THE WEEK IN CRIME
My favorite story this week comes from Quebec and concerns the endlessly tarnished reputation of their provincial police force, the Surete du Quebec. The Supreme Court of Canada overturned the murder convictions of Billy Taillefer and Hugues Duguay, two young friends who spent 10 years in prison for the 1990 rape and murder of 14-year-old Sandra Gaudet. Gaudret went missing after walking home from her boyfriend’s home on the night of March 9, 1990. Her body was found, almost naked and partly buried in the snow, next to a logging road near Val d’Or, Quebec. She had been strangled.
In their ruling, the Supreme Court cited the circumstances surrounding the so-called confessions by the accused – confessions Taillefer and Duguay said were dictated to them, then beaten out of them by the SQ. What’s more, the jury never got to hear witnesses who said they saw two men in their 50s with a shovel – Taillefer and Duguay were in their 20s at the time – along the logging road at the time of the murder.
Lest we forget, the SQ is currently under investigation over allegations of evidence fabrication in the Julie Boisvenu homicide case.
All of this begs the question, who killed Sandra Gaudet? No one knows. And we will probably never know. By the time you read this; if you google her story you’ll no doubt come up empty. Such is the situation in La Belle Province – Quebec is high on sensation, but short on collective memory when it comes to crime.
For what it’s worth, I can think of one other young girl who was found in the snow in March, raped, partially clothed, strangled and next to a logging road. The crime scenes of Sandra Gaulet and Louise Camirand are 13 years and 300 miles apart – still, it gives one pause for thought.
This weeks families of victims got the chance to speak out at the sentencings of Green River serial killer Gary Ridgeway and teen sniper Lee Boyd Malvo. Victims impact statements are supposed to be a triumph of the victims rights movement. Forgive me if I remain unimpressed. A chance to yell at a guy in court: That’s all you get? The opportunity to be tabloid fodder for Extra and Inside Edition? It hardly seems equitable for a life taken. If it were my sibling, or parent, or significant other I’d want something a little more private, I little more on my terms. Leave me alone in a room with the offender. Allow me to be as personal and intimate with them as they were with my loved one during their last moments on this earth.
Yes, I think I will plug Eric Muller’s blog, Is That Legal? -not because he was gracious enough to write about my blog, but because Muller (a law professor at UNC Chapel Hill) is very smart and very funny. Check out the story of convicted wife murdered, Michael Peterson, who is now trying to say that a wayward owl was responsible for pushing his wife down the steps of their posh Durham domicile.
Meanwhile in British Columbia, Robert Picton will face seven additional first-degree murder charges, bringing the total number of murder charges against the Port Coquitlam Pig farmer to twenty-two. Once again, because of a publication ban the names of the victims of these crimes are to remain anonymous. I’m all for protecting the rights of victims, but the unintended result here is while Picton’s reputation grows the victims of his crimes are reduced to a statistic. Recall that Picton is suspected of murdering over 60 women from the downtown eastside of Vancouver.
Finally, if you missed it, Canada has a new Minister of Justice. Irwin Colter snuck into office last week. We won’t let him forget that his predecessor, Martin Cauchon asked for a frank criticism of the DOJ in its treatment of victims issues; nor that former Solicitor General, Wayne Easter recently cited a 2001 national survey in which victims overwhelming requested more opportunities to be included and consulted in matters of criminal justice.