Sunday, April 29, 2007

Canadian man should be acquitted: Attorney General

Crooked pathologist again: Mullin-Johnson conviction in niece's death `cannot stand'

The case of a Sault Ste. Marie man convicted of killing his four-year-old niece is likely a miscarriage of justice, Attorney General Michael Bryant said Friday in urging Ottawa to expedite a review he said should result in William Mullins-Johnson's acquittal. The Ontario government filed papers Friday to support Mullins-Johnson's request for a review of his conviction by the federal justice minister, Bryant told CP. "The Ontario Crown's position is that the conviction in this case cannot stand, and that Mr. Mullins-Johnson should ultimately be acquitted by the Ontario Court of Appeal,'' Bryant told the news agency.

"We've obviously come to this position based on a full review of the case including new expert evidence. The expert reports provided by the chief coroner's office have significantly undermined the forensic evidence at trial relating to the circumstances surrounding Valin Johnson's death.''

Mullins-Johnson spent 12 years in prison for the murder of his niece Valin, 4, after pathologist Dr. Charles Smith concluded the girl was sexually assaulted and strangled. The conviction was upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada, but he was released from custody in Sept., 2005, after evidence surfaced that Smith had lost tissue samples capable of showing Valin died of natural causes.

Mullins-Johnson appealed for a review by the federal justice minister, claiming his conviction was a miscarriage of justice. Bryant said Friday he had communicated to Ottawa that referring the case to the Ontario Court of Appeal, in the hopes of acquitting him, would be the right thing to do. "It's true, I'm taking the unusual step of providing this information as quickly as possible,'' said Bryant. "I'm doing it because we are dealing with this extraordinary circumstances that flows out of the chief coroner's report with respect to the pathology reports of Dr. Smith.''

The province has called a public inquiry into Smith's work after an expert panel questioned the pathologist's findings in 20 cases, 12 of which resulted in criminal convictions and one of not criminally responsible. The federal justice minister can either order a new trial, refer the case to the Ontario Court of Appeal or decline to offer any remedy to Mullins-Johnson. Bryant said he wants the justice minister to refer the case to the court. "Out of respect for the process, I'm saying it's in the hands of the federal minister of justice to decide what to do with the Crown's position in Ontario,'' he said. "But out of respect for Mr. Mullins-Johnson, and in an effort to assure Ontarians that we're willing to move forward as quickly as possible to address allegations of miscarriages of justice, I am providing people with that information as soon as I'm able to do that.''

Report here. See post of 23rd for more on the pathologist concerned.

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

No comments: