As the new year arrives replacing the old one my mind is drawn once again to the plight of my client - Wilton Smith - who is serving a life sentence for a murder he maintains he did not commit. A careful review of the developments in his case from the preliminary inquiry judge's admonishment to the prosecutor that there was no evidence linking him to the murder to the unexplained discovery of a witness - Joseph Pryce - who testified that Wilton Smith attended at his shop to sharpen a machete raises some serious and troubling questions surrounding both the competence and ethics of the police investigation carried out by the Toronto Police Service.
A Rush to Judgement ?
On March 10th, 1992 Ms. Iona Davis called Toronto Police Service to report that she had discovered Patricia Innis' almost decapitated and lifeless body in the apartment which she was sharing with her and her infant daughter Ocheann. Wilton Smith was arrested and charged the next day. Ocheann was roughly two to three years or so at the time. Ms. Davis maintains that she did not witness the killing. She also maintains that she did not hear anything that would have alerted her to the situation. According to Ms. Davis' testimony she was giving the infant a bath and sometime after coming out into the living-room she made the grisley discovery and that Ocheann told her to call the police. This is how the testimony went:
Prosecutor: And Ocheann said she wanted her mommy ?
Ms. Davis: Yes
Prosecutor: What did you do ?
Ms. Davis: I take her to the living room and that's when I saw Patricia lying
on the floor.
Prosecutor: All right. And what happened ?
Ms. Davis: She say I must call the police because her mommy is hurt and I
Prosecutor: This is Ocheann said...
THE COURT: No, no. She said it.
Ms. Davis: Ocheann said it.
Iona Davis and Delroy Benjamin: A closer look
Iona Davis was residing with Ms. Innis at the time of the murder. She was a close friend of both Iona Davis and her husband Delroy Benjamin. Iona Davis was the God-Mother of Ms. Innis' daughter, Ocheann. God-parents are typically supposed to step in the shoes of a child's parents should death or some other unfortunate event prevent them from discharging their parenting duty. Poor Ocheann was shocked to learn recently that her God-Mother - Iona Davis resides in Toronto. Poor Ocheann was made to understand that her God-Mother had returned home to Jamaica. As fate would have it both Ocheann and Iona Davis have Facebook pages indicating they each reside in Toronto. One wonders why Iona Davis would abandon poor Ocheann following her mother's brutal murder. This makes no sense. The answer to that pressing question may be found in Wilton Smith's testimony at his trial.
Wilton Smith testified at his trial that Ms. Iona Davis killed Ms. Innis by violently striking her in the neck with a meatcleaver - almost severing her neck from her body. Mr. Smith testified that her boyfriend and now husband, Mr. Delroy Benjamin was present and threatened him that if he told anyone he would kill or harm his mother. Iona Davis does not put either Wilton Smith or Delroy Benjamin at the scene of the crime. However, Detective Bronson, the officer in charge of the investigation testified that while police were at the crime scene Delroy Benjamin called using a false name seeking to speak to the deceased. The police notes also confirm that Ms. Davis initially did not place Delroy Benjamin at the Innis apartment on the day of the murder but later acknowledged that he was there and left before she discovered the body. Ms. Innis did not inform police that Delroy Benjamin was her husband. They had children together prior to coming to Canada from their native Jamaica. Ms. Davis was on a vistor's visa which was to expire on March 31st, 1991. Mr. Benjamin's visa was either expired or close to experiation at the time. Police and or the Crown secured extensions for each of them. According to her Facebook page - Ms. Davis lives in Toronto today.
Was Delroy Benjamin
a party to the offence ?
Wilton Smith clearly implicated both Iona Davis and Delroy Benjamin in the death of Patricia Innis. However, neither Ms. Davis or Mr. Benjamin implicated Wilton Smith in the crime. I have carefully reviewed the testimony given by Mr. Benjamin at Wilton Smith's trial and I found his testimony to lack logical consistency and therefore credibility. For examample, Mr. Benjamin actually telephoned Patricia Innis' home on March 10th, 1992 while Detective Bronson and others were at the crime scene responding to Iona Davis's call regarding her grisly discovery. This on its own is not all that unusual. However, what is very unusual is that Detective Bronson answered the phone and told him that she was unable to come to the phone at this time. Detective Bronson testified that Mr. Benjamin identified himself in that call as Patrick Clarke for some reason. The prosecutor attempted to get an explanation from Mr. Benjamin for why he identified himself as Patrick Clark. His evidence was nonsensical to me. I will reproduce it below to illustrate my point.
Prosecutor: You left. What did you do when you left ?
Benjamin: Well, I walk along the way to -- back to Wallace and spend sometime
at my friend's house. Then I call Patricia.
Prosecutor: You called Patricia ?
Prosecutor: What happened when you called Patricia ?
Benjamin: I don't get her. I get somebody else on the line.
Prosecutor: Male or female ?
Prosecutor: What did the male say ?
Benamin: He says Patricia can't come to the phone just now.
Prosecutor: Who did you say you were ?
Benjamin: I say I was -- I said I was Patrick Clarke.
Prosecutor: Patrick Clarke ?
Prosecutor: And why did you say you were Patrick Clarke ?
The Court: You didn't recognize it ? It wasn't Sammy, I guess, that was
answering. It was some other male, right ?
Benjamin: It was Mr. Bronson answer the phone.
Teh Court: Who answered ?
Benjamin: Mr. Bronson.
The Court: Oh, detective. Oh, all right. So it was a police officer.
Prosecutor: What time of the day - I should ask you this, Mr. Benjamin.
What time of the day was this ?
Benjamin: It was nearly 4.
Prosecutor: Nearly 4. So can you recall how this conversation went ? You rang.
You said it was Detective Bronson on the phone. You didn't know
know that at the time though ?
Benjamin: No. After I saw him, I recognize his voice, so I know it was him.
Prosecutor: Now, why did you tell him you were Patrick Clark ?
Benjamin: Well, if was at my friend or my cousin and I call, when she pick
the phone, oh, I think it's Patrick.
Prosecutor: When you call who ?
Benjamin: When I call, Patricia say, oh, I think it's Patrick. So I just
said I'm Patrick.
Prosecutor: So when you call Patricia in times past fro your cousins's ?
Benjamin: Yeah, or my friend.
Prosecutor: Or your friend, Patricia would pick up the phone and say into
the phone to you, oh, I think it's Patrick ?
Prosecutor: How many times did this happen ?
Prosecutor: What was that all about ?
Benjamin: I don't know.
Prosecutor: Do you know why she said, oh, I think it's Patrick ?
Benjamin: Oh, she was referring to her friend.
Prosecutor: Hm - hmm.
Benjamin: She was referrring to her friend.
Prosecutor: To her friend ?
Prosecutor: So I'm not clear though why you told Det. Bronson that you
were Patrick Clarke.
Benjamin: Well, he way, Patricia can't come to the phone, so I figure
she's busy or something, so if I say I'm Patrick, you know,
that would speed her up.
Prosecutor: Oh, I see.
With the greatest of respect to the prosecutor I fail to see that Mr. Benjamin provided her with an answer to the very important question that she asked. To compound my difficulties with his evidence - it appears that Mr. Benjamin then took it upon himself to contact the police. The following passage from his testimony speaks to this point:
Prosecutor: Did you - did you eventually get in touch with the police ?
Prosecutor: When ?
Benjamin: I call the apartment two time after and I don't get nobody.
so my friend Abdul sitting next to me and I'm telling him what
happened. I said, I'm calling and I can't get nobody. He said,
you never get nobody ? I say, yeah, I call once and I get somebody
and I get police. He said, police doesn't answer people phone
unless something is wrong. So he looked up the number in the
directory and we called it.
Prosecutor: And that's how you come to...see the police ?
Prosecutor: Did you go to see them ?
Benjamin: Yeah, I did.
Analysis of Benjamin Evidence
Regarding Patrick Clarke call:
The Crown theory was that Wilton Smith lured Mr. Benjamin out of the house so that he could kill Patricia Innis. Mr. Benjamin testified that the deceased woke him up at about 9 a.m. that morning and told him that Mr. Smith was on the phone for him. Mr. Benjamin testified that Mr. Smith told him that his employer was hiring and that he ought to come in to fill in application prior to 1:30 p.m. Mr. Benjamin testified that he attended at Mr. Smith's place of work and someone named, Nick told him that they were not hiring. According to Mr. Benjamin he arrived at Mr. Smith's place of employment at roughly 1:23 p.m. He did not testify as to when he left. From there he testified that he went to his friends house and called Patricia.
If one is to accept Mr. Benjamin's version of events then one wonders why he did not ask to speak to his wife - Iona Davis when he called. He left her there with Patricia according to his version of facts. Also, one wonders why he did not ask for the identity of the person who answered the phone. This was a place where his wife was living and where he had actually slept the night before. Obviously, he knew the man was not Wilton Smith. Why the need to conceal his identity ?
On the other hand, if one accepts Wilton Smith's version of the events along with the fact that Iona Davis is said to have discovered the body and called the police - it makes perfect sense - especially when combined with the evidence that Iona Davis tried to suggest that Mr. Benajamin was not at the apartment at all - that he would call to see what was going on since he left his wife at the crime scene. It would stand to reason under this version of events that Mr. Benjamin's call was to obtain an update and to distance himself from the crime. I wasn't there. I don't know. Mr. Benjamin's contradictory evidence with respect to when he came to know the identify of the man who answered the phone is very tellling. At first he testifed in response to questions from the prosecutor that he came to learn that it was Det. Bronson who answered the phone after he met Det. Bronson that night and he heard his voice again. However, later on in the same line of questioning he says that he called a few times and got no answer and discussed this with his friend and he informed his friend that a police officer answered the phone.
Wilton Smith was arreted and charged the day following the murder. Why the rush ? What kind of investigation could be done so quickly ? Truth can be surpressed but never destroyed. Evidence and truth are not always the same thing. Evidence can be flawed or fabricated. Evidence is subject to the inherent frailties of human observation. Improper motives and the like can colour and distort evidence and surpress truth. The truth in this case may have been perverted or surpressed but in the same way that the sun rises every morning so too will the truth of what happened to poor little Ocheann's late mother rise up for all to know.
In the next issue I will outline evidence pointing to an improper motive along with other points that ought to have been investigated by police and were not.
NOTE: This piece is written for the sole purpose of shedding light on an issue of public importance. Democracy and the rule of law work best when individuals are able to exchange ideas on issues of public importance.