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Cruel and unjust punishment

Sir:

For years, Canadians have felt smug because of their very good justice system. Our judges are appointed and not elected. Their tenure is secure (it takes an act of parliament to fire one). And politicians are wary of making any reference to a case before the court.

But in Minnesota, you do not have to wait years to have your case come to the court. People who are charged with a crime are considered innocent until they are found guilty in court. They have the right to be tried by their peers, who hear the evidence, are instructed on the law by the judge, and make their decision.

The jury system grew in England, when there were vicious punishments. By using your local peers, they would, for instance, find you not guilty if you used your landlord’s sheep to feed your hungry children and thus save you from the gallows for the theft of the sheep.

Our constitution outlaws cruel and unjust punishment. Yet locally, we have a young man who has been held in jail for nearly two years awaiting trial. He is charged with the murder of his parents, and I can think of no worse punishment than to sit in jail and ponder about the charges.

Can you imagine the young man sitting in jail with this awful charge against him. Yet every time when he should have been brought up, there have been delays, the papers not right, should the trial be here, or the defense hasn’t seen all the evidence.

Now, although one judge says the trial should be here, and the arraignments are made, another says his local peers aren’t good enough and they have better in Thunder Bay—but their court is busy until September.

Perhaps the judge doesn’t like the 200 miles of rough road, and who cares about the witnesses. Our courtroom, I am glad to say, has not been busy. Perhaps this is an excuse to close it. We had better warn Kenora as theirs will be next.

I also wonder who pays for the time used by the Crown and defence attorneys. I rather suspect it will be the public, and the attorneys have every incentive to make these delays.

I also think the judge insults the good people of the Rainy River district to suggest that we could not find an impartial jury here.

I hope the Attorney General of Ontario will look into this case, and make sure there are no more delays.

Thank you,

Ron Helliar

Fort Frances

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