Thursday, March 08, 2007

For those who have followed the story of Wilbert Coffin, the year 2006 would surely have been a milestone. With the date February 10, the fiftieth anniversary of his execution by hanging passed into history. Though a huge swell supporting the belief that a wrongful conviction of Wilbert Coffin took place exists amongst Canadians from coast to coast, sadly, little has been accomplished in the clearing of his name.
I simply cannot begin to count the number of times that I have been told that things like that were just not talked about in the community. Why not, I would ask? Invariably, the answer would be, "just because it wasn't." I do not buy that answer. It is not good enough.
Here we are in history some fifty years after the fact. Many have obviously passed on. True, from those who remain, there are some who have changed their views and are now anxious to see this case clear the hurdles. This is a commendable approach. There are missing links still existing out there in the Gaspe' community that need to become part of the chain. You know who you are, and you know what you should do.
From my own investigation and research, I am confident that the community at large wishes for a successful conclusion to this case. One person cannot do it all. After this period of time, it must be a community endeavour. This case had its roots in the Gaspe' community, so it stands to reason, the community harbours the secrets of the closet.
As I have stated many times, it is not my objective to lead in a new guilty party in handcuffs. Personally, I do not think that is possible. While I do firmly believe that Wilbert Coffin was not the responsible party, I do believe that the person or persons who are truly guilty are probably no longer with us. You will note that I said "probably" because I rule nothing out until proven otherwise, as I have come across several in this case who have mysteriously resurrected from the belief that they long ago departed this earth.
We are in the midst of a judicial review of the Wilbert Coffin case. It is a review that we know very little about. We know very little about it simply because they have told us little about it. What we do not know about this review, and this is of significant importance, is the depth that the government is prepared to allow the review to go. Will they allow new evidence, meaning evidence that has come forward since the original trial? Will they allow suppressed evidence, meaning evidence that was on hand at the time of the original trial, but was held back? Will they allow testimony of witnesses who gave sworn statements in 1953, but were never called to trial? These are all key questions that have to be answered. Otherwise, the review is going to falter.
In addition to the above, the original process and the reasons that it happened the way that it did must be thoroughly studied. If it was flawed, why was it flawed? From the onset, was there a valid legal reason as to why an inquest jury's verdict was called back, forcing a new verdict to coincide with the police theory? Was the evidence presented in a fair and truthful way by the crown to the presiding jury? Did the imposition of a mixed language jury pose an unfair hearing for Wilbert Coffin, when he had requested an English speaking jury and trial?
Twice in the past five months, Canadians in general have been advised that the government is doing a review of this case. In the first instance, we were told that it was in response to a review that had been requested some seven years earlier, and that it had been turned over to the CCRG, (Criminal Conviction Review Group) to study the case. The second time, a few weeks ago, the government took a vote on the floor of The House Of Commons and voted unanimously for a speedy review of the case. In neither instance, has the government outlined exactly the parameters of the investigation with reference to the things that I referred to above.
This is the most serious and dangerous part of the whole government inquiry. Do you recall the last episode that I posted in this story? Do you recall whatI told you about in that posting of the last time that the federal government did an inquiry into the Wilbert Coffin affair? It took place back in December of 1955? The government was petitioned to do an inquiry at that time, the which, if they would have done it properly, Wilbert Coffin most probably would not have hanged. The government merely threw the case back to the Supreme Court of Canada, and of course the highest court in the land was not about to overrule their own ruling. As a result, we had an execution.
There is only one court, and that is the court of last resort that can strike down a Supreme Court decision. The court of last resort is the federal cabinet. That is the reason why it is paramount that the government allow all the components to be part of this investigation. If this case is simply handed back to the Supreme Court, it will be final. There will be no tomorrow.
The unanimous vote in the House Of Commons sounds like victory. It outlines nothing as to the direction of an investigation. All the voting members were merely doing was endorsing an investigation. The scope of the investigation will be determined by someone other than themselves. This is where you have to light a fire under the butt of your local voting member to get in there and pitch for this to include the new evidence and suppressed evidence, as well as let the voices of living witnesses be heard as they should have been a half century ago.
In spite of what politicians say, this is not a partisan politics issue. This case has been around for a staggering fifty-four years. If either major political party really had a deep rooted interest in this case it would have been torn apart years ago. In fifty-four years the Liberal government has been in power for thirty-two of those years and the Conservatives have been there for twenty-two years.
Interestingly, the late Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who was vocal on the case in the early days before his tenure into politics by ranting and raving about the unfairness of the case was prime minister on two separate occasions since the execution. He fought a long and hard courageous battle for Jacques Hebert in defense of his writings on the case, again, before he entered politics. Without doubt, this was a commendable thing for Trudeau to do, and while in government, he would use this case as a reference for abolition of capital punishment. Unfortunately, during these two occasions as prime minister, my question is "why did he not order a complete study and review of Wilbert Coffin's case while he had the power to order it done?"
The point that I am making is simply that now is not the time to sit back and put your feet up. The time has come to put pressure on your member of parliament. If he or she points out that a review is under way, ask them what are the terms of the review? Ask them if they are allowing new evidence, suppressed evidence, new witnesses, also witnesses who were denied the chance to speak?
Don't be alarmed though if your member of parliament asks you who Wilbert Coffin was. You see we have a very delicate situation here because the average age of all three hundred plus members of parliament in Ottawa is only fifty-one years. That means that with very few exceptions, most were not even born when all this took place. This fact alone states very abruptly that we must be willing to carry the torch all the way to the back fence if we are going to be heard. It is easy to get caught up in the hype and excitement, just remember, the battle is not won yet.
Some of you will argue that I am a pessimist. Some of you will argue that I am an optimist. Having studied politics, and having watched politicians perform all my life, I like to think of myself as a realist. After this review concludes, you be the judge.
Lew Stoddard
Posted to site March 08, 2007


Gordon Travis said...

Mr. Stoddard I do agree with you. The very bottom line here as you say will be the federal government. It is time to put some pressure on them. I do hope it works out.

Gordon Travis
Daint John

S mcLennan said...

Good to see you agressive on this thing. Have to have a hard line approach. The government has been hard lining this for years by tricking everyone. Give them hell, and don't let up. That is what it will take in the end. If some complain, Oh Well, they will get over it, and if they don't, then so be it. Good stuff Lew stoddard.

S. McLennan
Sardis, B C

D Price said...

I am calling my member of parliaments office tomorrow. I am curious about something. I am going to put them to the test. I bet they fail, or at least the office staff will. I will let you know.

D Price
New Westminster

Dave Cleary said...

Everything always comes back to politics. Amazing isn't it. What an embarassing bunch of louts on some of the things that they say and do. The people are the ones who always have to do the mopping up.

Dave Cleary
Grande Prairie

phmdorg said...

I agree with the last statement that you make in your most recent publication on this case. One has to be a realist in this whole affair. Anything short of that one would be setting themselves up for a fall and a mighty big one at that.

I believe as you have said that it will be a rough road with the politicians. If people are thinking that they are all pitching for true justice on this thing, you will be disappointed, because otherwise it would have been settled decades ago.

Richmond Hill

J sabine said...

I am curious Mr. Stoddard why you are so motivated to continue writing of the Wilbert Coffin case as you have concluded the story and yet i notice that you are still writing about it.

Is this site strictly for the coffin story. I notice that you keep talking about the government overturning the case at some point. I know Mr. Coffin was executed and if it was not proper then someone must pay.
I notice that the son, James Coffin is becoming noticeable and I read where he was gone for 30 years and is now back. are you working on the site to get a cash award if Wilbert coffin was wrongley convicted? is that what james coffin is trying to do, and i am curious if that is your plan as well to assist with this. I know from reading and talking to people there have been some very large cash settlement made for others who got convicted by errors. I am sorry to ask this but we do have right to know i believe.

J Sabine
Prince George

Anne Blake said...

In response to J Sabine
I wonder what your reaction would be if this was a member of your family (like your father) who had been hung when you were 8 years old. Would you like to be questioned all your life about your father murdering American Hunters.How about when you went to school and the parents and teachers talked about this do you think you would be able to stand up at the age of 8 and tell them they are wrong.Lew has been a wonderful Godsend and friend to our family and to ask him if he is after a cash settlement that is just the most ignorant and horrible thing i can say i have ever heard. As far as Jimmy is concerned do you think he deserves one? I ask you this if you lost your father to a gross injustice of the government,and had to grow up without your father would you want the government to pay. After 54 years of pain my mom and her family went though we all just want justice served.

Nephew Rick said...

To - J.Sabine. The reason that we are pursuing this issue is so Aunt Marie, my mom and other siblings may have closure to an event that was forced on them and the family over 50 years ago. That is what Lew, Aidwyc, and the family are trying to accomplish. What happens when and if that is done is not a concern of anyone, or being discussed by the family. You can't put the cart before the horse.

Joyce said...

I keep up to date with this story as conveyed on this site. I have commented several times over the past few months. I note that some of my thoughts are shared by others when I read recent comments posted on this reader board.

I think that J. Sabine was posing fair questions with reference to the motive for continuance of this story. One immediately thinks money, or at least, the prospect of money as a motive.

It is quite true, there have been several large settlements with respect to wrongful convictions in this country in recent years.

Suddenly the question as to why James Coffin suddenly reappears after several decades is a natural question to ask. Why was he not in the front fighting to clear his Dads name for all those years? Why did he leave it to others and suddenly appear at this time? There is room to speculate that the reason may have been a possible monetary gain down the road. I hope that is not correct, but it is possible.

To be fair Mr. Stoddard, your deep dedication and motives for this story could be equal in nature. One does not have to look very deeply to determine your closeness to the entire Coffin family. I am sorry but one quickly assumes that your motives could be one in the same.

Bristol, N. B.

Simon Boudreau said...

Although I tend to agree with the reasoning of Joyce and others, I do point out that I guess it is really not anyones business, and given the same set of circumstances how many would do the same thing?

I gues the important thing is that if the case was wrongly carried out, then it should be fixed at any cost. Our democratic system is worth that much to be sure.

Simon Boudreau

Lani Baker Mitchell said...

If you haven't had family members somehow involved in a case such as this, you may not realize the impact it has on your family. Some deal with it by simply ' moving on ' to a better place and time.In my opinion, James didn't ' surface'. We went looking for him!And as for Lew,his riches are found in words, not dollars!

Lew Stoddard said...

Message to J. Sabine, Joyce, et al . .

There are times in life when the best response is simply no response, however, in the interest of therapy I shall address your concerns.

You appear to have lost touch with reality, so I am not sure that a few lines expressed by myself on this board will alter your thinking. I have expressed my actions and motives in the past, so I ask you to digest this very carefully, as it is the last time that I shall be repeating myself.

Firstly, it was my decision, and my decision alone to study, investigate, and write the facts surrounding the Wilbert Coffin case. It was to be an independent study/investigation, void of pre-existing theories and garbage that had flooded the media market.

I commenced this work in early April of 2006. As a courtesy, I sought out and located a sibling of Wilbert Coffin. That person was Marie Stewart (Coffin). Mrs. Stewart wished me well, and offered any support that she was capable of providing upon learning my plans to investigate her brother's case. In no way did Mrs. Coffin, nor any member of her family, attempt to influence my writings. To quote Mrs. coffin, her words to me were, "It will be good to learn the truth."

I further explained that it was not my plan to do this research and writing for monetary gain, that I had no plans to write a book, and that the bottom line was doing my part to put the ghoolish stories to bed, and seek the real story behind the whole affair.

To say that I had no verbal discourse with the family throughout the past year would not be true. As a result of my investigation, many members of the Coffin family contacted me throughout the year. That was obvious, as very kindly they all offered me their support right here on this web site. Indeed, that meant a lot to me, to see their appreciation for my work.

I can also tell you that other than James Coffin, I have never personally met a single member of the Coffin family. Hopefully, that fact will change this coming spring. This particular family has become very special to me.

In July of 2006, Lani Mitchell, presently from Vancouver, joined forces with me in my efforts to achieve my goal. Being a former Gaspesian, Lani was the centre pillar of our accomplishments.

In the late summer of 2006, James Coffin, the son of Wilbert Coffin, contacted me as a result of my web site and other internet queries that I had posted. James, for personal reasons had separated himself some years before from the rest of the family. I did not ask why, that being none of my business. It had nothing whatsoever to do with what I was doing on the case, and would have no future bearing as well.

I am pleased to report that James is back, and is taking an active role in his father's case.

Now the big question, and Joyce, please pay attention. The question is, "Has james Coffin and/or myself discussed or expressed a possible monetary settlement based on the results of the enquiry into this case?" The answer is absolutely not. My position on the matter is as steadfast as it was the day that I commenced my journey to study the case.

It would not be prudent for me to answer for James Coffin, but if you have questions for James, I would suggest that you refer them directly to him. Don't be surprized though if he answers similarly to what I have just told you.

In an earlier comment Rick Willett said it well, and I quote. . 'Don't put the cart before the horse." The singer/song writer Kenny Rogers said it well too in his song "The Gambler" and I quote, "There will be time enough for counting' when the dealing's done."

In closing Joyce, I know that the realities of a long, tough, Carleton County, New Brunswick winter can have permanent effects, so please try and get out more. The cool air will clear the thinking process. Now if there is nothing more, I shall get back to work on the story.

Lew Stoddard
Host of Stoddard Online

louis holmes said...

hello everyones. I liked your replyes to joyce and sabine you have more patence than i do. the story too important for crap like that from people an if they dont like it they can just go aways to somewheres else you do a good job to tell the story lew sory for my english and the spell of words.

louis Holmes

J Cooper said...

Just taking a moment to let you know that I support what you say in your last posting about this event.

Politicians need to be prodded on this affair. there is no way that they are all up to date on this chain of events and there will be many many of them who have never even heard about it as you say.

You have gone to great lengths to explain this especially in the past few weeks. I think this is where we must educate the politicians as well, especially in the areas of corrupt practises of their forefathers. i suggest that everyone get onside and row the boat in the same direction because if we dont then all the hard work is in vain.

J Cooper
Hamilton, Ontario

Barb Saunders said...

Good come back to your detractors yesterday. There is and always will be those out there with such a closed mind. That appears to have been the order of the day for the past 50 years on this. You are right when you say the government must accept new and suppressed evidence. If they do and treat it fairly I am confident that this case will swing around. It needs to be done.

Barb Saunders
Thuinder bay, Ontario

R Ross said...

Lew keep up the hard work. We appreciate what you are, and what you have been doing. Do not get discouraged. Bless you Sir.

Mr. and Mrs. R Ross

J Fullerton said...

One quickly sees there is a lot more to this story yet. You are quite right, people should not jump to conclusions. Being an ex military person, was always drilled into us "Never anticipate the word of command." You have expressed your story well.

James Fullerton

Carol McPherson said...

to all the Joyces and the j Sabines out there, go and play in the "sandbox"

Carol McPherson
Duncan, B C

Dan Gautier said...

You are quite right about Trudeau. He talked a big talk about capital punishment and referred to this case, but if he really thought that it was as mis-handled as what he talked, then yes, I agree, why didn't he call an investigation into it when he was prime minister? He had ample opportunity, he was there for an extended period, and he was there on two occasions.

I think that he spoke with a forked tongue. The person who really spoke out against the case was his friend Jack Hebert. Trudeau's only claim to fame was the representing of Hebert as his lawyer. Abolition of capital punishment came much later.

Dan Gautier

Anonymous said...

Good comeback Lew. There are still some people in this world who choose to do the right thing without looking for payouts. You sir are one of those people. As for James I say he deserves a payout for all he has gone through,however I am sure that is not his intention. I personally know a niece of Wilbert Coffin and as we share the events of your writings, I can clearly see that all the family wants is justice in clearing Mr. Coffin's name. Keep up the good work Lew.

Georgette Lemaire said...

It is a fact Lew, you are never at a loss for words but want to say that I agree with what you are really saying. Seems that there will always be those who assume that whenever someone is trying to do a positive thing their intentions are really underhanded.

Most of these people never ever really accomplished anything of value to society. I think you have brought forth a superior showing for your efforts.

Georgette Lemaire

Kevin T said...

I beleive the best way to respond to those who think the almighty dollars may under lie the continued push for overturning wilbert Coffin's conviction go back and read the words engaved on his headstone if the case is ever sucessfully challenged i believe a copy must be made and placed at the foot of the statue outside our Supreme Court building in Ottawa then no money need change hands!

Andrew said...

I grew up in Roxboro in the 1960s & 70s, a suburb of Montreal. Our local Sealtest milkman was named Clarence Coffin. I just remember him as a pleasant guy.

I can remember being told his brother was hanged for a crime he did not commit. My mother spoke about it as a case of injustice, and a kind of national tragedy. Was Clarence Coffin Wilbert's brother, or his cousin?

It seems rather insignificant in the large scope of events, but if any of the Coffin family reads this, I would like express sympathy to Clarence (if he is still alive) and thanks for the many years of excellent service to our neighbourhood.

Can you please tell me,
Did Wilbert Coffin indeed have a brother named Clarence?

Yours sincerely,
Andrew Preville
Kelowna, BC