Alton Price, the author of To Build a Noose translated
in French under the title Tromper le jury
Opposite Marie Coffin and bloquiste member of the House of Commons
WAS COFFIN GUILTY ? (PART TWO) continued)
Excerpt of the Brossard’s Report
This is a literal translation by Clément Fortin.
Before proceeding to the study of this extremely delicate matter, it is advisable to recall what follows:
Most of the facts alleged in Coffin’s affidavit of October 9th, 1955, or having been the subject of affidavits, declarations, received or other documents transmitted to the Department of Justice, were in direct relation with some of the facts proven during the Percé trial and mainly withheld by the judges of appeal courts; more particularly the facts related to the MacGregor incidence, the jeep tracks, Arnold’s jeep, and the one seen by the Wilson’s, the Tapp’s, Hackett’s and Régis Quirion, to payments received by Coffin before his departure from Gaspé and to the disappearance of Jack Eagle’s rifle;
Maître Gravel, one of Coffin’s counsels, has admitted before this Commission that when it was decided to not hear Coffin, almost all the facts, true or not, alleged in the affidavit and which were previous to this decision were known by the defence;
According to Coffin’s affidavit, if these facts then known by the defence and if the explanations given by Coffin in his affidavit were not communicated to the jury, it was solely because, contrarily to the strong desire that he had to testify, Coffin was advised by only one of his counsels to not testify and to not present a defence;
All the facts that Coffin and his counsels pretended to know when that decision to not present a defence was taken, all the facts the pretended knowledge of which would only have been acquired after that decision but before the execution of the affidavit of October 9th, 1955, and all the other facts subsequently known or alleged which might, if they had been proven during the trial, have had a bearing on the verdict of guiltiness formed the subject of an exhaustive enquiry by the Commission.
Previously, we have studied the proof which has been submitted to us regarding these known or alleged facts and have given our conclusions. Do these studies and conclusions allow us to answer the question the way it is stated?
Obviously, one may not say what might had been the effect on the jury of a proof, whether of facts that knew or pretended to know Coffin and his counsels when the Crown ended the presentation of its proof during the Percé trial, whether facts which might have been known or which they pretended having known after the condemnation and before his execution, or facts which were only known after the execution and which were proven before us; this would be pure speculation and conjecture.
The problem arises, however, from a special angle because Coffin has not testified.
1. We know that if Coffin has not presented a defence, it was with full knowledge, with his assent and on the advice of his counsels. We also know that one of the main reasons for which this decision was taken was the certainty that if Coffin was called to testify, the Crown, would oppose him his declaration of August 6th, 1953 to put him in contradiction with himself and that these new contradictions, added to the proof already establishing the falseness of his verbal declarations reported by officers Doyon and Sinnett, would have constituted a proof stronger yet that the one that had been made of his lies as to his conduct during the three fateful days during which the crimes were committed. We also know that, when that decision was taken, Coffin and his counsels knew or pretended to know most of the facts alleged by Coffin in his affidavit, and that despite the knowledge of these facts or pretended facts, the decision was nevertheless taken to keep quiet. As Maître Maher affirmed, “if Coffin had been heard, the institution of this Commission would not have been necessary,” in other words the certainty of the jury that Coffin was guilty would have been, if possible, considerably increased.
We know today, so much from Coffin’s declarations not proven at the trial than from the proof laid before us, the falsehoods of the affirmations in the affidavit of 9th, October 1955 as to the jeep tracks, the Arnold’s jeep, and the value of his mining claims, as to payments received by Coffin before the 12th, June 1953, as to his possession of substantial amounts of money on his departure on the 12th, June for Montreal, as to the age of the occupants of the jeep he pretended having seen, as to the description of that jeep, as much falsehoods that Coffin and/or his counsels knew or that the latter should have known; and we also know that the Crown would have been in a better position than it was today to bring out the falsehoods or this impossibility if Coffin had offered some proof in defence.
On this first score, it appears to me that, from the moment it is established that it is voluntarily, through necessity and with Coffin’s assent, that counsels for the defence did not call Coffin or other persons as witnesses, the present enquiry has furnished major additional reasons for not believing in Coffin’s innocence.
2. Three facts laid in proof before us, but that the Percé jury was not aware of, themselves, of sufficiently serious nature to give us major additional and hardly refutable reasons for not believing in Coffin’s non guiltiness; these facts are as follows:
A. As we have seen, if Wilbert Coffin was not heard at his trial, it was not because, contrarily as to what he sought manifestly to make believe at paragraph 3 of his affidavit of 9th October 1955, he wanted to testify and was dissuaded from doing so by one of his counsels, Maître Maher, but truly because he was persuaded by his counsels that it would be dangerous for him to do so and because his counsels considered, with just cause, a) that it might be fatal to his case, to expose him to a cross-examination by the Crown counsels and to a confrontation with certain declarations which he had made and which had not been adduced yet in evidence by the Crown and b) that it might be very dangerous for his credibility and the effect of his testimony before the jury, to give way to a counter-proof by the Crown; let us add to the additional fact relating to the first ones that it is with Coffin’s full consent and acquiescence that the defence did not call him to testify nor other witnesses.
In my opinion, the falsehood of paragraph 3 of Coffin’s affidavit, paragraph which is at the basis and which constituted the only justification for the rest of the affidavit, was sufficient in itself to vitiate the truthfulness of all the affidavit, to render highly suspect the other affirmations in the affidavit, to underline more Coffin’s deceitful attitude and whence to increase the strength of presumptions of guiltiness withheld by the Percé jury and appeal courts. (To be continued)
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