There are many instances in history of persons being falsely accused of crimes that they did not commit. In Canada, recent history has witnessed the likes of Donald Marshall Jr., David Milgaard, Guy Paul Morin, James Driskell, William Mullins-Johnson, Romeo Phillion, Steven Truscott, Kyle Unger, Erin Walsh, Anthony Hanemaayer, and many many more.
You don’t have to make the front page of the newspaper to qualify as someone who has been falsely or wrongfully accused. Every day there is someone who has been accused of a crime he or she did not commit. Whether it’s the disgruntled wife or girlfriend falsely alleging her husband or boyfriend assaulted her, or it’s the employee who has lied to the police in claiming that her boss sexually assaulted her, they all have one thing in common: motive to lie. When it comes to police officers falsely alleging an accused has committed a crime he or she did not commit, there could be a number of reasons for the claim. The officer may have been mistaken in his claim, may have other evidence pointing to the guilt of the accused that motivates the officer to lie about other evidence in the case, or, in rare cases, the officer is out-and-out lying to put an innocent man in jail.
Stephen Hebscher recently defended a client charged with assaulting a security guard at a shopping mall. This security guard, who fashioned himself as a “cop wannabee”, was out to get his client because he was on some kind of a power trip. This security guard decided to arbitrarily exercise his authority under the Trespass to Property Act to order the client to leave the shopping mall because, as he claimed, the client, four years before, had been ordered banned from the mall for a period of twenty years. As it happened, the client was only banned for two years, but this security guard didn’t bother to check his records before following the client around the mall insisting that he leave the premises. The security guard prevented him from going to his bank, and then falsely claimed that he threatened and assaulted him.
At the trial of this man, while the security guard was on the witness stand, Mr. Hebscher became suspicious of his claims when he maintained that a video of the assault could not be found, as well as the original trespass notice that was to be proof that the client had been banned for twenty years. Yes, twenty years for shoplifting from a food store in circumstances wherein the client was not even charged. He was simply given a warning, and told to stay out of the mall for two years. Well, in a Perry Mason moment, Mr. Hebscher was able to uncover proof that the document claiming the client had been banned from the premises for twenty years had been forged so that the number ‘2’ was changed to ‘20’. Shortly thereafter, the charges were dismissed by the judge.
So, what lesson is there to be learned from the slew of wrongfully accused persons who have been exonerated? The lesson is that it is important to have an experienced criminal defence lawyer who (1) believes his client’s claims of innocence, (2) is willing to thoroughly investigate the matter, and to put forward a defence based on the client’s claims, and (3) has the intestinal fortitude to take on the system and uncover the nasty little secret that will always be underestimated about the criminal justice system, i.e., that it is human nature (for a variety of reasons) for people to wrongfully accused others of committing crimes that they did not commit.
If you believe you have been falsely accused of a crime in Toronto, you can have the assurance of over 65 years of experience defending the innocent (and the guilty), as Stephen Hebscher and Bruce Karten will fight to uncover all possible injustice, and to make things right!