Christine Jessop and Guy Paul Morin:
One crime, two tragedies
A nine-year - old girl was abducted, brutally raped and executed. Christine Jessop 's story is like so many other cases: a crime of chance, committed with heartless execution, and complete disdain for the pain it would bring so many.
The disaster will affect not one but two families and potentially entangle authority and the judiciary itself in turmoil.
But neither mattered to Christine Jessop. She was just a bright-eyed kid in Queensville, Ont., a quiet town north of Toronto. She enjoyed football and running, and she cherished her beloved beagle named Freckles — too much so that she dreamed about growing up as a veterinarian.
She decided to visit a friend after school one Wednesday afternoon in October 1984. Instead, Christine came around, dumped her bag and was never seen from.
Just minutes later, her mom Janet and older brother Ken may have come home from a dental appointment. They looked for Christine and called her friends, and then Janet felt a feeling of fear. She called the cops.
"You know something in your head because you can't find it right away, you know something's wrong," she said.
A big search was underway the next day — it looked like the whole town came out to scour Queensville and its nearby areas. What searchers couldn't know was that Christine wasn't close.
Nearly three months later, on New Year's Eve, Christine's body was discovered more than 50 kilometers from home on a rural road. Sexually assaulted and stabbed several times.
Now, the Jessops knew she'd left for good. Again, much of the city came out for Christine 's funeral. She'd be buried in a graveyard next to Jessops' house.
The location where Christine's body was discovered indicated investigating fell to Durham Regional Police. At first they weren't having much luck, but a couple weeks later, Janet Jessop named her friend, Man Paul Morin, and told police he's a "weird-type guy."
Morin lived near the Jessops with his friends. The 24-year-old worked as a sander furniture, playing clarinet in a youth band.
He didn't know Christine or her family well, but the police interviewed him and gathered a hair sample from him. A forensic expert called hair "microscopically identical" to hair found on Christine 's body in the necklace.
Police concerns rose. They had a profile of the murderer that was, to investigators, a description that suited Morin. Morin was arrested with that and other evidence. He maintained innocence but was tried for murder in January 1986.
The Crown presented the hair evidence and fibers discovered on Christine 's clothing in a London, Ont., trial. Prosecutors created a timeline to encourage Morin to abduct Christine after he left work and before Janet Jessop got home. Two cellmates who swore Morin admitted to the crime in prison both gave stunning testimony. And an undercover police officer told the court that Morin appeared to be "Redrum the innocent." (Redrum is murder pronounced backwards).
Morin's defense counsel, Clayton Ruby, questioned cell informants' integrity. He called experts who challenged the forensic findings, claiming that Morin actually did not have time to abduct Christine because he had groceries after work.
Ruby did something that shocked us. He introduced psychiatric evidence to a schizophrenic client. It was Ruby's way to describe some of the odd ways Morin talked, like "redrum the innocent."
Ultimately, Ruby told the jurors, there was absolutely no compelling evidence to prosecute his client. And nearly two years after Morin's first questioning with investigators, the jury finds him not guilty.
It was Jessops' devastating verdict. Christine 's father, Robert, disappointed bitterly.
"You get damn angry when you thought the machine let you down," he said.
It was also a letdown for police and lawyers. The unchallenged evidence that Morin was schizophrenic only appeared to reinforce their conviction that Morin was the correct suspect and that the verdict was incorrect.
The court appealed the decision. The Ontario Court of Appeal found fault with the judge's directions to the jurors, and ordered a new hearing. It gave the Jessops new justice hope. But it said Morin's nightmare wasn't over yet.
Much of the same testimony was provided at Morin's second trial — hair and fibres, supposed jail-cell confession, timeline giving Morin the chance to take Christine.
Morin 's lawyer, Jack Pinkofsky, like Ruby before him, countered and challenged all the evidence. But the jury found Morin guilty this time.
Stunned, Morin blurred in court, "I'm not guilty of this offence."
Pinkofsky, visibly shocked, said: "Innocent man was found guilty today."
Yet, nearly eight years after their daughter died, the Jessops claimed this verdict eventually brought justice.
"Finally, someone paid Christine," Janet said. "The culprit paid for Christine 's crime."
Robert Jessop said: "The only consolation of the entire affair is that it ultimately rests. And Christine can rest in peace.
Two hearings, two verdicts. Now Morin 's defenders will request an appeal.
But a fresh and remarkable piece of evidence will turn this case one final time upside down. A little DNA from Christine 's clothes changed everything.
DNA testing science was inaccessible until Christine's body was discovered in 1984. But a decade back, a sample could actually be retrieved confirming that Morin wasn't the murderer. His prosecution was overthrown and Morin released.
He couldn't restrain his relief.
"I didn't kill Jessop," he said. "It's that easy. Finally, like I said, DNA exonerated me 100%.
It was an extraordinary time in Canadian legal history, and it was obvious that something had gone horribly wrong in the criminal justice system. Morin served almost two years in jail, surviving for 10 years through legal confusion and the reputation of a horrible crime he had not done.
The Ontario government ordered a major public inquiry. At the opening of the investigation, Justice Fred Kaufman raised this important question: "How and why has the administration of justice failed in this case, and how can such failure be avoided in the future?
The investigation will last ten months. One hundred and twenty witnesses were called: police, lawyers, forensic experts, even prison informants. And the Jessops, Janet and Ken 's brother, all testified.
The Jessops had come full circle, though. They no longer claimed their neighbor was responsible, and they just needed legal answers.
One vital bit of knowledge was when Janet and Ken returned home when Christine vanished. They initially first told police it was 4:10 p.m. Police had decided that Morin couldn't get home from work until 4:15 p.m., so they suggested later to the Jessops they had to get home. Both Janet and Ken modified the time, maintaining the police theory that Morin was able to take Christine.
Janet thought she finally got home at 4:10 p.m., but said to the investigation, "You trust the police and authority. You've been telling this for so many years, yeah, 'Maybe you're mistaken.' They're the experts."
Kaufman opposed police interrogation methods and gathering evidence. He also determined that the hair and fiber proof was giving too much weight, and that science research required objectivity. He argued that jailhouse informants' evidence was "patently inaccurate," and that "tunnel vision" impaired police and prosecutors, a term he described as an excessively focused emphasis on a single hypothesis.
Kirk Makin is the author of Redrum the Innocent, a book that detailed the Morin situation. He feared police detectives could get too close to Jessops.
"They were like family members and a lot of what went wrong in this situation," Makin said.
Makin claims the initial police detectives were incompetent and zeroed in on Morin under immense pressure to solve the case.
"We ended up with what you see in incorrect convictions: tunnel vision," Makin said.
One police officer apologised to Morin and one of the lawyers, Susan MacLean, tearfully testified that she was "not proud to be interested in suing someone who is innocent."
It was now summer 1997, and Durham Regional Police Chief Trevor McCagherty gave Morin, "... a complete, unambiguous and unconditional apology for our errors that contributed to his unjust prosecution."
Kaufman argued that what happened was "... serious mistakes of judgment, mostly arising from lack of objectivity, rather than malevolence."
Kaufman also said it wasn't special. Indeed, Morin's exoneration followed previous revelations of Donald Marshall 's corruption in Nova Scotia and David Milgaard in Saskatchewan.
Together, the three Ms — Milgaard, Marshall and Morin — inspired an organization named today as Innocence Canada to prosecute alleged false prosecutions in Canada. That was only one reform since the inquiry.
From that point forward, James Lockyer, a central figure in the organization and Morin's counsel, says the justice system no longer relied as heavily forward prison informants. And he said new steps were introduced to ensure more proper examination of forensic evidence.
"These days, what we call junk science is much less possible," Lockyer said.
And one of the key findings of the investigation continues to come around 25 years later: the federal government announced it would set up an independent tribunal to investigate allegations of false convictions.
Makin is now with Innocence Canada and accepts the review jury.
"There's always incorrect convictions," he said. "Ingredients are still there for myths."
Morin knows all very well. He appeared surprisingly sanguine from his 12-year ordeal. He acknowledged police and other condolences as well as a $1 million payout from Ontario province to his relatives. He married, had two sons, and has since remained largely out of public view.
For investigators, the years-long fixation on Morin means the long cold trail for Christine Jessop 's true murderer. Hundreds of tips, interviews and DNA samples were checked, but so much was missed over the years, including witness proof.
A one-time Toronto police cold case unit member, Stacy Gallant, acknowledged: "There's memories you can't get back 20, 30, 40 years later."
Yet, says Gallant, DNA is one thing that might support all these years later. The same evidence Morin cleared now remains to locate the murderer. Recently, police widened the hunt to include ancestral websites.
"The killer's family member may have checked his / her DNA," Gallant said. "We might be fortunate to follow the family line and identify who is the one responsible, alive or dead."
Seeking the guy that murdered her daughter is what Janet Jessop desired for 35 years.
"Where's he?" That's my issue, "she said. "I want him, her, whomsoever. It's my target.
That's the toughest takeaway from the Christine Jessop investigation — a lawsuit that has been hollow for over a decade commanding untold legal leverage. The case was never solved.
The court system may have evolved from its failures, but Janet Jessop still wants justice itself and still experiences the agony of losing Christine.
"You can't comprehend," she says, "because you've been through it, you can't."