Tuesday, September 28, 2010


"Guy Paul Morin was 25 years old
at the time of his arrest.
He had no criminal record.
He lived with his parents in
Queensville, Ontario. He had a
grade 12 education. He had
attended various courses in
auto upholstery, spray painting,
gas fitting, air conditioning and
refrigeration. He worked as
a finishing sander with a furniture
manufacturer in October 1984, when
Christine Jessop disappeared.
His acquittal by the Court of Appeal
on January 23, 1995 was based on
fresh DNA evidence which established
that he was not the donor of semen
stains found on Christine Jessop's
underwear. Senior Crown Counsel and
then the Attorney General of Ontario
conceded that Mr. Morin was innocent,
and apologized to him for the 10-year
ordeal he and his family had undergone.
Ultimately,compensation was paid to him
and his parents by the Government of Ontario."

The above quote is taken from the Executive Summary and Recommendations of the Commission on Proceedings Involving Guy Paul Morin. That commission was established by the Government of Ontario to inquire into the investigation of the death of Christin Jessop and the prosecution of the charge that Guy Paul Morin murdered Christine Jessop. The Commission made a number of thoughtful recommendations with a view to preventing similar miscarriages of justice in the future. A number of those recommendations provide invaluable insight, context and credibility to the theory that Wilton Smith was wrongly convicted of first degree murder in 1994 and that his conviction ought to vacated. In this issue I will outline a key recommendation from the Commission on Proceedings Involving Guy Paul Morin which is applicable to the Wilton Smith investigation and prosecution - namely - education respecting tunnel vision.

Recommendation 74:
Education respecting tunnel vision

"One component of educational programming
for police and Crown counsel should be the
identification and avoidance of tunnel vision.
In this context, tunnel vision means the single-
minded and overly narrow focus on a particular
investigative or prosecutorial theory, so as to
unreasonably colour the evaluation of information
received and one's conduct in response to that


Wilton Smith was convicted of first degree murder following a jury trial in April 1994 with Justice Ewaschuk. No one testified to seeing him commit the act. No murder weapon was ever recovered. He testified in his own defence that the person who committed the act was Ms. Iona Davis - a crown witness who claims to have found the body and called the police. She did not testify to witnessing Wilton Smith commit murder.

You will recall that the preliminary inquiry judge told the lawyer representing the prosecution when they moved for committal on the charge that he did not find that there was any evidence linking Wilton Smith to the crime. The parties adjourned the proceedings and resumed in order that the prosecution would adduce this evidence linking Wilton Smith to the crime. Wilton Smith was committed to stand trial but we will never know what that evidence was since the transcripts of that important part of the proceedings were destroyed pursuant to the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario's Retention Policy.

Joseph Pryce did not
testify at the preliminary

Joseph Pryce - the Crown witness - who testified to seeing Wilton Smith come into his shop to sharpen a machete had his first contact with police investigators on January 25th, 1994. This was five days following Wilton Smith's first attendance in Superior Court after being committed to stand trial for first degree murder after a judge stated clearly that there was no evidence linking him to the crime.

Was Joseph Pryce
the missing link ?

"In this case you don't have to look
very far. You look at the very manner
in which Patricia Innis died, a fact
ladies and gentlemen, that is not in
in this case. Can't be in dispute.
So what the defence do dispute is that
the accused picked out - that Joseph
Pryce picked out the accused."

The reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the above-quoted words of the prosecutor with respect to the purpose and function of Mr. Pryce's testimony is that his evidence is indeed the missing link. Patricia Innis was killed when her neck was severed by a sharp instrument. Joseph Pryce 'picked out" Wilton Smith as a person who attended his shop to sharpen a machete therefore he is the killer.

Classic tunnel vision:

The above reasoning represents classic tunnel vision. The deceased was killed by a sharp instrument to her neck. A witness is brought in by investigators suggesting he saw Mr. Smith come into his shop to sharpen a machete. The witness is very sketchy on identification features and when he made the observation but somehow those significant frailties in his evidence are glossed over or overlooked.

In this particular case the evidence tends to suggest that tunnel vision appears to have made its way into the trial judge's charge to the jury. Notwithstanding Mr. Pryce's testimony in cross-examination that his observation was made six months ago the learned trial judge expressly told the jury otherwise. He told them, "obviously the observation was made at least 10 - 11 months after Mr. Pryce had seen the man with the machete at the machine shop."


Joseph Pryce's testimony "linking" Wilton Smith to the murder of Patricia Innis is akin to the informer evidence tendered against Guy Paul Morin - both should have been the subject of greater scrutiny and properly excluded from evidence. If Mr. Pryce saw a man come into his shop to sharpen a machete when Wilon Smith was already in police custody for the crime it stands to reason that he "picked out" the wrong man. The trial records that I have reviewed to date suggests that Wilton Smith was already in custody for the crime when Mr. Pryce puts him as sharpening a machete at his shop.

In the next issue I will discuss Recommendation 81: Outline of facts and personal opinions of the trial judge. In Ontario the trial judge is entitled to provide his or her opinion to the jury and to outline the significant facts.

Note: This piece is written for the sole purpose of encouraging public discourse on an issue of public importance. Democracy and the rule of law works better when the players are all informed.

No comments:

Post a Comment