On May 18, 2000, Daniel Jolivet was a finished man. The Supreme Court reinstated his life sentence. He will only be able to seek parole after serving 25 years in prison. That takes him to… 2017.
Everything is against him. His life “in crime”, his questionable associations, his numerous history of theft, his possession of weapons, his proven presence at the scene of the crime shortly before the assassinations… He is not the type of defendant who attracts sympathy, in the street as in a jury.
He knows it. But he has no intention of giving up.
At the same time, female lawyers founded the “Projet innocence Québec”, intended to re-examine closed cases where a miscarriage of justice seems to have been committed.
A similar organization in Ontario freed several wrongfully convicted people in Canada, perhaps the most famous being David Milgaard, convicted of the rape and murder of a nurse in 1969, and freed 23 years later thanks to a DNA evidence – the real culprit was later convicted.
Daniel Jolivet could never be freed by the discovery of a genetic fingerprint. There is no material evidence, a video, a scientific analysis that can exonerate him.
There are, however, dozens of things wrong with his conviction. And much more than he thinks when he starts to put the pieces of his case together…
Legal aid lawyer Dominique Larochelle – now a judge – decides to build the case to challenge his conviction.
With a student, Lida Sara Nouraie, who has since become Daniel Jolivet’s lawyer, she spends hundreds of hours going through the entire file, interviewing witnesses, digging up documents hidden at the trial and analyzing the thousands of pages that Daniel Jolivet obtains by accessing information from his cell.
In 2005, the lawyers presented a file of more than 6,000 pages to the Criminal Conviction Review Group (GRCC).
The organization, created in 2002, is responsible for filtering extraordinary requests from convicts who say they have been victims of a miscarriage of justice.
At this point, the prisoner is no longer “presumed innocent”. It is up to him to bring new elements to convince the GRCC analysts that a miscarriage of justice probably occurred. As you can imagine, it’s not easy.
After a preliminary analysis, if the group finds the file sufficiently convincing, an experienced lawyer is mandated to investigate on the ground and further the analysis by meeting with witnesses. A report is finally made to the Minister of Justice, who decides either to order a new trial, or to refer the case to a court of appeal to decide either to decide the case, or to order a new trial.
According to data from the Federal Ministry of Justice, since 2003, 22 appeals have been ordered by successive ministers, following a review of conviction. Nine new trials were ordered, thirteen files were sent to an appeal court. This means that of the tens of thousands of major criminal cases in Canada, on average one per year manages to go through all these stages and convince the RCMPC that a miscarriage of justice has “probably” occurred. These rare cases were obvious enough to have almost all resulted in an acquittal or a discontinuance of charges.
What are the new elements evoked by Jolivet to plead miscarriage of justice?
First, the manner in which the trial itself was conducted. Even under the 1994 rules, the prosecutor did not play fair. In fact, he outright misled the court and the defense on several occasions.
At the very end of the trial, when the evidence was closed, prosecutor Jacques Pothier filed a 16-page statement from Gérard Bourgade (an adult witness whom he had announced to the jury without ever summoning him), and a 26-page statement from Paul-André St-Pierre, supposed accomplice of Daniel Jolivet, never called him either.
The two documents do not exculpate Jolivet, but give versions totally contrary to that of the informer Claude Riendeau on several points.
It was only at the very end of the trial, without having announced it, that Me Pothier called a “surprise witness”: Nicole Lalonde. She was a waitress at the Barabé restaurant, where the informer Claude Riendeau says he received confessions from Jolivet. Mr. Pothier said he had just learned of the existence of this witness. It’s wrong. She had received a summons to testify from the same prosecutor a year earlier, at the preliminary inquiry – but the Crown had decided not to call her then. This witness, questioned by the police in November 1992, was therefore not a surprise witness.
This waitress was important for the prosecution: she had come to say that she had seen the informer Claude Riendeau in the company of Jolivet, the morning following the murders. She didn’t know what had been said, but at least she allowed to say that this meeting where Jolivet would have confessed to the murders had really taken place.
But was she reliable?
Long after the trial, the defense obtained a first statement from waitress Nicole Lalonde where she did not identify Jolivet, but “a bearded man” with a cowboy hat. It was not possible to compare it to its first version.
Jolivet’s cell phone call records (attached to his Blazer truck) show that on the morning of November 10, he called four jewelry stores. He is looking for a sombrero-shaped pendant that he promised a friend, but forgot to buy in Mexico. He finds one on rue Wellington, at the jewelry store of Georges Bossé (ex-mayor of Verdun).
At the trial, Jolivet forgot the place. But the Crown has in its possession the list of telephone numbers of the jewelers called. The jeweler Georges Bossé was even questioned by the police. But the defense never had this information during the trial. They are crucial, because they establish that Jolivet could not have physically been at the Barabé restaurant making a confession, at least not at the times advanced by the informer Claude Riendeau at the trial.
It is true that Riendeau changed his version several times regarding lunchtime (sometimes 9:40 a.m., sometimes 10:10 a.m., sometimes 10:45 a.m.). But at the trial, he said: around 9:45 a.m. The jewelry store’s evidence is not the perfect alibi, because it was still possible to get to the Barabé later. But one thing is certain, the information confirming that Jolivet was in Verdun past 10 a.m. was deliberately hidden from the defense. So does the analysis of the cellular records: they indicate a call made from Jolivet’s mother’s home in Pointe-Saint-Charles to Paul-André St-Pierre at 10:32 a.m. Jolivet had indeed hidden thousands of dollars in his mother’s freezer and had gone that morning to make a “withdrawal” from his refrigerated safe…
Jolivet says there was never a date, and that the man present with Riendeau talking about Mexico was Paul-André St-Pierre, not him. St-Pierre who, like him, wore a cowboy hat, as evidenced by the spinning notes of the time – they were also not disclosed at trial.
By the way, why would Jolivet rush the day after the murders to confess to Claude Riendeau?
The day Daniel Jolivet was arrested, the police also arrested a certain Gordon Leakey, and his girlfriend Chantal – friends of St-Pierre and his girlfriend Élaine Émond. They are questioned by the police, but Jolivet will know nothing about it. Chantal says that the night of the murder, Leakey was away from the bar where they were from midnight until the last service (after 2:30 a.m.). At the police station, he whispered to her that someone would come and get a bag hidden in the basement. Chantal says a stranger did indeed come for the bag the next morning – it contained a gun and a large bag of “powder”.
But there is more.
In December 2005, the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions declared the Crown file missing. Or ? When ? How ? Mystery.
In an interview he gave me for the Canal D program Dossiers justice, in April 2008, the prosecutor Jacques Pothier said he wanted to refresh his memory by consulting the file before the recording, but that he was ” inaccessible” because it was under review at Jolivet’s request.
The statement is dubious, if not outright false. The head of access to information at the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP), Me Julie Drolet, had previously told Jolivet’s lawyer, Lida Sara Nouraie, that the file had been “destroyed” for about ten years. ‘years.
According to what the DPCP lawyer told Me Nouraie, the file was “destroyed” between the judgment of the Court of Appeal ordering a new trial for Jolivet, in 1998, and the hearing in the Supreme Court, in 2000 Lawyers, however, are required by law to keep dormant records for seven years after the last judgment — not to mention the Records Act, which would have required them to be kept for more than 30 years. It is all the more strange that at the time the file was destroyed, a new trial had been ordered – which the Supreme Court overturned.
There remains the file of the Sûreté du Québec: interrogations, investigation notes, expertise, shadowing of suspects, meetings with various witnesses, wiretapping…
The SQ did not hand it over until 2007, 13 years after the trial. And again, the file on CD is not complete: in January 2016, so 11 long years later, the SQ “discovers” 6 new boxes of documents not transmitted to Jolivet or the GRCC, which was supposed to have required all the evidence .
All wiretap recordings made in the truck and on Jolivet’s cell phone in the four days following the murders have not been found. According to his testimony, a “bodypack” or recording device was installed on Riendeau in the days following the murders to record possible confessions from Jolivet. For the testimony of a witness as “crazy” as Riendeau must be corroborated. What’s better than a recording? It would have been done… but we have no trace of it.
The Innocence Project lawyers point to another major element, which went almost unnoticed at trial. St-Pierre’s “accomplice” spouse, Élaine Émond, says she saw Riendeau arrive at her house with an empty “jug” of water – one of those 18L blue bottles. The bottle contained money and jewelry.
Élaine Émond’s friend, Chantal, also saw the jug at her home.
However, the widow of Denis Lemieux confirmed that such a jug was in his condo, and served as a giant piggy bank. A photo from the crime scene shows a circle on the condo carpet where that bottle was.
Many years after his conviction, Riendeau found himself in the Port-Cartier penitentiary. He asked to meet Mike Blass, his mentor in the criminal underworld.
Blass, in an affidavit, claims that Riendeau confessed to him in these words: “At the Jolivet trial, the blonde in St-Pierre also testified for the Crown and said that she had seen me arrive home with a pitcher full of money and jewelry. That if the SQ had to make me pass the polygraph, my dog was dead because the jug came from the job. »
Mike Blass, a “repentant” hitman who was provided with a new identity and various benefits by the state, is not a particularly reliable or sympathetic witness.
But what is his interest in lying in this case?
Jolivet, by an incredible subterfuge, managed to get a copy of Riendeau’s prison file. The file proves that the informer did ask to see Blass and met him at the penitentiary.
In September 2007, the GRCC rendered its decision: there was no need to open an investigation. Not all of the “new material” is important enough and in the end the jury believed the informer, who was thoroughly cross-examined for a week.
Still, even once the errors were pointed out, the GRCC maintained its decision in 2008: the new facts were neither sufficiently reliable nor significant enough to call the verdict into question. As for the disclosure failures, they “did not so taint as to subject you to an unfair and unjust trial.”
This time, after a Supreme Court failure and two GRCC failures, it’s all well and truly over, right?
Denis Lemieux: Prominent South Shore Drug Trafficker
Daniel Jolivet: co-accused of all four murders. Sentenced to life imprisonment in 1994.
Paul-André St-Pierre: co-accused of the four murders
Claude Riendeau: ex-policeman, drug and arms trafficker, main witness against Daniel Jolivet
Gérard Bourgade: trucker, partner of Riendeau in trailer thefts and cocaine trafficking
Gordon Leakey: drug dealer
Chantal: friend of Élaine Émond, spouse of Gordon Leakey
Élaine Émond: Spouse of St-Pierre
Nicole Lalonde: serveuse au restaurant Barabé