Mullins-Johnson acquitted in 1993 death of niece
Mon. Oct. 15 2007
William Mullins-Johnson becomes overwhelmed with
emotion while testifying in Osgoode Hall in Toronto on Monday, Oct. 15,
|by John Musselman
An Ontario man who spent 12 years in prison for the 1993 death of his
four-year-old niece was acquitted by a provincial court on Monday.
William Mullins-Johnson, of Sault Ste. Marie, broke down and hugged
supporters after an Ontario Court of Appeal justice apologized for the
"It is regrettable that as a result of flawed pathological evidence you
were wrongfully convicted and you spent so long in custody," said
Justice Dennis O'Connor.
Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant also apologized for the
suffering Mullins-Johnson has endured.
|"I wish to extend
our sincere, profound and deepest apology to Mr.
Mullins-Johnson and to his family for the miscarriage of justice that
occurred," said Michal Fairburn, a lawyer for Bryant.
The court ruling came after Crown prosecutors said a forensic expert
noted there was no evidence of homicide or sexual injury in the case.
Mullins-Johnson had been asking the appeals court to quash his
conviction, enter an acquittal and acknowledge his innocence.
The court's decision came as a "tremendous relief" at the "end of a
long battle" Mullins-Johnson told reporters.
His lawyer, James Lockyer, added that he was pleased with the decision.
"They can't recreate the past, they can only deal with the present,"
"I think what they did today was the right thing to do."
In an emotional retelling of the events that led up to his niece's
death Mullins-Johnson broke down in tears as he recounted the horrific
morning the child was found dead.
"I couldn't believe what I was seeing," Mullins-Johnson told the court
through sobs during his appeal hearing.
He said he was heartbroken after Valin Johnson had been discovered dead
in her bed.
But he described his life following the event as "hell" because he was
charged, convicted of first-degree murder and imprisoned in connection
with the death.
"It destroyed me. It ruined my name. It ruined my reputation. It ruined
any opportunity I had," Mullins-Johnson said.
Mullins-Johnson was freed on bail in 2005
pending a ministerial review
after it was revealed key forensic evidence that could have been used
in his defence was mislaid by pathologist Dr. Charles Smith.
A coroner's review of Smith's cases found he came to questionable
conclusions in 20 child autopsies, 13 of them resulting in criminal
charges. Smith's work is also the subject of a public inquiry scheduled
to begin next month.
Dr. Charles Smith, whose pathological findings
wrongfully convicted William Mullins-Johnson.
James Lockyer lawyer for William Mullins-Johnson
speaks to CTV's John Musselman following his client's acquittal on
Monday, Oct. 15, 2007.
Valin Johnson, whose death courts found was
wrongfully attributed to William Mullins-Johnson.
Earlier this year, federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson referred the
case to the Ontario Court of Appeal after he acknowledged a
"miscarriage of justice may well have occurred."
Crown prosecutors had said on Monday that an acquittal is imperative
because the evidence that sent Mullins-Johnson to prison is unreliable.
In an opening statement, Crown prosecutor Ken Campbell said six "world
renowned experts" found there was "no evidence of homicide and no
evidence of sexual injury" to indicate Valin was sexually assaulted and
Ontario's chief forensic pathologist, Dr. Michael Pollanen, testified
there were anal and neck injuries, which were used to support a finding
of sexual assault and homicide, were misread by Smith.
Pollanen said the bruising around the girl's neck was more likely
caused by blood pooling after death, while the small lacerations found
on a tissue sample appeared to have been made accidentally during the
sample collection process.
The subsequent autopsy was unable to determine an exact cause of death.
Mullins-Johnson is being represented by Lockyer and David Bayliss,
lawyers representing the Association in Defence of the Wrongly