Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Justice Delayed

Now that Robert Baltovich has finally been acquitted of the murder of his girlfriend Elizabeth Bain and freed, it's time to look at the behavior of the judge at his first trial. Baltovich was convicted despite the fact he supposedly drove 100 kilometres driving a standard transmission car when, in fact, he couldn't drive a standard. Evidence, even then, pointed towards the "Scarborough Rapist". The judge in the case, John O'Driscoll, said Baltovich was undeserving of any mercy.
Today, after a long incarceration for a crime he did not commit and a nightmarishly long and expensive series of court cases, Baltovich is cleared. The Crown admitted it had no case.
But more than a decade ago, it got a conviction with the same non-evidence. Something went terribly wrong and it needs to be fixed.

5 comments:

MJMartin said...

Several years ago when a series of high profile convictions were overturned in the U.S., mostly due to the new power of DNA, there was talk of new legislative actions against prosecuting states when they get it wrong.

The last I heard the bill was a "reverse fine" charged to the state in wrongful imprisonment instances. The penalties were based somewhat on how much time the incarceration lasted but was somewhere in the area of $1000 USD paid to the wrongfully convicted individual. Not sure what happened to it.

10 years wrongfully confined = 3,560 days x $1000 per day? Hit 'em where it hurts, the wallet, and the state prosecuters may have a new outlook on "the truth".

Ottawa Watch said...

At the very, very least, the state or provincial government (depending on which side of the border you're on) should pick up the entire defence cost.
This is a guy whose life is screwed. He lost his girlfriend, who apparently he was crazy about. He lost the years when he'd be setting up a career. His reputation will always be under a cloud. Even an acquittal will not wipe out the suspicion that maybe he somehow beat the justice system on a technicality. If it wasn't for a couple of journalists who kept this case alive and the fact Bernardo was finally (after many police screw-ups) caught, Baltovich would be doing 25 to life right now.
I don't always agree with Lockyer. In this case, however, the Crown's evidence seemed torqued and contrived from the beginning. The body was never found (as would have been the case with Leslie Mahaffy if Bernardo had been more careful), the suspect couldn't drive the getaway car, the forensic evidence was a joke (yup, they found some of Baltovich's hair ih his girlfriend's car) and they had some arguments.
It could have been you or me railroaded to prison by a close-minded judge and jury who didn't let the facts get in the way.

James Goneaux said...

I think Guy Paul Morin's railroading was worse, but this is definitely in the "second prize" category.

I can feel for the family, but I don't know how they can get away with still saying he is the killer. I mean, isn't that slander?

Anonymous said...

Derek Finkle wrote a fine piece about the case today in the Globe.
Finkle wrote a book about the case which was the driving force which saw the case reopened. Well worth reading.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20080423.FINKLE23/TPStory/National

Ottawa Watch said...

If it wasn't for Finkle, Baltovich would still be in prison.