Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Truscott

The Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled Steven Truscott should be acquitted based on the way his trial was conducted. It also -- and this is something that will likely not receive headline play in the media -- found that he might well have been guilty. In the court's view, that guilt was not proven. In our society, that's the rule we go by.
The court would have ordered a new trial, but accepted the reality that a complete and fair trial is impossible after the passage of fifty years.
Common sense analysis of the events of the night of the murder and the local geography point to Truscott's guilt. However, I'm a firm believer in the rule of law, and if you're going to convict a 14-year-old and sentence him to hang, you better have him dead to rights.
So, in the end, it might have all worked out. If he did it, he served ten years in jail, which, under today's young offender law, would be more than enough. If he didn't do it, he's got his vindication.
This much we know for sure: For forty years, since he was 24 year old, Steven Truscott ha been a productive and law-abiding citizen. If he made some grievous mistake as a teenager, he's paid for it and proved his rehabilitation. If he didn't, he can at least take comfort from the fact that his case helped end capital punishment in Canada and focussed the country's attention on the issue of crimes commited by juveniles.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Mark. I must admit what I know of the Truscott case has come entirely from media coverage, particularly in the past year. That coverage has suggested major flaws with the prosecution case, and with the way it was handled by police. One thing in particular that stands out is the discrediting of the pathology involved; that she actually died later than first indicated - which would exonnerate Truscott. Why are you of the belief he is guilty? (I am not saying he isn't; rather, it seems that the evidence pointing at him was flawed at best).

Marky Mark said...

Mark,

You make it seem like he "got off" on a techicality when the Court did not convey that message. There were flaws wth the evidence, both forensic and witness testimony, and all that remained of the Crown's case was that he had been seen with her. I don't think that alone is sufficient to point to his guilt.

Ottawa Watch said...

I'm not saying he got off on a technicality. Read the Court of Appeal decision -- it's on their site. The court says it can't say Truscott did not commit the crime. It says, based on the evidence, it would order a new trial, but since a trial is impractical, it acquitted.

Marky Mark said...

I've read it. They couldn't reach a determination of factual innocence and decided that a new trial was impractical. They concluded that an acquittal was the more likely outcome in a new trial. They did not say or imply that: "Common sense analysis of the events of the night of the murder and the local geography point to Truscott's guilt." I think your quoted statement goes too far in terms of describing the consequences of the court not finding factual innocence.

Ottawa Watch said...

I don't believe the court believed, based on what they heard, that he was innocent.
Challenging the evidence of a 50-year-old trial -- in effect, being able to put forward a new defence while the original prosecution is dead, along with the witnesses and thus unable to challenge your new take on things -- sounds to me like an easy way to win an acquittal.
Everyone wants this guy to be another poster boy for the wrongly convicted. The court of appeal did not say that he was, indeed, wrongly convicted, and that's going to be a hurdle for him in his compensation battle.
I prefer to stick with the 1967 Supreme Court findings, which held, 8 - 1, that Truscott lied on the stand at the SCC (he did not testify at his own trial, only becoming vocal when others took up his cause), and that, had the case been accepted by the SCC in 1959, the conviction would have been upheld.
The "new evidence" brought out at the Court of Appeal was simply some untested inuendo against a guy on the Clinton air base, and some casting of doubt on the forensics. There was no real re-investigation since the case was far too old.