23 mai 2009

WILBERT COFFIN ILL-TREATED BY POLICE?



















Frederik Claar's valise found
by police at Marion Petrie's
place in Montreal

The honourable senator
Jacques Hébert
La plaidoirire par
Honoré Daumier

WILBERT COFFIN ILL-TREATED BY POLICE?
EXCERPT FROM THE BROSSARD REPORT, PART VII, VOLUME 2,
CHAPTER VI

(A literal translation by Clément Fortin)
The order-in-council has given the Commission the mandate to investigate the “credibility of the statements made by Francis Thompson to the Miami police, in November 1958”.
In order to report with full knowledge of the facts, the Commission has inquired into all aspects of this funny incident and it has heard, on this sole subject, 36 witnesses and collected 66 exhibits.
The study of this question suggests the following division:
I - Francis Gabriel Thompson’s personality;
II - The Miami events;
III - Notary J. Conrad Moreau’s trip;
IV - Thompson’s alibi;
V - Thompson’s credibility;
VI - Conclusions.
B) THE VINCENT PATTERSON CASE;
C) THE QUESTIONING OF WILBERT COFFIN, MARION PETRIE AND LEWIS SINNETT;
D) THE TWO PRISONERS WHO WERE PROMPTED TO TESTIFY AGAINST COFFIN

PARTE VII, VOLUME 2, CHAPTER 6 (page 466)
Excerpt from the Brossard report
THE QUESTIONING OF WILBERT COFFIN, MARION PETRIE AND LEWIS SINNETT
In the reproduction, in the Toronto Star issue of the 11th of February, of Wilbert Coffin’s last will and testament and in his own reproduction of this will and testament in the book of Mr. Belliveau, one reads: « I would like that the public know since my arrest, I was not fairly treated ».
It was not a faithful reproduction of the document signed by Coffin, as written by Mtre Gravel; Coffin had said, from the hand of Mtre Gravel, “Since my arrest I never had a fair deal and I do hope no repetition of such unjust affair will occur in my province ».
Coffin had not expressed any such griefs in his affidavit of the 9th of October. Had he expressed any before? Had he been subjected to ill-treatments?
Let us point out that there is more than a nuance, that there is in fact, a difference between « I was not fairly treated » and « I never had a fair deal »; the first expression may refer to moral and physical treatments whereas the second refers rather to the methods used to obtain his conviction and execution.
At page 23 of Mr. Belliveau’s book, one may read what follows :
« He said he was brutally treated under a five-hundred watt light in the fire station basement. Once, he said, he was grilled for eighteen hours at a stretch. When he was thirsty water would be brought and then snatched from him before he could drink. Cigarette would be given and snatched away. When he was dropping from fatigue, he would be slapped back into a chair”.
Drawing obviously his inspiration from this passage of the book of Mr. Belliveau, at least from a passage corresponding to his reports, Mr. Hébert writes in his second book what follows :
Page 74
« But if we believe Coffin, he would have been questioned, on one occasion at least, during 18 hours without interruption. When he asked for water, he was offered a glass and then it was snatched from his hands. They did likewise with cigarettes. He was also questioned while a 500 watt light grilled his eyes. It goes without saying that the police denied all that… »
Page 133
« Matte first tried to force Coffin into a confession. He used all the methods that could imagine his sick brain. The failure was total. Coffin was innocent; when we know him, we understand without pain that the Gestapo experts themselves would not have succeeded to have him say the contrary. »
Mr. Belliveau told us that he does not remember from whom he obtained this information; one thing is for sure, he did not get them from Wilbert Coffin; From whom, then? Surely, not from those who submitted Coffin to examinations; they all came and said the contrary. Then? We are forced to conclude to hearsay or an excess of imagination.
Examined on this subject during this inquiry, Mr. Hébert, denied having drawn his inspiration from Belliveau, which does appear to us as being an inaccuracy, gave, as a sole source for this passage, the information he obtained from Donald Coffin; he tried to add to it, during the inquiry, information of the like received from Mrs. Marion Petrie.
Donald Coffin declared to us that all his brother Wilbert had told him was that he had been questioned for several hours and these questionings were interrupted for maybe half an hour, during which time he rested before the questioning resumed; Donald stated that his brother had expressed no other grief than that.
For her part, Mrs. Marion Petrie told us that she might have heard from Mr. Eugène Létourneau, officer in charge of the Québec jail, information regarding the questionings Coffin was subjected to wherein he was blinded by lights; this information, she might have gathered in the course of a joint interview between her, Mr. Létourneau and Wilbert Coffin. Mr. Létourneau denied ever having been in the presence of Mrs. Petrie and Wilbert Coffin, in any circumstances, denied that Coffin ever was questioned at the very jail, to his knowledge, denied ever having reported to Mrs. Petrie Coffin’s declarations regarding his questionings, denied being aware of a pretended three day questioning to which Coffin was submitted, denied ever being aware of any questionings, either by night or by day, at the Provincial Police , denied that Coffin has ever told him that he was blinded by lamps in the course of his questionings; on one occasion, Coffin told him that that it was long, and in a third circumstance: “They cursed after me.”
Wilbert Coffin was apparently submitted to four main questionings by officers of the Provincial Police, captain Matte, captain Sirois, sergeant Vanhoutte and sergeant Fradette. Three of these questionings took place in Gaspé, the first one on the 28th of July 1953, the second on the 6th of August of 1953 (this is the one that was followed by the signature of a statutory declaration). The third one, on the 9th of August; the fourth one took place in Québec City.
All those officers responsible for those questionings have been heard by this Commission. On the one hand, they all unanimously recognized that the questionings were long, arduous, difficult, tiresome for all those who took part in them and above all, obviously, for the one who was subjected to them, often slow because of Coffin’s attitude, but on the other hand, they stated that during those questionings, Coffin was not molested, threatened, roughed or subjected to malicious deprivation. I abstract from their respective testimonies what I consider the essential part of it.
Jean-Charles Vanhoutte :
It is untrue to say that we lighted before Coffin’s eyes a 500 watt lamp, that we offered him water that we snatched away from him, a minute later, that we did the same for cigarettes; occasionally, during questioning, captain Matte and captain Sirois offered Coffin cigarettes; he, himself, bought cigarette tobacco for Coffin at the end of a questioning and had all he could eat sandwiches in Doyon’s apartment adjoining the Provincial Police office, in Doyon’s absence. We did not use photographers’ portable flash.
Captain Raoul Sirois :
No violent action was, at any time, exerted on Coffin. We never offered Coffin glasses of water to take them back at the last minute; as for cigarettes, it was the same; he admits that on one occasion, at least, he was called a liar.
Captain Matte :
The first questioning of Coffin took place on the night of the 27th or 28th of July and lasted from midnight until four o’clock in the morning, in the presence of Mr. Vanhoutte.
The second questioning he submitted Coffin to, took place on the night of the 9th to the 10th of August from 8 o’clock in the night until nine o’clock in the morning. The witness used the usual method : his intelligence purely and solely; to use his muscles would not have been intelligent, he says. Roughness, says the witness, has never given anything; he never has, himself used roughness; he never used the methods that are attributed to him in the book “I Accuse the Assassins of Coffin”; the statements in the book are entirely false; he always has treated human beings as they should, be they prisoners or not.
Coffin’s third questioning, at Québec City, was most amicable because Coffin is a « gentle fellow and very polite> ».
The witness considers particularly revolting and dirty the statements in the books of Messrs. Belliveau and Hebert that he would have used a 500 watt lamp to blind the detainee during questioning.
As to the questioning that took place on the 6th of August, he is not the one who did it; let us recall that at that moment, captain Matte was in Montréal where he just had obtained from Mrs. Petrie serious and exceptional information and he wanted Coffin to be questioned before the latter would learn the information communicated by Mrs. Petrie.
Mr. Fradette confirmed his colleagues’ statements for this part of the questionings he attended.
Indeed, questioning from 10 to 12 hours, in the night, is great hardships for the one who is submitted to it; police officers have, however, explained to this Commission that the night is the best time for questioning, according to them, for not disrupting their regular day workload.
Defendants who are seriously suspected of obnoxious murders certainly have the right to be treated humanely, but they cannot expect and have no right to expect being treated as if they were v.i.p’s on television. From this angle, it is unjustly, too often, that police officers whose task is eminently unrewarding, are accused of having manhandled suspects for not having questioned them with too much tenderness; criminal lawyers often complain about ill-treatments given their clients and with much publicity in the newspapers; it pleases those who are frustrated, the perpetual grumblers, those who are fearful and specially the enemies of order and authority; it also pleases those who believe that individual freedom entitles them to violate that of the others.
(…)
The murder of the three Americans for which Coffin was seriously suspected had nothing particularly enlightening; since the police seriously considered Coffin guilty as they discovered his lies, they could not be inclined to treat him as a victim; therefore, let us observe that despite this, that Wilbert Coffin’s attorneys, apparently, never expressed any grief as to the treatments their client underwent before the eve of his execution.
Therefore, I conclude that Coffin did not have serious reasons to complain of ill-treatments and the only reproach that he has ever made as to an « Unfair deal » that he would have been submitted to, could only refer to proceedings that led him to the gallows, rather than the treatments he had been the object from the part of Provincial Police officers.
I also conclude that is ill-founded, denied by many facts and in itself insulting the accusation made by Mr. Hébert against captain Matte that he has « used all means that could imagine his sick brain to attempt to get admissions from Coffin »; surely, captain might have, before Coffin was charged, tried, as it was otherwise his duty and right, to obtain admissions from Coffin, but no proof was made that he used means of Gestapo experts; the word Coffin told his father on the morning of the Coroner’s inquest that “they are not man enough to break me” and that the Crown has entered as evidence before the Percé jury was interpreted by the latter and by the justices of appeal courts. The proof submitted to us confirmed that this word was not alluding to ill-treatment, for which Coffin otherwise never complained.
Furthermore, Coffin was so little ill-treated by the Provincial Police that, on the night of the 26th to the 27th of August 1953, at Gaspé, instead of lodging in municipal cells that the Provincial Police officers considered too dirty to lodge a suspect, he spent the night in the Police headquarters which part of it was occupied by sergeant Doyon and that he spent the night on the couch of his home; I accept, on this point, the version given by sergeant Doyon, his spouse and her sister, in preference to those of two police officers whose testimonies were neither convincing nor very intelligent. And as to the conditions wherein Wilbert Coffin was lodged that night, I must recognize that Mr. Hébert has described them correctly in his book; doubtlessly, they were favourable to sergeant Doyon, his main, if not his unique informant; but this may not excuse Mr. Hébert for having been totally unjust towards captain Matte and the other police officers, as we have just seen. (TO BE FOLLOWED)
YOUR COMMENTS, PLEASE.

33 commentaires:

Anonyme a dit...

Do you really beleive that any police would admit to what they did to coffin, or to the way they handeled the questioning. they tried to get a cofession, they beleived he was guilty from the day of his arrest. they beleived he was the last known to see the hunters alive. they wanted to be the ones getting the confession from coffin. I would imagine it was not a picnic for coffin... after all, the police diddnt have a clue in hell what they were doing anyway, or how to investigate a murder case. i beleive everything said about the police is true. everyone of them who questioned coffin, of course who would know what went on? one would not tell on the other...ever hear that old saying? birds of a feather flock together! I beleive coffin was a theif, I also beleive when he stole the things from truck he had no clue hunters were dead, if they were dead at that time? if there was a murder, and from evidence, it was not proven, it was over a lot more then a pocket knife....

Clément Fortin a dit...

What interests me most, in this excerpt of the Brossard report, is to learn that Coffin was not as ill-treated as Belliveau and Hébert reported it in their books. But I know that being in the hands of the police is not a picnic. You seem to minimize the importance of the pocket knife. What about the maple syrup, the fuel pump, young Claar’s binoculars, and Claar’s valise full of his clothes, etc. The doctrine of recent possession is the law of the land. We inherited it from England when it took over North America. I assure you that it is not a Québec invention. On a few occasions, I explained this doctrine on this blog. For a full account of this doctrine, I suggest you read my 384 page book titled L’affaire Coffin: une supercherie?

Clément Fortin a dit...

DOCTRINE OF RECENT POSSESSION
Sec. 354 C.C. (Possession of Property obtained by crime)
R. V. NICKERSON
Where an accused is found in possession of goods proved to have been recently stolen, the judge or jury may infer, not only that he had possession of goods knowing them to have been stolen, but that he participated in whatever offence was committed by which the goods were stolen.

Anonyme a dit...

sorry mr. fortin, but i have trouble to beleive anyone would kill three people, steal their belongings, then go to to town and flash them around, not to mention he had already been seen in town with one of the hunters...I beleive he stole those things from the hunters truck, maybe the hunters were still alive, maybe not...I beleive coffin had no clue, it was just theft on his part... maybe the hunters were still alive at the time of theft, someone maybe saw coffin steal those things, or heard about it, someone who wanted Lindsay dead, this was there chance, and there scape goat.... That is why the big fish got away from police... cofffin was the only one on minds of police... now what was the price of a bottle of syrup in 1953.... not worth murder, you think...

Clément Fortin a dit...

Sir:
Why don’t you consider the application of the doctrine of recent possession in your comments? Coffin gave no sufficient explanations for his possession of the murdered hunters’ belongings. I suggest you read the definition of the doctrine of recent possession that I posted for you on the 24th instant. That’s the law of the land.

Anonyme a dit...

I have read it mr.Fortin... I do not beleive mr.coffin found a suitcase, maple syrup, binoculars,and fuel pump lieing beside the dead bodies in the woods. so this would mean coffin must have got the things from hunters truck as he said he did...no valuables were taken from crime scene. that could mean it was not coffin killed them, and that he did not know hunters were dead when he took things from their truck...the pocket knife...well coffin could have taken it from the truck also. when coffin was told police wanted to see him,and that 3 hunters were dead, and he knew he had taken them into town, and yes i imagine he lied and said he was givin the pocket knife, he knew just what trouble he was in...anyone may do the same... now there is the fact that those bodies laid in the woods for a long time and when found there were just bones left...all the people traveling around in Gaspe woods in 1953, and no one saw three dead men laying about on the ground...not easy to miss.... this confuses me....this could mean bodies were not even in the woods, and only dumped there later... could you tell me mr. fortin, was the crime scene checked for blood, or blood on clothing, or was there any blood found at all...had the hunters guns been fired...

Anonyme a dit...

I do also wonder why an autopsy was not done on Baker. It is written on Stoddard site by family that Baker was feeling ill so went to lie down and rest. His wife later joined him, he was choking and decided to get up and go to bathroom for a glass of water... If he was feeling that ill, why did she not get him a glass of water, or call a doctor... Daughter of baker also said she was driving with her dad and she felt there was a car following them...that he had been talking to a lot of people...HELLO... was this not all the more reason for an autopsy, being he died very shortly after coffins hanging.... to take the word of the doctor,even if it was a family friend, and how does anyone know if he was telling the truth, or maybe even involved. as it was said this doctor was already giving shots of an illegal drug...so what else was he capable of...I think there are still a lot of secrets revolving around coffin case...

Clément Fortin a dit...

Sir:
Let me remind you that I am not trying to convince you of Coffin's guiltiness. I am just furnishing you with relevant information. Take note that I would have been happy, as a born Gaspesian, to discover, in the course of my research in this affair, that Wilbert Coffin was the victim of a miscarriage of justice. Up until then, I had read Jacques Hébert's books and was convinced that Coffin was innocent.
Now that you have read about the doctrine of recent possession, I suggest that you read about circumstantial evidence, the doctrine of recent possession being only one element considered by the jury. Coffin was convicted on circumstantial evidence. The testimonies, as a whole, must be taken into consideration by the jurors. In my 384 page book, I present all those testimonies on the basis of which the jury found Coffin guilty. I suggest you read about circumstantial evidence the following notes which I post separately because this comment is too long.

Clément Fortin a dit...

NOTES ON CIRCUMSTATIAL EVIDENCE

Information and testimony presented by a party in a civil or criminal action that permit conclusions that indirectly establish the existence or nonexistence of a fact or event that the party seeks to prove.
Circumstantial Evidence is also known as indirect evidence. It is distinguished from direct evidence, which, if believed, proves the existence of a particular fact without any inference or presumption required. Circumstantial evidence relates to a series of facts other than the particular fact sought to be proved. The party offering circumstantial evidence argues that this series of facts, by reason and experience, is so closely associated with the fact to be proved that the fact to be proved may be inferred simply from the existence of the circumstantial evidence.
The following examples illustrate the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence: If John testifies that he saw Tom raise a gun and fire it at Ann and that Ann then fell to the ground, John's testimony is direct evidence that Tom shot Ann. If the jury believes John's testimony, then it must conclude that Tom did in fact shoot Ann. If, however, John testifies that he saw Tom and Ann go into another room and that he heard Tom say to Ann that he was going to shoot her, heard a shot, and saw Tom leave the room with a smoking gun, then John's testimony is circumstantial evidence from which it can be inferred that Tom shot Ann. The jury must determine whether John's testimony is credible.
Circumstantial evidence is most often employed in criminal trials. Many circumstances can create inferences about an accused's guilt in a criminal matter, including the accused's resistance to arrest; the presence of a motive or opportunity to commit the crime; the accused's presence at the time and place of the crime; any denials, evasions, or contradictions on the part of the accused; and the general conduct of the accused. In addition, much Scientific Evidence is circumstantial, because it requires a jury to make a connection between the circumstance and the fact in issue. For example, with fingerprint evidence, a jury must make a connection between this evidence that the accused handled some object tied to the crime and the commission of the crime itself.
Books, movies, and television often perpetuate the belief that circumstantial evidence may not be used to convict a criminal of a crime. But this view is incorrect. In many cases, circumstantial evidence is the only evidence linking an accused to a crime; direct evidence may simply not exist. As a result, the jury may have only circumstantial evidence to consider in determining whether to convict or acquit a person charged with a crime. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that "circumstantial evidence is intrinsically no different from testimonial [direct] evidence"(Holland v. United States, 348 U.S. 121, 75 S. Ct. 127, 99 L. Ed. 150 [1954]). Thus, the distinction between direct and circumstantial evidence has little practical effect in the presentation or admissibility of evidence in trials.
Further readings
Romano, John F. 1999. "Prohibitions in the Use of Circumstantial Evidence: Key Tips on Gaining Strategic Advantage." Trial Lawyer 22 (January-February): 2–4.
Romano, John F., and Rodney G. Romano.1998. "The Circumstantial Evidence Generation: 25 Guidelines for Winning the Circumstantial Evidence Case. Trial Diplomacy Journal 21 (May-June).
West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Clément Fortin a dit...

NOTES ON CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE (CONTINUED)_______________________________________
circumstantial evidence n.

evidence in a trial which is not directly from an eyewitness or participant and requires some reasoning to prove a fact. There is a public perception that such evidence is weak ("all they have is circumstantial evidence"), but the probable conclusion from the circumstances may be so strong that there can be little doubt as to a vital fact ("beyond a reasonable doubt" in a criminal case, and "a preponderance of the evidence" in a civil case). Particularly in criminal cases, "eyewitness" ("I saw Frankie shoot Johnny") type evidence is often lacking and may be unreliable, so circumstantial evidence becomes essential. Prior threats to the victim, fingerprints found at the scene of the crime, ownership of the murder weapon, and the accused being seen in the neighborhood, certainly point to the suspect as being the killer, but each bit of evidence is circumstantial.
Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T.

Anonyme a dit...

The drug WAS NOT ILLEGAL..It was a NEW drug that the doctor hadn't used before! Nowhere does it state that the drug was illegal!This is exactly how rumours get started, and suddenly the doctor is being pointed at!!!This was a good, honest, caring doctor to the whole population of Gaspé, not some conniving liar!

Anonyme a dit...

Frenchy speaking :
What is : Birds of a feather flock together ! what does it means in french? Do we have an expression that means the same ?
Tell me .

Anonyme a dit...

Frenchy speaking
What means conniving liar ?
un menteur de connivence?
In short , someone that would lie purposely and produce a report in accordance with what might not be the truth just to please some instance or what should be read and taken for the truth by the common.?

Anonyme a dit...

"Birds of a feather flock together" ou en français "Qui se ressemble s'assemble"

Anonyme a dit...

Could someone give us the name of that "so-called illegal drug" so that we may check it out.

Anonyme a dit...

if the drug was illegal, then please tell me why it was said in stoddards post that the wife, June Baker was to have said she did not want an autopsy because she did not want to get dr. fortier, a good family friend also, in trouble for using this drug on Bill Baker... I would like to know too, if this was also lies... cortisone, was said to be the drug Dr. Guy Fortier used...

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