Moore's Fight Continues: Millroy
by Doug Millroy, editor emeritus of the Sault Star
Freedom is something most of us just take for granted.
To John Moore, it is an elusive goal.
Moore, many of you will recall, served 10 years in prison for second-degree murder in the death of 18-year-old cab driver Donald Lanthier during a robbery in Sault Ste. Marie in 1978.
Although he was not present when Lanthier was murdered, he was convicted that year and in a retrial in 1982, the Crown convincing both juries that since Moore was with the killers earlier in the day, he "ought to have known" a robbery was going to take place and the possible consequences.
The term "ought to have known" was contained in a law that neither he nor anyone else could be convicted under today because it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1987.
However, the ruling by the Supreme Court did nothing to help Moore as case law is prospective, rather than retrospective, which means that when it comes to changes it looks only ahead and not back.
Moore was released from prison in 1987 but as he was sentenced to life he will always be part of the system, having to report to a parole officer regularly and having to obtain permission each time he wants to leave Sudbury to visit his mother in Sault Ste. Marie.
He has never ceased in his efforts to clear his name or at least get a pardon so he can move about as a free man.
He has had many people helping him in his quest through the years but the justice department has turned a blind eye and deaf ears to his pleas.
In 2011 he thought he had found a formidable ally as AIDWYC, the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, had informed him that it was going to review his case.
However, one year later those hopes were dashed as Win Wahrer, director of client services with AIDWYC, wrote Moore that the association wouldn't be taking his case because it had concluded there was no fresh evidence to support taking a s. 696.1 application concerning a miscarriage of justice to the federal justice minister.
Concluded there was no fresh evidence? It seems inconceivable to me that AIDWYC didn't know this when it opted to review his case as Moore, in his then 34-year fight to clear his name, had never made any claim as to having fresh evidence.
He is simply fighting on in the hope of someday being able to lead a normal life.
Although AIDWYC has an admirable track record in assisting the wrongful convicted, I believe it would have been better to have left Moore's case alone rather than to have raised the false hopes that it did.
Now another group has indicated a willingness to take a look at Moore's case and we have to hope it will go in with its eyes wide open and pay a little more attention to detail than AIDWYC did.
From the little involvement I have had with it to date, I tend to believe it will.
The Innocence Project/projet Innocence, operating within the Department of Criminology at the University of Ottawa and not to be confused with the Innocence Project operating within the Faculty of Law at the university, is gathering information on Moore's case.
Its director is Dr. Kathryn Campbell, who is described as the leading scholar on wrongful convictions in Canada, and involved locally is Prof. Myles McLellan of the Department of Law and Politics at Algoma University.
I met with McLellan, who is gathering information on Moore's case, last week.
He said the Innocence Project/Projet Innocence was very young, about a year and change, and was looking for clients. He said Moore, whose case came to his attention through a video on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), looked eligible for this type of assistance.
"Not unlike AIDWYC, we concentrate on clients who want to get out of jail," he said, "but this kind of thing is not outside the Project's jurisdiction."
He said graduate law students, who conduct the investigation under the guidance of faculty, would sift through the material and prepare a report recommending whether the case should be taken on and if so, how it should be handled.
McLellan agrees a s. 696.1 application is not much of an option for Moore since he has already gone that route and failed.
And with no facts being wrong, no evidence turned up that wasn't available at trial and with the current climate of the Conservative government, he said there was no way the minister of justice was going to refer Moore's case back to the court of appeal.
"The best John can hope for is a pardon," McLellan concluded, adding that an appeal to the parole board to remove some of the conditions of Moore's parole might be another option.
I'm pretty sure Moore would be happy with this.
To give you a clearer picture of the section of the Criminal Code of Canada under which Moore was convicted I quote:
"Parties to Offence
"21.(2) Where two or more persons form an intention in common to carry out an unlawful purpose and to assist each other therein and any of them, in carrying out the common purpose, commits an offence, each of them who knew or ought to have known that the commission of the offence would be a probably consequence of carrying out the common purpose is a party to that offence."
Gordon Stevens and Terry Hogan were the actual murderers of Lanthier in the robbery that netted them $15. Both were convicted, Stevens of first-degree murder and Hogan of second degree.
Moore , convicted on the strength of the prosecution's argument that he, Stevens and Hogan would have discussed the robbery when they were together for a time during the day, appealed all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada but lost.
Ironically, two years later another man, Yvan Vaillancourt, who was actually at the scene when his accomplice in a robbery committed murder, had his conviction overturned by the Supreme Court, which ruled that he was not responsible or liable for the death since he could not have "objectively foreseen it."
One has to wonder how the Supreme Court didn't come to that conclusion in hearing Moore's case, since Moore, not being at the scene of a murder, would seem to be far less culpable than someone who actually was.
In any event, to give you an idea of the kind of restrictions which will follow Moore for the rest of his life I am passing on one imposed by his parole officer three years ago.
He was given a travel pass good for five days with one of the restrictions being that he was not to board any bus providing public transportation within the city of Sault Ste. Marie so he would not run into any relatives of the victim.
Small wonder his fight continues.
Moore can never be given back what he has lost but he can now at least harbour some hope that the Innocence Project/ Projet Innocence might be able to help give him a future.
Doug Millroy, editor emeritus of The Sault Star, can be reached at email@example.com