Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Moore is still seeking to clear his name

John has asked me to post some of the many older articles about him and his case, which I will be doing over the next little while. Here is a 2004 column from a former editor of The Sault Star.

Moore is still seeking to clear his name
by Doug Millroy, The Sault Star, p. B2, October 9, 2004.

As we sat in the coffee shop, John Moore's untouched coffee had long gone cold as he slowly passed me, one by one, the papers he hoped would eventually bring some order to his life.

They were to be part of a brief he hoped to present to the federal justice minister in Ottawa sometime within the next few weeks.

Moore, most of you will probably recall, was convicted of second-degree murder in a Sault Ste. Marie court in 1978, even though evidence showed he was not present when Gordon Stevens and Terry Hogan killed 18-year-old cab driver Donald Lanthier in a robbery that netted them $15.

There was only the tenuous claim pushed by the Crown that Moore, because he had associated with Stevens and Hogan earlier in the day, may have or should have known that they planned to commit a robbery.

No one can be convicted under such a law today because it doesn't exist. Found faulty by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1987 appeal of Yvan Vaillancourt, who was actually at the scene when his accomplice shot and killed a man during a robbery at a pool hall, it has been struck from the books.

Moore, who came from the Cutler-Walford area but was raised mostly in Sault Ste. Marie, has been out of jail for 17 years now, but he is far from free. As a convicted murderer, he will be on parole for the rest of his life.

"If I got into trouble of any kind, I could be sent back," Moore told me, pointing out that the notorious Karla Homolka, convicted with Paul Bernardo in the slaying of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen Frenchy, won't find herself in a similar position.

"She got 12 years, not life. She's serving it all so there will be no parole," said Moore, who has made his home in Sudbury since his release from prison but who visits his mother in the Sault on a regular basis.

Ordinarily I wouldn't think Moore would have a worry about going back. After all, here is a man who in November of last year foild a robbery he happened upon at a convenience store in Sudbury, the two fleeing robbers droppign their haul of cigarettes when Moore threw a body-block at them.

As well, he has been a model citizen, with lots of letters of support in his brief, including the backing of Sudbury MP Diane Marleau, who has been involved in his case for years.

However, considering what happened in 1978 and again in 1982, how easy it seemed to be for a zealous Crown to convince juries of his guilt, I can understand how Moore would be apprehensive about his future.

I can also understand his frustration at being forced to check in with a parole officer for the rest of his life. In a murder conviction, unjust or not, the debt to society is never deemed to have been paid in full.

Moore ahs been relentless in his efforts to get his case reviewed, but his appeals have long seemed to fall on deaf ears. However, he has taken heart from a December 2002 letter from David McNairn, counsel for the Criminal Conviction Review Group within the Department of Justice.

"I note you have written frequently to the department," McNairn wrote. "Letters alone will not secure a proper consideration of your case. The law is now clear that you must submit a fully completed application and supporting documents. When that is done, we are in a position to conduct a preliminary assessment and consider the merits of your application..."

McNairn also noted that "on July 26, 1991, the Honourable Kim Campbell, then minister of justice, denied your application on the basis that the minister will not grant a remedy under Sec. 690 (now Sections 696.1 to 696.6) of the Criminal Code as a result of a post-conviction change in the law."

Although it comes hard to me as I recall Campbell's earlier and cold dismissal of Joyce Milgaard's appeal on behalf of her son David, who, it eventually turned out, was indeed wrongfully convicted of murder, I suppose I can understand her reasoning. The law is constantly changing; it would be impossible to make it retroactive in every case.

However, having said that, I still believe Campbell should have done something for Moore and for all those who still find themselves in his position. In most other crimes, people would have done their time and moved on. Moore and those like him, bound as they are by parole restrictions, never will.

In regard to McNairn's letter, it took Moore more than six months to put together the required documents because full transcripts of his trials were required, which necessitated some fund-raising. But he is pinning his hopes on his sizeable brief to get a review of his conviction.

McNairn provided the following examples of information that might support a review application:

1. Information that establishes or confirms an alibi.

Moore says he has nine people who will support him on this.

2. The confession of another person to the crime.

Stevens and Hogan both confessed and served 25 years.

3. Information that identifies another person at the scene of the crime.

The convictions of Stevens and Hogan are ample evidence of that.

4. Scientific evidence that points to another person's guilt or supports a claim of innocence.

Nothing here, but shouldn't be required in light of answers in 2 and 3.

5. Proof that important evidence was suppressed.

Nothing here either.

6. Information that shows a witness gave false testimony.

Moore points to Rich Nichols, who was originally a suspect along with him as they had been together most of the day and who testified he was fishing with Moore at the time of the murder. But strangely, Nichols, who probably knew as much about anything involving Stevens and Hogan as Moore, was never tried.

I can understand the justice department requirements because it undoubtedly gets a lot of requests for judicial review. But I'll still always have trouble accepting that something so obviously wrong to me isn't so obviously wrong to others and thus isn't automatically and immediately corrected.

It is a thought Moore, who was 23 when he was convicted, has been living with for more than half his life.

"I'm coming 50, so I hope something happens before I'm too old to enjoy it," he said.

McNairn indicated Moore has one other shot. He could seek a free pardon under Sec. 748 of the Criminal Code. When a person is granted a free pardon, he is deemed to never have committed the offence for which the pardon is granted.

I tis obviously something to be considered, but Moore has had his sights set on clearing his name for so long he won't go down that path until he finds he can go no farther on this one.

He is not seeking compassion; he is seeking justice.

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