Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sloppy Canadian police work leads to wrongful conviction -- ruins man's life

Gerald Barton is happy to have the court cases all behind him. "I feel good," he told the Courier by phone from Alberta this week. "It’s all behind me and I don’t have to think about any of this stuff no more. I’m one happy guy."

Barton, originally of Jordantown, was wrongfully convicted of statutory rape in 1970, when he was 19, and carried the label of sex offender until a paternity test in 2011 proved he wasn’t involved.

Barton was in civil court in Halifax last week seeking compensation from the RCMP and the provincial government. "They didn’t take the time, they didn’t investigate anything," Barton said of the investigating officers involved in 1970.

Court records show Barton served a few hours in jail and was sentenced to one year of probation for having sex with a female between the ages of 14 and 16.

The girl in the case had become pregnant and had accused Barton of violently raping her.

A statement supposedly from Barton and typed by then RCMP officer Earl Hamilton was entered into evidence in court last week, in which Barton admits to consensual sex with the girl.

Barton denies he made the statement. "They never talked to me, I never met the man," he said about Hamilton. "They just talked to the [girl’s family]. The Mounties did what they did, they wrote it, and they made me guilty."

Retired judge and then crown prosecutor Charles Haliburton however testified last week that Barton pled guilty. Haliburton found a note in some of his files concerning the preliminary hearing that indicates there was a guilty plea, but he testified there are no other documents about the trial.

Haliburton told the court that many Digby court files were lost about 15 years ago when files were moved to Halifax.

Barton, who now lives in Alberta, says the stigma of the conviction forced him to leave Digby.

"There was no work and I couldn’t get anything," he said. "Too many people pointing at me and pointing at the boy saying he was my child. No one would hire me. So I went and looked for a better life for me."

He said the stigma also kept him from applying for jobs that might require background checks.

"I couldn’t look for a job where they might look and if I had a job and they checked, all of a sudden I didn’t have a job no more," he said. "When people tell you you have too much experience for this job, what does that tell you?"

RCMP Corporal Brent Kelly reopened the case in 2008 based on a statement from one of the victim’s brothers. The victim herself admitted in 2008 that she had lied about Barton’s involvement.

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal cleared Barton in 2011 after a DNA test proved that the victim’s brother was in fact the father of the child.

"It was a great relief, cause I knew I never did anything," said Barton.

He’s thankful for Kelly’s work to clear him. "That’s a real honorable man to do all that," he said. "He took the time. The other officers didn’t take the time. They were just worried about closing the case."

Barton says he doesn’t hold anything against Digby. "Tell Digby I’m not mad at them," he said. "I love Digby. It was just the people that we’re around me back me then."

Since the conviction was overturned, Barton has been trying to get compensation.

Barton’s lawyer Dale Dunlop told a press conference in March that the civil case should never have gone to court considering the promises made by the Nova Scotia government after the Marshall inquiry.

Donald Marshall Jr. spent 11 years in jail for a murder he didn’t commit.

The 1989 inquiry into the Nova Scotia justice system recommended independent judicial inquiries should consider compensation in cases of wrongful conviction.

"The province responded to the damning conclusions of the Marshall inquiry by making a promise to all Nova Scotians, and the black and aboriginal communities, in particular, that it would adopt the recommendations as suggested," Dunlop told the press conference.

Dunlop told the court in closing arguments that $250,000 for the stigma and lost income is appropriate while a federal lawyer suggested $25,000 to $50,000 would be more appropriate.

The court is waiting for final written submissions due April 25 before considering a decision.

Original report here




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