EXCERPT FROM THE BROSSARD REPORT
PROOF ABANDONED, IGNORED OR ... ABSENT
WHY COFFIN’S COUNSELS KEPT SILENT
(Literal translation by Clément Fortin)
One of the two other Wilbert Coffin’s lawyers, Mtre Doiron, a former Mtre Gravel’s and Mtre Maher’s university confrere, whose services were only retained at the very beginning of the trial in Percé, when they proceeded to the selection of the members of the jury, testified before this Commission. Here is a summary of parts of his testimony relevant to the decision to not present a defence :
Transcripts pages 6043 et suivantes :
« If witnesses were not heard, it is following the decision not to call Coffin to the witness stand and to not present a defence at trial that justified the decision to not summon witnesses.
At one point in time, a decision was taken that the defence would not submit a defence, neither by the accused nor by any other witnesses.
We thought, at a given time, of presenting a defence, but afterwards, there was a discussion, and the defence attorneys agreed to not present witnesses.
One day, he arrived at the cabin occupied by his colleagues, and Mtre Maher submitted to him many reasons justifying to not present witnesses ; he indicated then that he was in perfect agreement.
As to him, that was purely a decision of consent because he had not seen Coffin and had not discussed with him.
The decision was taken at the cabin where the two attorneys, Mtre Gravel and Mtre Maher, were present. But the one who submitted arguments was Mtre Maher. He had the impression that Mtre Maher and Mtre Gravel were in agreement when they spoke to him.
There was no dissent.
He believes that, on the last day of the trial, on the last day of the Crown’s proof, it was decided that we would not present a defence.
At any time, Coffin has manifested, one way or the other, his desire to testify.
He does not recall that during the trial, Coffin had ever made a gesture or implied that he would want, at a given time, to intervene or that one or the other of the two lawyers had mentioned what Coffin’s wish might be on that subject.
The main reason for the decision was that, for all practical purposes, Coffin’s testimony would bring nothing to what had been reported by the police about him. (It concerns the declarations he had made to Doyon during his trip in the bush with him and Synnett).
He has not witnessed that the decision was transmitted to Coffin, either by one or the other two lawyers, surely not by him...
He does not recall, when Maher declared « the defence rests », that Coffin had manifested outwardly and physically whatever feeling.
He was aware of what was said about Mtre Maloney, in the cabin, but he does not remember that a call was made to Mtre Maloney. He believes that the telephone calls to Mtre Maloney were made regarding the lawfulness of the proof made about Madame Petrie, who was Coffin’s concubine or wife.
He believes also that there were telephone calls to Mtre Maloney with regard to the presumption of recent theft in a murder case.
If he does not recall well when, in Mtre Maher’s and Gravel’s cabin, it was decided to not present a defence or witnesses, there was a discussion about the way it would be said before the Court, and he believes that this is the formula that was adopted « The defence rests ».
We reached an agreement on this formula when the Crown rested its case.
Until late in the trial, there was an agreement between the defence attorneys in order that a defence be presented, but, at a given time, he came to the cabin and, at that time, we asked for his opinion on the opportunity to call Coffin to the stand or not ; at that moment, certain arguments were put forward to seek his adhesion, and then he gave his assent believing, at that moment, that Mtre Gravel and Mtre Maher had discussed the matter and had agreed on that point.
From that moment, he believes that there was no more discussion to decide whether or not a defence would be presented.
It is at the end of the trial, when the proof of the Crown was coming to a close, that he was invited by his defence colleagues to present his pleading in French, but before the Crown had rested its case.
This would be four or five days before the Crown had rested its case, that he was invited to present his pleading in French. HE BELIVES THAT, AT THAT MOMENT, HE KNEW THAT HE WOULD BE CALLED TO PLEAD AFTER THE CROWN’S ATTORNEYS (This meant that no defence would be submitted).”
One of the jurors, Mr. Romuald Caron, told us, on the other end, (The joint file does not indicate this.) that the Crown had rested its case on Thursday and that the Court informed them that the defence would present its proof the following Monday. Three clear days had passed between the moment the Crown rested its case and the declaration « The Defence Rests ».
Mtre FRANÇOIS DE B. GRAVEL, another Wilbert Coffin’s counsel was also examined at length before this Commission (to be followed)
NEXT WEEK, I SHALL POST A SUMMARY OF GRAVEL’S TESTIMONY ON THAT SUBJECT.