PART VII, VOLUME 2, PAGES 410 AND FOLLOWING
ON CERTAIN MAJOR INCIDENTS IN THE COFFIN AFFAIR
(A literal translation by Clément Fortin)
The Commission has studied, up until this day, this important part of the proof related directly to the events connected to the murder of the hunters and to the means set forth in Coffin’s defence by his counsels, lawyers, or others : it will now study certain major incidents of the affair.
THE SELECTION OF CROWN REPRESENTATIVES
The choice of the Crown attorneys
At page 45 of Mr. Hébert’s book, one reads the following pleasant words :
« The Attorney General, in want badly of action, entrusted the prosecution to his best attorneys, according to Québec standards, that is to say, to two men who already had to their account a great number of hanged persons.
In the Québec region, more than anywhere else in the province, a good Crown attorney is the one who, with ability and eloquence, succeeds the most frequently to obtain from a jury the head of an accused. According to this scale, Mtre Paul Miquelon and Mtre Noël Dorion were excellent Crown attorneys.
These two court champions were assisted by Mtre Georges Blanchard, Crown attorney from Chandler, who played an unobtrusive role in the course of this trial. Nevertheless, we must consider him as an accomplice of his two colleagues ; not only did he not dissociate himself from them, but seven years after the trial, the attorney had of course become judge Georges Blanchard, stated quietly to a newspaperman of the Soleil: “Coffin has been judged by his peers, that is twelve jurors, following a just and equitable trial…”
Not only Mr. Hébert’s statements, as to Québec standard regarding the choice of Crown attorneys, are absolutely gratuitous, insulting, and most offending to any attorney on whom falls the honour and the burden to protect the interests of the whole population of the province in acting as Crown attorney, they are, most particularly, in respect of Mtre Noël Dorion, of Mtre Paul Miquelon, (today justice of the Superior Court) and of Mtre Georges Blanchard, today district judge ; they are moreover ill-founded in fact and therefore doubly unjust.
As to the choice of the Crown attorneys, here is how, according to Mtre C.E. Cantin, and as the Crown attorneys themselves confirmed it, this choice was made.
Because Mtre Cantin knew that Dr. Rioux, District Coroner, had caused some concern about the inquests he had presided over – this coroner thought he was a lawyer and physician at the same time -, because Mtre Cantin had decided that in an inquest of that importance, it was necessary that a Crown attorney with whom he could talk directly on the spot, so that the inquest proceeds in the most regular fashion, because Mtre Blanchard had asked for help, - Mtre Blanchard confirmed that fact before us, - and because it had already been decided that even though the Coroner’s verdict was favourable to Coffin, the latter would nevertheless be indicted with murder and that the preliminary enquiry would take place the day following the Coroner’s inquest, Mtre Cantin suggested to the Solicitor General that Mtre Noël Dorion, the Québec senior Crown attorney, who had a great experience in enquiries, for he was in charge of all Coroner’s inquests at Québec, be sent.
Those were the only reasons for which Mtre Dorion was sent to Gaspé for the Coroner’s inquest and in the course of the inquest, it was normal that Mtre Dorion also took charge of the conduct of the inquest and of the trial. We do not know if he had to his account a great number of condemnations; it is undeniable however that Mtre Dorion enjoyed and still enjoys the reputation of a lawyer conscientious, keen on law, having and innate sense of justice and otherwise eloquent ; there is no doubt that, thanks to those qualities, Mtre Dorion has achieved many successes. It is against reason to think and to pretend that, in a trial for murder, the duty of the judicial authorities would be to abstain from entrusting the burden of pleading on behalf of the Crown to one of the titular Crown attorneys for the sole reason that he represents well the Crown in the trials he undertakes.
As to Mtre Miquelon, he was not the one who had been chosen to assume with Mtre Dorion this part of the enquiry which was to be carried in the English language ; it was one of the Crown attorneys of the District of Montréal who had been appointed to that end ; Mtre Hill was prevented from accepting this task because of illness, he was replaced a few days before the trial started in Percé by Mtre Miquelon who mastered the English language as well as the French language. As to Mtre Blanchard, it was normal. that he joined his brethrens who rejoiced of their presence with him, realizing the extent of the task of representing the Crown in that trial, considering the great number of witnesses who would be heard, the length of the trial and the fact that the proof of the Crown could only be circumstantial.
Mr. Hebert’s observations could be discarded as childish by any man of law, if they were not, otherwise, so insulting and offending; in other respect, his vicious attacks constitute a plea in favour of mediocrity against superiority. (To ben continued)