, you just touched, mister Maher, a point to which I was coming, that is to say if there were differences of opinions or not ?
A. None.
Q. Between defence counsels when the decision was taken to not call Coffin to testify ?
A. Look here, we discussed, mister Gravel and I have not the same temperament and then Mtre Doiron, Mtre Grave and I discussed, we kept all the means of defence open until the end, and then to show one thing, that the decision was joint and several.
Q. Did you, yourself, talked about this problem ?
A. If you mean to say that I should bear alone the responsibility, I shall assume it alone, you ask me the question, and this is what happened. Mtre Doiron and Mtre Grave and I were three friends and more over three lawyers, we had attended the university together, Mtre Gravel and I had been raised almost in the same street, he was one of my friends, we discussed freely, and there was no hide and seek, and then we kept in suspense all means of defence, and then we defended Coffin, everyone to the best of his capacity, that is the truth. Mtre Gravel was carrying out the research, he was doing it well, he worked hard, Mtre Doiron was doing what’s possible and I also believe having done so myself.
Q. Do you know Mister Maher, if this question, if this decision to call or not to call Coffin to the witness stand was reached in the course of the trial over the phone with Mtre Arthur Maloney of Toronto ?
A. I know that Mtre Gravel often called Arthur Maloney in Toronto, and I spoke to him once and Mtre Maloney talked to me about the theory of recent possession of stolen objects, and I said yes. He said: “did you read it well?”. I said : « yes, I read it well ». That’s all there was between Mtre Maloney and I.
Q. Has he spoken to you about the opportunity of hearing Coffin or not ?
A. He, his opinion, was that we had to be careful because, you know his theory, if the accused is found in recent possession of objects recently stolen, he has to give a plausible explanation, that is to say, yes, he has then to reverse the burden of proof.
….
A. My opinion was that the Crown had proven recent possession of objects having belonged to the Americans, but there was no proof of theft whatsoever ; first, no one came to say that he had been stolen and no one said (I have stolen). Therefore, I pretended that this theory did not apply, that was my opinion, that was my colleagues’opinion. Obviously, when we consider this retrospectively, it is not the same thing it was before the verdict, you know that after a verdict is rendered, it is easy to make comments, but to take decisions before the verdict, it is difficult in a case where capital punishment is involved. I believe that every one did his best to give Wilbert Coffin the best defence possible.
Q. You just said in what way this decision was taken on defence counsels’ common agreement, could you tell us if your client had personally been informed of that decision before it was announced in Court ?
A. Of course, he was fully informed, first, he followed closely the debates, I have kept him informed the year long, I saw him very often during the year, he has helped me in the investigation, I may not go into that, but he was alert, he was intelligent, he was very well informed, and I discussed with him at the adjournments, I saw him early in the morning, almost every morning, because I am an early riser, and then I saw him twice or three times a day, we discussed, I discussed with my colleagues, I do not say that I always shared my colleagues’ opinion and that my colleagues shared mine, but we discussed together in order to find the best defence possible..
Q. Did it occur in the course of the trial that Coffin had expressed his intention of testifying one way or another ?
A. My dear brethren, Coffin relied on me completely on this matter, what I did with Coffin, what I discussed with him, I may not report it to you, but I may tell you that he relied completely on me, and that I did not take this decision alone, I talked it over with him and with my two brethrens and I talked it over with his family.
Q. Can you tell us…
A, He has never asked desperately, no, no, no, he has never asked me to testify, but we talked over the possibility that he be heard, it was talked over thoroughly, studied thoroughly, and then it was turned over, I do not know how many times..
Q. Having been informed of your advice, that it was preferable for him to not testify, has he expressed his agreement ?
A. Coffin was in complete agreement.
Q. Then, I refer you to what can be read at page 56 of monsieur Hébert’s book, the third paragraph, where the author expresses himself as follows : « often Coffin would have wanted to intervene, to discomfit a witness who was leading the jury on a false path, shed some light which would have prohibited the Crown from elaborating learned theories on the matter of an error on a date or a misunderstanding, but his lawyer Mtre Maher prevented him from testifying without any justification.
A. My dear friend …
Q. Did that occur during the trial ?
R. How can an attorney prevent his client from speaking in Court ? Can you tell me ? If he wanted so desperately to talk, he only had to talk, I never prevented Coffin from speaking, but I have advised him on the opportunity of testifying or not, that is done frequently. It is one of the most difficult decisions to take in any profession to wit, to have our client to testify or not in a case of murder, in a tense atmosphere, which is electrical, where the least error from his part would tie a knot on his neck, come along ! (to be continued)
NEXT WEEK, I SHALL POST THE SECOND PART OF THIS CHAPTER WHICH IS ABOUT THE TESTIMONY BEFORE THE BROSSARD COMMISSION OF MTRE LOUIS DOIRON, ONE OF COFFIN'S ATTORNEY.