Thursday, January 25, 2007
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
C O F F I N
As the clock ticked away, day by day the trial was being moulded in the same pattern as it was on day one. The prosecution very definitely owned and directed each and every series of events. The defense as headed by Raymond Maher was completely out of touch with what was developing. He was still preaching the same song. He would be calling upwards of one hundred witnesses for the defense. The fact that he rarely cross examined should have been positive proof to the judge, jury, prosecution, and to spectators in the court room that he was not providing an adequate defense of his client.
Prosecutor Paul Michelon and staff were determined to completely destroy the credibility of Wilbert Coffin with respect to his trip to Montreal. They were of the opinion that a strong case could be built within the overall murder charge, as they could influence witnesses from this journey who were miles away from the Gaspe' coast, and thus, paint the picture for the jury that was necessary to sway opinion. Again, defense lawyer Maher made the task much easier, as he produced no dissenting evidence and his cross examination of witnesses was almost non existent.
By stark comparison, the number two man on Wilbert Coffin's defense team, Francois Gravel recognized the fact that something needed to be done. Mr. Gravel, in consultation with team member Louis Dorion contacted his boss, a gentleman named Arthur Maloney in Toronto. Maloney insisted that it was imperative that Wilbert Coffin be put on the stand at some point to address the evidence being presented against him. Again, lawyer Maher vetoed the idea and insisted that it would all work out when the defense team took over the trial at the conclusion of the prosecution team's presentation.
You will recall in the last posting the deposition that Wilbert Coffin swore at Bordeaux Jail in Montreal. Each item in the deposition paralleled and defended an item that the crown had presented against Wilbert Coffin. It is also important to note that the defense team, headed by Maher, did not cross examine in many cases, and in instances where they did, it was not vigorous cross examination, but more of a repetitive nature, with no attack from another direction. Truly, a sad state of affairs for a serious murder trial.
During the trial, defense lawyer Maher left the trial for nearly two days presumably to roundup all his defense witnesses that he had supposedly mustered to support Wilbert Coffin's case. Upon his return, and at the conclusion of the prosecutions case, it was now time for Raymond Maher to prove his worth. His five word statement to the court was short and absolute. He merely stated, "My Lord, The Defense Rests." Fifty three years later those five words are still echoed.
The final three days of the trial were taken up with the usual bantering that goes on by both prosecution and defense in their summations to the jury. This is the time when a case can be won or lost based on the workings of the tongue by the legal teams. The prosecution team would be first, followed by Raymond Maher and his team for the defense.
Finally the time had arrived to be able to strut ones stuff to a mixed language jury, and in doing so, create an atmosphere of confusion amongst the chosen twelve who would have struggled for the past two weeks in an attempt to understand the evidence as presented to them. Throughout the trial, it was common place for evidence to be presented in either French or English with no translation into the other language.
A lot of time was spent in praising each other, and as well, praising the judge and members of the opposite team. As at the beginning of the trial this was merely a show for the jury. By praising each other, jurors might be swayed into thinking that if they praised each other and respected each other so highly, then whatever they were offering as evidence would be the whole truth. This theory would be even more valuable to a jury who had problems understanding because of language.
One by one, the prosecution team took their turns. They placed heavy emphasis on Wilbert Coffin's trip to Montreal, the money he spent enroute, and the source of this money. Constant reference was made to the fact that the money originated with Eugene Lindsey, with the amount being in the neighborhood of one thousand dollars. In reality, they knew that Wilbert Coffin spent very little because he had very little to spend. They knew that because he borrowed money while in Montreal. The prosecutors were very careful in their summation to the jury. The prosecution would sum up by telling the jury in a thunderous tone that now was the time, and "For God's sake, go and do your duty." This statement meaning to go and find a verdict of guilt against Wilbert Coffin.
Raymond Maher on the other hand, took a somewhat more cautious approach, though he made more sense in his summation to the jury than he did throughout the trial. He knew there were many areas where he should have had a witness to counter act prosecution testimony. As well, in those areas he should have done a more thorough job on cross examination. His strongest point to the jury during his summation was the fact that the crown's case was built on circumstantial evidence. He stressed as well, most of that evidence did not support a guilty verdict that would send a man to the gallows, and that in itself would have created a reasonable doubt, therefore, they must acquit Wilbert Coffin of the charge of murder when that reasonable doubt came into play.
In any jury trial the presiding judge has the final say before the jury is dispatched to do their deed. It is the responsibility of the trial judge to outline to the jury as to what constitutes good evidence, and that which should be ignored. The judge can also instruct the jury as to what could be considered as hard evidence and that which should be considered as circumstantial.
It is not uncommon at the conclusion of a trial for the judge to explain that circumstantial evidence may be admitted, however, it is best when it can be used as supporting evidence to the primary which could have brought about the conviction, or broadened the path toward that conviction. In this particular trial, Judge LaCroix did not lean heavily as to what was circumstantial and that which was not. It can be argued that LaCroix left it up to the jury to discern for themselves. This is particularly disturbing, considering the fact that in reality there were twelve everyday people to make these decisions. Did they understand the words? Did they understand the meanings of all the fancy words used by the lawyers, and most important of all, how much were they restricted because of the fact they simply could not understand what was being said considering the fact that they were of mixed language.
This was day nineteen of the trial. Little did this jury know that they were about to embark upon a journey, and reach a decision that would continue to be debated some fifty years later. It would be a landmark decision that would reach out and touch people far and wide.
The tiny town of Perce on Quebec's eastern shores would be forever changed. Judge LaCroix, having completed his address to the jury in both languages now instructed the jury to enter the jury room to reach a verdict.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
C O F F I N
It is now apparent to lead prosecutor Noel Dorion and his right hand man, Paul Miquelon that if they are patient, they can maintain control of this trial. They also know that by exercising control, their chances of extracting a guilty verdict from this jury are looking better all the time. One mistake, and the whole scene goes down the drain. Properly and carefully orchestrated, they have a chance, and a good one at that. They would make no mistakes. They simply could not afford to.
It was from now until conclusion of the trial that a baffled jury would pay dividends for the prosecution. The ability to do one part in French, followed by another part in English with no translation was a dream come true. The prosecution team would be most cautious in their selection of what should or should not, be available in both languages.
In preparation for trial the police had taken great pains to detail Wilbert Coffin's trip to Montreal after his return from the forest prior to the victim's bodies being located. They would piece together as accurately as they could information as to whom he visited and the money that he spent during the journey. For this venture, they would resort to putting words into the mouths of witnesses along the way.
Desperately, they needed to show that Wilbert Coffin spent many hundreds of dollars of which they knew that he would not have. This was top priority. If he spent a lot of money, then the task would be easy to sell the jury on the idea that he was spending currencey that belonged to Eugene Lindsey. On the other hand, if he spent little, with virtually nothing to show for, that would be a much more accurate picture of Wilbert Coffin.
Witness after witness was called. Expenditures of five dollars to twenty dollars were the order of the day. The prosecution constantly touted the story of Wilbert Coffin spending upwards of one thousand dollars from Eugene Lindsey's wallet. The problem of course, was the fact that Eugene Lindsey's wallet had been found in the forest, actually in a stream, and void of currency with no direct proof that the wallet ever contained any money upon entering the forest in the first place. It was simply conjecture, that could not be proven. Unfortunately, it was conjecture that could easily be sold to a mixed language jury. Time after time, Raymond Maher, the defense lawyer sat twiddling his thumbs with no cross examination, when in fact, he could have easily torn this theory apart with only the most elementary of lawyering skills.
Marion Petrie, the common law wife of Wilbert Coffin would be called by the prosecution as a hostile witness. Maher, to everyone's surprise vetoed this decision. The prosecution knew that they would get nothing particularly damaging to the defense from Ms. Petrie. What they did know was the fact that Raymond Maher would fight the idea from start to finish. In doing that, it would look to the jury as if she had something that she might be hiding, and thus, helping conceal his guilt. That is what they would push to the jury in summation, and effectively at that. It was not long into Ms. Petrie's testimony that Noel Dorion would realize that with Ms. Petrie, he had bitten off more than he wished to try and chew. Words could not be put into her mouth. She would not silence herself after a short answer to a question, as she would carry on and on, to the point of the prosecution having to cross examine their own witness. They would be glad to get her off the stand.
The closer that Wilbert Coffin's trip to Montreal was scrutinized, the more he emerged as someone who was virtually broke. Prosecutors would argue with witnesses on the thickness of money in Mr. Coffin's wallet. With some they argued was it one finger thick, and on some, was it two fingers thick. Again, this would be a hay day for a defense lawyer. Even a medicore lawyer could make mincemeat out of the prosecution at this point. Did defense Maher take advantage of this new found wealth in the middle of the trial? Oh no, not at all. He sat back and did nothing. Maher's helper, lawyer Gravel took the opportunity to consult with Wilbert Coffin, and it was decided that Mr. Coffin should go on the stand. Maher, as lead defense lawyer flatly denied the request.
I, Wilbert Coffin, mining prospector of York Centre, in the county of Gaspé, province of Quebec, having been properly sworn in, declare that:
1) I was found guilty on Aug.5 1954 in the village of Percé, county of Gaspé, for the murder of Richard Lindsay. I am presently held in the Bordeaux prison at Montreal, Quebec, waiting for my execution on Oct 21 1955.
2) I am innocent of the said crime. I am in no way guilty, neither of the murder of said Richard Lindsay, neither of the murder of his father, nor that of Frederick Claar.
3) At the time of the trial of the said affair, even though it was my expressed desire to testify on my own behalf, Mr. Raymond Maher, one of my lawyers advised me against doing it.
4) In the following paragraphs in this declaration I will furnish explanations concerning the different points brought out in the testimony of my trial, and these explanations are those that I wanted, under oath, to give in my proper defense at the trial.
5) If I fail to report any facts which, in the opinion of the authorities need further explanation, as requested I would be pleased to give these explanations if asked by these authorities.
6) I am 43 years old and have attended the High Church of England all my life. I have never had a judicial record.
7) I served for 4 1/2 years with the Black Watch regiment, at first, and then with the Armored Division of the 8th army. I was likewise a cook for 16 months in Italy and in Holland for the D.I.V.
8) During the past nine years, taking into consideration the time I was held as a result of my arrest for the charges of murder, I had a common law relationship with Marie Petrie of Montreal. As a result of this relationship, I am the father of a son named James who currently lives with his mother.
9) The proof formulated against me at my trial was exclusively circumstantial and based mostly on the fact that I was in possession of that which the prosecution pretended was an important sum of money and of various articles that belonged to the young Lindsay and his companions. These articles were a pair of binoculars, a pocketknife, a suitcase and a fuel pump.
10) If I had been able to testify in my defense in the trial, I would have been able to furnish proof about all the money found in my possession belonged to me, and that I’d only stolen the articles I’ve listed earlier from the truck abandoned by the three American tourists.
11) The day of June 10 1953 as was the evidence presented at my trial, I met three American tourists in the course of my prospecting in the woods of Gaspé.
12) Their truck was broken down, as they had complained to me, and their difficulties, according to them, were caused by a malfunction of the fuel pump.
13) Because they asked, I returned to Gaspé with young Lindsay where he bought a new fuel pump. I returned then with young Lindsay to the spot where I had at first met the American tourists with their broken truck. This was at the end of the afternoon, June 10 1953.
14) At the moment that young Lindsay and I rejoined the group, we saw that, during the time we were away, Lindsay the father and young Frederick Claar, who hadn’t accompanied us, were in the company of two other individuals who had arrived in a jeep, with license plates not of Quebec. They presented themselves as Americans, likewise on a hunting trip. We all ate together and then I left the group of the five Americans and went towards camp 21. Before leaving I told the Lindsay group that on my return from the woods about two days later, I would help them return to Gaspé if they were still broken down.
15) The fact is that when I returned on June 12, I found the truck abandoned by the three Americans and I waited in the vicinity for their return for several hours. I headed for Gaspé thinking that they had left with the other men from the United States that I had met here and described above.
16) Before leaving, however, and a bit under the influence of alcohol, I looked in the rear of their truck. I saw a suitcase and the fuel pump that we had procured at Gaspé the preceding June 10.
17) I looked in the suitcase and saw that it contained a pair of binoculars. I then put the suitcase and the fuel pump in my truck.
18) I didn’t steal the pocketknife that was recognized as belonging to young Lindsay. This knife was given to me by the young Lindsay on June 10th when we were returning from the trip to Gaspe towards the place where I had met him with his father and young Claar, and after he had bought the fuel pump.
During our trip to Gaspé, young Lindsay took out the knife that he carried with him and showed it to me. I admired it and told him I’d like to own one just like it. I made the remark to him that when they returned to the States, it would be easy to buy one just like it, and I asked him if I could buy it from him. I believed that this would be a nice souvenir. We didn’t discuss the knife any more until our trip back from Gaspé. At the end, he gave me the knife and wouldn’t accept any money for it.
19) When I came out of the woods on June 12, after having waited for the three Americans, as I’ve already said, those that I met earlier, and again returned to the town, I continued drinking and decided I would go, that night, to Montreal to see my common law wife, Marie Petrie. I had decided to go see her because, as was stated at my trial, I had told her in a phone conversation I had with her in May 1953 of my intention to come to Montreal soon, on a date I didn’t set at that moment.
20) As was presented at my trial, I continued to drink during my trip from Gaspé to Montreal, and I admit I spent more money than if I hadn’t been drinking.
21) As I will explain in a subsequent paragraph in this declaration, the money that I spent belonged to me and was not the property of the three American tourists.
22) On October 8 1955 I had an interview with my lawyers, Mr. Arthur Maloney CR of Toronto and Mr. Francois Gravel of Quebec and gave them the explanations about particular facts that they raised during the interview. I will state now these particular facts in the following paragraphs.
23) Mr. Maloney produced a photograph of a jeep with part of the body that was made of plywood, designed like Exhibit A in this declaration. In this declaration Mr. Maloney said that he had obtained this photograph from the Toronto Evening England that presented it as the photograph of a jeep that had been found in New Brunswick. After studying the photograph, I couldn’t judge if this was the same jeep as the one that occupied the two Americans I met with the Lindsay group. The fact that the two jeeps resemble each other, and that the two were constructed in the same way. The jeep I saw, occupied by the two Americans seemed to be constructed as though the plywood wasn’t put there by a manufacturer, but by someone with less experience in this kind of work, and it seemed to me that it was stained with some kind of oil or varnish. It could be that the jeep in the photograph marked exhibit A was the same jeep but I couldn’t swear to it.
24) Mr. Maloney asked me to explain as best I could the testimony in the trial concerning the fuel pump of the truck of Lindsay. An earlier examination of the truck revealed that the pump had no defects. I can’t say for sure whether it was defective or not, because I hadn’t examined it and wasn’t a mechanic, and if I had looked at it, I wouldn’t have known if it was defective or not. When I met the Lindsay group the morning of June 10, they indicated that this was the cause of the breakdown. Consequently we went to Gaspe, that’s to say young Lindsay and I went to Gaspe where he purchased a new one. I told him that maybe it was possible to fix part of the old pump, and we went, young Lindsay and I, to the garage of my brother to ask him if the old pump could be repaired. Young Lindsay didn’t bring the old pump with him and arriving at the garage of my brother, young Lindsay brought out a new fuel pump that he was going to buy and showed it to a man named Jack Hackett (who worked for my brother at that time, or if he wasn’t working then, he was certainly present.). Young Lindsay explained to Hackett that there was a small pin that wasn’t working inside the pump. Hackett then took the new fuel pump and explained how it worked to young Lindsay.
25) Mr. Maloney asked me to explain the deposition of Wilson Mc Gregor at the trial who said that on June 12 1953 I arrived at Murray Patterson’s after dinner and I said, " I just came out of the woods." And that there was something he thought was the barrel of a rifle in the back of the truck I drove. The fact is that McGregor was wrong in saying this happened on June 12. In realty it happened June 9th after my return from the woods that followed my excursion in the woods with Angus Mac Donald. Moreover, he couldn’t have seen the barrel of a rifle because I didn’t have a rifle in my truck on that date.
Angus Mac Donald in his sworn deposition at the trial testified that I didn’t have a rifle when we went together in the woods. McGregor himself swore an affidavit to the Minister of Justice or Solicitor General admitting that that which he had said was the barrel of a rifle could have been a commonplace piece of iron and swore also that he had never said to the police that this incident happened June 12. In his affidavit he declares that all he could confirm was that this happened during the second week in June.
26) Mr. Maloney also questioned me on the subject of the debts that I paid after my return from the woods.
27) Concerning now the testimony of Benny White, I bought from him a bottle of beer and one case of beer, for the total of $5.25, and the change he gave me, same as his testimony, was $14.75. This proves that I didn’t reimburse (tip?) him any sum of money. There was some discussion at the trial of a $5 for another case of beer for which I gave him $5, but I didn’t pay him for that at that time.
28) Concerning the testimony of Earl Tuzo, he loaned me $10 at the beginning of May 1953 before I received other money from other persons for work I had done for them. I left a revolver with him as a sort of guarantee.
On June 12th after deciding to go to Montreal, I thought I’d get the gun back, not because I needed it, but because I understood Tuzo’s mother didn’t like having a gun in the house. It’s Mrs. Frances Annett who told me this. Knowing that I intended to go to Montreal and thinking I wouldn’t return for some time, I thought it wise to retrieve the gun.
29) I admit having paid the $5 that I owed Ernest Boyle but, I repeat, knowing that I was going to Montreal, I didn’t want anyone to think I wanted to escape my obligations.
30) This concerns the fact that I forgot to say to my sister, Mrs. Felix Stanley, that I was going to Montreal, it’s just that I was never in the habit of telling my family where I was going and when I would return.
31) For that which concerns the testimony concerning the fact that I didn’t keep the rendez-vous that I made intending to meet Angus Mac Donald the morning of June 10, I must remark that McDonald wasn’t a woodsman. He really wasn’t effective in the woods. He got lost easily and the projects that we were doing required us to go quite far to cross this region. I remember speaking of that to Bill Baker the night of June 9 after going on this rendezvous with McDonald and my plan to meet him the next morning and after I was separated from him. In reality, at that moment there, I had the intention of keeping my rendezvous with McDonald. After rethinking the conversation that I had with Baker, I then decided to go alone. It wasn’t very convenient then to go to my camp to tell McDonald that I intended to change my plans. I hadn’t a single sentiment of guilt on the subject of the $20 that he had given me to defray our expenses because that was his part of the deal that he would have made or not with me. In the trial the lawyers for the Crown pretended that I had changed my plans to meet McDonald when I heard the rumours that were circulating around town to the effect that the three Americans were in the vicinity. The fact is that I never heard these rumours and I was never aware of the presence of the Americans in the area before I discovered them in the bush June 10. If I had had suspicious ideas regarding the Americans, I wouldn’t have gone to Gaspé with young Lindsay on June 10th and I wouldn’t have said to the witness McCallum when I saw him at the Gaspé hotel on June 10th that I had met the Americans, that I was in their company, and that I was going to rejoin them.
32) Much was said in my trial about the rifle, which I had borrowed from Jack Eagle and hadn’t returned to him. I remember getting this rifle from Eagle on the 6 or 9th of June. I took it home where I left it until my return from Montreal, July 20 1953. I didn’t have it with me at any time after depositing it at my house, and at any time then or around July 20. About the time of July 20, I took it to my camp because on my return from Montreal it was my intention to continue my prospecting work. I am not sure of the exact date that I took it to my camp, but it couldn’t be after July 20. If I acted thus, this was first as a safety measure and next because one granted a premium for the bears that were slaughtered.
I didn’t put Eagle’s rifle in my truck but I did put it outdoors along the track of my camp, right near a spruce (fir?) tree. The reason that I hid the rifle was so that the forest warden wouldn’t discover it. In the spring of 1952 I had paid a fine for shooting two deer in Gaspé and if I faced a new charge of being in the woods with a rifle, I could possibly go to jail. That is why I stored it in this spot. I never hid from my family the fact that I had this rifle nor the spot where they would find it. At no time did I authorize this to be removed, if it was, it was without my knowledge, because the police couldn’t find it when they searched the area. I regret that it was not possible to exhibit it. I told all this to Sergeant Doyon and I understand that Doyon admits that I explained this to him in a declaration that he made to Francois Gravel recently. It was hardly necessary to exhibit the rifle to help the prosecution make its case, because they knew the type and model of this rifle. Therefore the fact of exhibiting the rifle wouldn’t have helped their cause, and, in any event, if the rifle was removed or destroyed, it wasn’t me who was to blame.
33) The lawyers for the Crown insinuated that I returned to my camp after having exited the woods on June 12th and then I left the rifle there. They noted that I was seen about 3-31/2 hours in the morning at Seal Cove, immobilized in a ditch, and Seal Cove is just a slight distance from Gaspé. The fact is that I stayed broken down a long time before someone pulled me out about 3-31/2 hours. I stayed stuck, on the whole, more than two hours and, at that time, there was no one in the vicinity or on the spot who could help me.
34) The Crown attorneys insinuated that there was something suspect in the fact that Mr. Hasty of Val d’Or wasn’t successful in finding similar minerals that resembled the sample I showed him. He would have found the sample if I had gone with him but I wasn’t able to because the police asked me to help them search for the missing American tourists. Mr. Hasty couldn’t have understood the map I gave him, or again, the map wasn’t precise enough.
35) The next, the evidence of the Crown insinuated that when we were searching in the woods, I always looked to my right. I deny this. I looked in all directions and I wanted to help the searchers, as much as anyone. One certainty, during the search, no one insinuated this or accused me of this.
36) Agent Synett testified at the trial about an incident that occurred at Camp 21, when I participated in the search. This incident was supposed to have happened at lunch hour, July 21, and I had asked where was the brook before going to look for a bucket of water. I didn’t say anything like that. The fact is that a short time beforehand that morning, and in the presence of most, except for a team of searchers, I was photographed by a photographer for a Toronto journal. At the time, I was standing or kneeling down near the brook in question. In these circumstances, it is ridiculous to say I pretended not to know where to find the brook.
37) The Crown lawyers made a big case of the meeting I had with my brother, Donald, at the time of the inquest of the coroner and when I was arrested in Gaspé. The Crown wanted to insinuate that my brother and I hatched a plan about Eagle’s rifle. This isn’t true. I was eager to see my brother to see what he was doing to help me. I had been held for 16 days and didn’t know what was happening with my case and the question of the rifle of Eagle wasn’t discussed.
38) They made a big deal in the trial about a remark that I made to my father and in which I said that the police weren’t man enough to break me. I said this to my father after having been in custody for about 16 days during which the police questioned me non-stop and tried to force me to sign declarations and to make confessions that would have been false. This is what I wanted to say to my father by these words.
39) Just as I said in a declaration to the police and that was brought up in testimony in the trial, I got the $40 from the Lindsay group for the help I gave them. In the circumstances the amount wasn’t as the Crown pretended. In reality it was young Lindsay who gave me the money, as well as, if I remember right, Lindsay senior gave it to him to give to me. The Lindsay group were happy to know that I was in the area in case I needed to help them if they were unable to fix their truck and return to Gaspé. In the hopes that I could help them if it proved necessary, they gave me an important sum of money and the fact is that I waited a long time near the abandoned truck before I exited the woods, June 12th, with the intention of helping them.
40) I regret the deposition made by agent Synett to the effect that I told him I wasn’t going to return to camp 26 when I went in the woods with Mac Donald, When at the date I talked with Synett, I knew that MacDonald had already been questioned and had said, without any doubt, exactly where we would have gone. Certainly I remember clearly having said to Sergeant Doyon at what way Mac Donald and I were broken down at a site situated beyond (above) camp 26.
41) During the time I was in the company of the police and the group of searchers in the region of the camps, I distinctly remember on the road the tracks made by a jeep. I remember seeing such tracks between camps 24 & 25, and on different places on the access road in the region. I particularly instructed Mr. Maher, my lawyer, to try and have photos taken of these tracks as I felt that they still would be visible. No one took these photos. I am now in the belief that Sergeant Doyon had said to Mr. Gravel that he also had seen the jeep tracks.
It arrives that neither the; lawyers for the Crown nor the defense lawyers had ever poised that particular question during the trial. On the contrary, the lawyers for the Crown pretended in front of the jury that there were no jeep tracks in the region. In other words, they exploited evidence that the recent admission of Sergeant Doyon demonstrated to be a falsehood.
42) The lawyers of the Crown brought Dr. Burkett and Mr. Ford, who admitted being in Gaspé in a jeep but who proved they left the region June 5. In the process, they tried to imply that I wanted to throw the blame on them. Nothing could be further from the truth, because M. Burkett and Ford definitely weren’t the men I saw in the company of Lindsay June 10 1953.
43) I didn’t have a single need for money at the time of this occurrence. I owed a sum but no pressure was on me to pay immediately.
44) To return to the two Americans that I saw in the company of Lindsay, this is what I believe, that they were about 30 years old, maybe a little more, maybe a little less.
45) They made a great numbers of depositions on the subject of the money that I spent between Gaspé and Montreal, and some others on the subject of my behaviour during the trip to Montreal. This is easily explained. This money I earned and was paid to me by the following people, with the sum that they have verified, in payment for services rendered, principally for the staking of claims.
Greta Miller May 1953 50
Iva M Bryker May 1953 90
Mme James Caputo May 1953 40
Mervyn Annett May 1953 40
John E Eagle May 1953 50
Mme M. Petrie C. May 1953 50
P.G. Carey May 1953 60
D.H.Coffin May 1953 20
Mme James Annett May 1953 10
Earl Tuzo May 1953 20
Wm H. Petrie Coffin June 1953 70
Donald F. Coffin July 1953 50
46) Concerning the depositions of the witnesses, obtained from Benny White, Raymond Poirier and Eugene Despard, to the effect that I gave them each American 20 dollar bills in payment for their services, I can only say that I don’t remember if I paid in American or Canadian, if these bills were large or small paper. The fact is that amongst the money that I had were American bills. Could be that the people that paid me for staking their claims, and I’ve listed the names, paid me in American money. (This I can’t remember.) or that when I cashed certain cheques that were given to me for payment for the claims, one gave me American money. It is certainly possible that I obtained American money when I went to the taverns, same when I won money-playing games. A lot of American money was circulating in Gaspé and it wasn’t rare to give a Canadian bill and receive money in American change. I could easily have accumulated American dollars by accumulating Canadian or American in small amounts and exchanging it from time to time for larger bills because that was very common also. I didn’t pay any attention to the fact that I used American dollars or Canadian dollars in Gaspé because that just wasn’t important. Neither can I remember if the money ($20) I received from Angus Mac Donald was in American or Canadian dollars or if this was a single bill or two or many.
47) The details given in this declaration are made to my lawyers Mr. Arthur Maloney C.R. and Mr. Francois De B. Gravel Saturday October 8. They have retained the services of a stenographer and dictated the statement I gave them after checking that I found it exact.
48) I repeat that I am innocent of this crime and I don’t feel I had a fair trial, mainly because the evidence concerning the other jeep and the other Americans in the district of Gaspé wasn’t produced and the evidence of the existence of the tire tracks of a jeep on the road in the vicinity of the camps wasn’t mentioned at all.
They made me out to be a liar because they proved that Dr Burkett and Mr. Ford weren’t the men that I saw when I left the Lindsay group, and new evidence now proves that another jeep and other Americans were in the district. The police reporting on my case knew that and didn’t say it.
It also is now proved by Sergeant Doyon in his deposition to my lawyer M. Francois Gravel that there were jeep tracks on the route.
49) I would be pleased to be given the chance to be questioned by a member of the Ministry of Justice of our Federal Government to be able to explain at length all that I’ve said here, and all that again would be necessary.
Signed in the prison of Montreal, Bordeaux, Que.
9 October 1955
(S) Wilbert Coffin
Witnessed in front of me at the Bordeaux prison
This day of 9th October 1955
J.- Antonio Pilon
Juge de Paix, district of Montreal
Monday, January 08, 2007
In any murder prosecution, the cause of death and the murder weapon are key components to proving the case against the accused. In the absense of both, it becomes a much greater challenge. This is where hypothesis, and the ability to convince a jury without evidence, places untold pressures on a prosecution team. This is where a dead beat defense lawyer is the best friend that a prosecutor has in the courtroom.
Such was the position of lead prosecutor Noel Dorion. True, he had a victim. The defendant, Mr. Wilbert Coffin was charged with murder in the death of this victim, identified as Richard Lindsey from Pennsylvania. Though not charged with their murders, Mr. Coffin was as well implicated in the murders of two other victims, namely, Eugene Lindsey, and Frederick Claar, also from Pennsylvania.
Noel Dorion would be forced to use everything at his disposal in order to convince the jury on a cause of death, complimented by the identity of a murder weapon. Prior to the introduction of his evidence, Mr. Dorion was careful in his address to the jury. He explained at length the crime scene, the body parts, and was specific as to the cause of death. Noel Dorion would explain that the death of the victim came as a result of being shot by a firearm. At this time, Noel Dorion was taking no chances. Systematically he described in detail. He referred to a firearm repeatedly, and how it caused the death.
At this point in the trial Mr. Dorion presented the autopsy reports on behalf of the victims. This is what defense lawyer Maher should have been waiting for. There would indeed be plenty of room here for good cross examination, as the provincial pathologist, Dr. Marie Charles Roussell, and the forensics doctor for Quebec would be giving evidence for the crown.
You will recall that I have shown you the autopsy reports some time ago in order to establish the quality of information garnered for this case. Prior to discussing the testimony of Dr. Roussell and the forensics doctor, I am posting the autopsy reports for you to look at in relation to the trial and how they should fit into place.
I will warn you, some of you may find these reports disturbing as they are depicting human beings who lost their lives under very disturbing circumstances. It is necessary that documents such as these be produced in a court of law, because they form a very vital factor in the equation which should help balance guilt with innocence. As with other documents from this case, translation from French to English was necessary, and thus, grammatical errors sometimes occur. I ask your forgiveness. Here are the autopsy reports of Eugene Lindsey, Richard Lindsey, and Frederick Claar.
443 St. Vincent Street
MONTREAL, August 4 1953
Re. The disappearance of three hunters at Gaspé- June-July 1953-bones of Camp 24.
Last July 15, at the request of M.Charland, directeur-adjoint suppléant of the Surety Provincial of Quebec, I went to Gaspé, so as to examine the bones that were discovered in the woods, about 60 miles from Gaspé.
During the day of July 17, accompanied by Sergeant Doyon, of the local station, of the Surety Provincial Police, I transported myself to the same spot, designated by the name "Camp 24."
At this place, near a little river, an incomplete skeleton was found, and partly dislocated, to which adhered some malodorous scraps of skin.
The preliminary examination shows that it was only the bones of a single person, contrary to that which was believed at first; the bones were placed in a box and taken to Gaspé for a more detailed examination.
RESULTS OF THE EXAMINATION
Description of the Bones: - The bones are completely stripped of the muscles that were attached and are more or less disjoined; the head and the sides are missing.
The extremities of the upper limbs are relatively intact; the skin of the hands is of a blackish brown color, of a wrinkled consistency and in appearance somewhat mummified; the nails are long and rough.
The following bones then form the incomplete skeleton:
part of the spinal column
the two scapulas
the left clavicle
the bones of the complete upper limbs: humerus, cubitus, radius, wrists and hands
the pelvis comprising of the bones of the iliac and the sacrum, but without the coccyx
the bones of the complete lower limbs
Determination of Sex: - The size even of the bones, the marked relief of muscular insertions, the dimension of the pelvis and the force of the obturate holes are those that leave no doubt on the masculine sex of the bones.
Determination of the Size: The measurements of the bones of the members gave the following values:
- left femur 181/4" or 46, 35 cms
-right femur idem; (?)
-right tibia 14-5/8" or 37 cms
-right humerus 13-3/8" or 34 cms
When referring to the anthropomorphic table establishing the length of bones following the sizes, we obtain the following correspondences:
-left femur 463,5 mm – size 170,6 cms
-tibia 370,0 mm – " 168,5 cms
-humerus 340,0 mm - " 173,0cms
The means of the size corresponding to these three long bones is 170,7 cms, being 5 feet 71/2 inches.
The method of the coefficients gives us similar results:
-femur 483,5 mm x 3,66 = size: 169,64 cms
-tibia 370,0 mm x 4,53 = " 166,71 cms
- humerus 340,0 mm x 5,06 = " 172,04 cms
Average of the size: 170,1 cms, being about 5 feet, 7 inches.
Determination of Age: With the absence of the cranium, the only means to appreciate the age of the person who had the bones consists in the research of the degree of ossification of different parts of the skeleton.
Radiography demonstrates a complete welding of the epiphyses ( extremities) of
the long bones of the members, a welding likewise supplements the iliac peak with the pelvic bone and as well a welding of the crown vertebrae, the ones with the others.
And also, the presence of small osteophytes on the level of certain bones and evident signs of arthritis in the articulations of the thumb of the right hand, indicating that this isn’t the bones of a young man or adolescent and that we are in the presence of the skeleton of an adult of middle age.
Determination of Cause of Death: Except for the ( grugement)? spongy end of certain bones of the skeleton, the exam didn’t reveal any trace of significant violence, on the bones at our disposition; it is then impossible, in the circumstances, to confirm the existence of violence of vital origin.
The complete disappearance of the internal organs and other soft parts of the skeleton prevents us from establishing the cause of death.
The bones found at Camp "24" are those of a man of middle age, measuring about 5 foot 7 inches tall.
The desiccation and the parchment of the skin and the soft tissue of the two hands indicate that death occurred at the minimum of one month.
J.M. Roussel, M.D.
NOTE ON THE PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS MADE BY DR. J. MARIE ROUSSEL, MEDICAL EXAMINER: 25-7-53
Skeleton found 75’ from camp 26. (It was in a wood box (Dynamex) and included the bones of the cranium.)
All the vertebrae except one
2 humerus, cabitus, and right radius
2 bones of the pelvis
Tibias and right fibulas
Tibias and left fibulas
NOTE: The bones of the lower maxillas are partially corroded and it is impossible to make a precise measurement.
Measurements: Left humerus: 33.5 cms or 13 3/16"
Left cubitus: 26.5 cms or 10 3/8"
Right humerus: 22.5 cms or 12 ¾"
Or 33.5 or 13 3/16" without measured angle
Right cubitus: 26.5 cms or 10 3/8
Right radius: 24.5 cms or 9 5/8"
Jagged (indented?) sutures (joinings?) evident everywhere past traces of ossification.
TEETH: Lower maxillas healthy natural teeth with no obvious decay, except in the line space of the right interior incisor medians. First lower left molars missing.
Upper maxillas: bad establishment of the right incisor (retreating). The first large left molar missing as well as the right.
BONE OF THE PELVIS: The iliac ridge is not definitely welded. With the tip of the pelvis that which indicates an age lower than twenty years.
A pair of black leather boots with the soles sewn with two rows of thread and two rows of copper rivets under the boots, and also a strap with buckles around the hoses, size about 8.
Trousers probably brown with a tinted red leather belt with a series of oblique marks and a buckle with the initial "R".
A handkerchief with brown and green edges and the second with finer stripes.
A white sweatshirt with the name " Hollidaysburg Tigers " on top of the figure of a tiger.
A sport shirt tinted green marked Sportop washable, size "S-14-14 ½" with two pockets in the front on the right and the left.
A windbreaker or red and black checked shirt marked " Woolrich ", size 15 zipper and two pockets in the front.
Pelvis with lumbar column and last cervical vertebras and 7 dorsal, vestiges of four sides, I free side with diaphise part of two femurs whose extremities are notched, diaphise tibia dr. notched.
1 plaid waistcoat red and black checked marked Woolrich with two sleeves turned out + (can’t read words written here)
1 pair of blue jeans, two pockets turned out
1 undershirt marked "Croftman" size No. 42
1 T-shirt red, large, Penney’s
1 left boot brown leather laced with eyelets, soles of black rubber neoprene, oil resisting, size 11.
NOTES of DR. ROUSSEL
Red waistcoat property of T-shirt marked Penny’s, 2 circular perforations measuring 7/16" to 1/2 " in diameter distance of 2 " located at the left anterior face of the thorax, a little on the left and in the lower part of the left center.
Circular perforations similar to the preceding ones located right face anterior of thorax 1" in inside of the seam of the sleeve at the level of the right pectoral area.
Large ovalaire (oval shaped?) perforation measuring about 1" long by 5 lines high situated with the anterior face of the thorax at the same level as the former at 1" to the right of the center line.
4 or 5 perforations or tears on the posterior right side of the sweater in the line of the armpit.
Checked jacket red and black Woolrich with chamois sleeves. One notes 2 perforations through the anterior pocket and the left side of the windbreaker.
Perforations or tears in the seam or junction between the right sleeve and the jacket (corresponding to the perforations like on the T-shirt.)
Tear close to the neck (collar) of the jacket at about 2 ½" with the top of the upper snap button corresponding to the ( ovalaire?) oval? tear noted on the T-shirt.
Red and black checked jacket with zipper- perforation in the upper left region at 3 ¼" from the 3" in the line of the center and 4" with the top of the higher edge of the upper anterior pocket and to 5" to the lower part of the seam of the shoulder
Circular perforation at 3 ½" to the left of the centerline 5" of the lower part of the seam of the shoulder.
Perforation at the edge shredded with the upper left region of the thorax ( or..could read…" shredded perforation at the edge of the upper left region of the thorax?) at 5 ½" of the center line and 4" below the seam of the shoulder surrounded by a zone of reddish color apparently ( tituée?) caused? by blood – No corresponding perforation in the back
The three clothing carry to the dorsal area dte? near the middle about 4" in the lower part of the lower seam of the sleeve, a circular perforation not found on the anterior front