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.