16 mars 2008



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

2 commentaires:

Anonyme a dit...

Mr. Fortin,
What's the reason for two justices out of five of the Supreme Court wouldn't have confirmed the verdict against Coffin?


Clément Fortin a dit...

Sir, your question is relevant but I am a bit reluctant to answer it because I would need many pages to explain Justices Cartwright and Kellock’s dissent understandably. In my 384 page book L’affaire Coffin: une supercherie? I explain their dissent in details. You may read also IN THE MATTER OF A REFERENCE RE REGINA v. COFFIN, Supreme Court of Canada, 1955, pages 191-252.
In short, they would have retained as reasons to justify a new hearing the following:
1)The fact that the police officer Doyon would have stated to the jurors having acted on “precise information” when he searched in the vicinity of Coffin’s camp for John Eagle’s rifle, this information being, in the opinion of the learned justices, hearsay evidence.
2) The illegal use that the Crown would have made with the cross-examination of Marion Petrie in using it as a proof that she had made a mistake or had not spoken the truth at trial.
3) The fact that permission was granted to the jurors to go and see a movie.
4) The fact pertaining to the hearing of the case by a jury composed of six French-speaking jurors and six English-speaking jurors.
I have studied carefully all those reasons and I came to the conclusion that they were not relevant and specially in the light of the findings of the Brossard Commission.