Wrongful conviction occurs when a person convicted has been proven to be innocent in fact. Actually, wrongful convictions are more than this. Wrongful conviction is a miscarriage of justice or an error of justice. In other words, there are errors in interpreting or executing law or violating due process with the result of convicting innocent persons (Forst, 2004, p.3). There has been a large number of wrongful convictions in Canada. Roach (2011, p.1475) estimated that around 450 wrongful convictions per year exists in the country, assuming that the error rate is simply 0.5%. Although the error rate is very small, the total number of wrongful convictions is large (Huff, 2002, p.5). How to tackle wrongful convictions has become a wide concern in Canada. This paper is mainly to discuss some important issues of wrongful convictions in Canada on the basis of William Mullin-Johnson case. Three issues related to wrongful convictions are discussed. They are forensic evidence, judges and appeal system, and compensations.
William Mullins-Johnson (Bill) was convicted of murder of his niece in 1996. At the trial, Charles Smith provided forensic evidence and testimony to prove that Valin was sexually assaulted and physically abused. The jury believed this expert opinion and convicted Bill of first degree murder. Bill insisted on his innocence and appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. However, his appeals were dismissed. After 12 years imprisonment, the federal Minister of Justice allowed his application for reviewing his conviction and the Ontario Court of Appeal re-heard the case. In 2007, Bill was acquitted. The case is a wrongful conviction.
In William Mullins-Johnson case, the wrongful conviction was mainly attributable to the faulty forensic evidence produced by pathologist Smith. The trial judges and appeal judges also failed to prevent the occurrence of the wrongful conviction. There is disparity in awards for victims of wrongful convictions due to lack of legal response to compensations.