Not a good day yesterday. Not a good day at all.
And acquittal for convicted molester Father Dan Miller.
I feared this was coming. I didn’t want to comment on the trial before because I feared I would have the complainant and other victims needlessly concerned. I’ve discovered that it’s generally hard to know how a judge will rule. I’ve seen cases where I was convinced there was no option but a conviction, – but, the accused was acquitted. I’ve seen cases where I’ve had concerns that an acquittal was in the offing. – but the accused was convicted. So, it’s just hard to know how a judge will rule on the evidence.
I’ve discovered too over the years that there seems to be a great divide between the manner in which members of the judiciary and we, the unwashed masses, view evidence and testimony.
And further to all of that, I’ve discovered – much to my dismay – that there seems to be yet another great divide between both sides regarding abhorrence for the crime of child sex abuse and the trauma inflicted upon the child victims.
True, there are exceptions, but on the whole I have come to the conclusion that we have a judiciary which allows defence lawyers to drum up all manner of outrageous hypothesis out of the blue, and/or spin and distort facts to get his/her client, a sexual predator, off . Alas, if the assigned Crown has neither the passion nor intellect to match wits with one of these defence lawyers, and/or if the judge falls hook line and sinker for the defence spin well, then it’s a “win” for a sexual predators and a decisive trumping of truth. I alluded to this just two days ago when I blogged Another notch?
True, there are no doubt acquittals in which the accused is truly innocent and whereby defence use facts and truth to prove that the accused absolutely did NOT comment the offences. I have yet to see one. That doesn’t mean they don’t happen, only that I have personally have not seen it happen.
Do I think Father Miller molested that young boy back in the early 70s? I do.
Do I think Father Miller got off today? I do.
If there is one saving grace here it is that Miller had already been convicted on other charges and hence we all know that he is what he is legally: a sexual predator. That’s not much of a saving grace is it? In fact, that’s perhaps all the more reason to wonder what in the name of goodness happened here?
Silly question. I have a darn good idea what happened. I think I know where this trial derailed.
Two witnesses at trial: period
That’s right. Two. Can you believe it?
That was it. One witness for the Crown. One witness for defence.
The Crown, Brian Holowka , put the complainant/victim (victim) on the stand.
That was the sum of the witnesses called to prove the Crown’s case. One. The victim.
There were no witnesses called with corroborating evidence. There was no expert witness called to explain the deleterious and virtually stereotypical impact sex abuse has on a young boy, and, as in this instance, the impact which is unique to young Catholic boys who are molested by Roman Catholic priests.
Unfortunately it is rare in most of Canada to see an expert witness called to testify at any of these sex abuse trials. I don’t know why. $$$$s ? Perhaps. Regardless, there is many a time an expert should be called.
Anyway, the victim testified that he had been sexually abused by Father Dan Miller. He testified that he stopped attending Mass shortly after the abuse. I got the impression that he never connected his turning away from his faith to the abuse, and no such connection was elicited by the Crown.
We heard variously that Millar drove the boy home after a school dance, had pizza with Miller at the pizza place ‘across from the church,’ was molested on three occasions by the priest: once in the car, once in the rectory office, and once at what he called a camp but may actually have been a retreat at the campgrounds. The abuse entailed masturbation.
We learned too, and this is important, that the victim had been sexually abused by an uncle.
In fact, the victim had at one time written an article on child sex abuse. In that article he disclosed that he had been sexually abused by an uncle. There was no mention in the article of the abuse by Father Dan Miller.
The victim testified that for years he had had no recollection of the abuse by Father Dan Miller. It was an article announcing the charges against Father Miller in a local newspaper which triggered his memory.
The memory issue became the nub of the acquittal.
It was in that regard that, at trial, the judge posed what proved to be a pivotal question
Justice James s question arose as the trial was about to wrap up.
But that’s running ahead of events a little.
Father Miller took the stand in his own defence. Hopefully what follows will suffice to give a bit of a flavour of the nonsense that flowed from the mouth of this verbose convicted clerical molester.
Here then is a little of what we heard from Father Miller on the stand, 17 October 2014.
- the allegations aren’t true because he doesn’t t recognize the complainant’s name and he doesn’t recognize the family name – but then offered several times that he is “awful” with names;
- he has never ever abused boys in his car or office or at the retreat weekend at the campgrounds, and is absolutely certain of that because that is something he wouldn’t forget;
- he would remember abusing this victim because the acts were so horrific;
- he would remember if he abused this victim because all of his, Miller’s, sex abuse acts were “singles” and this was a “triple.” He said he remembers what he called “the singles” and concluded that “if I remember the singles surely to goodness I’d remember the triples.” (“singles” are boys he claims he abused once. There were three charges related to sexual abuse of the complainant in this trial – by Miller’s account that is a “triple.”) On the heels of insistence that his victims are all “singles” he acknowledged that he had in fact molested one of his victims from the first trial multiple times;
- said there was just a field across from the church – no pizza shop. Asked if there was a pizza place close by he said he didn’t recall – “that was 40 years ago.” (The victim mentioned going to the pizza place across the street. I have since learned that the pizza place was across the street figuratively if not literally. The spot once occupied by the pizza place can be found on google maps . It’s across the road from the church and down just a little. )
- he never went out for pizza because he had no need to go – there was a cook at the rectory and he was frequently invited out to people’s homes for meals. He admitted he was much larger in those days than he is now, but, – he didn’t go out for pizza;
- he claimed he didn’t realize the damage he had done by molesting boys and that and it was only after he went to Southdown for treatment that he realised that “touching” the boys was wrong – but he claimed he would have seen masturbation as wrong;
- under cross-examination testified that he has a sexual interest in males, and agreed that in the 70s that interest had to be expressed in secret. When the Crown then mentioned that Miller had testified he had never touched anyone inappropriately as described by the victim in this case, Mr. Carew objected.
- he never kept Kleenex in the glove compartment of his car;
- he never molested boys while he was ‘at work’;
- initially denied that he drove the boy home after a school dance specifically because he never took boys with him in his car alone unless he was off-duty, but then he testified that he couldn’t recall if he drove students home after dances because “that was 40 years ago, ” and then he testified that he might have done so sometimes “but if I did it had to be an emergency.”
- testified that when he did have boys alone with him in the car he was going to visit his mother or in to Ottawa to visit a museum or something like that (we know from the sentencing hearing at the previous trial that Millar frequently molested his victims at his mother’s home);
- claims that at his previous trial he pleaded guilty to some acts of sex abuse that he didn’t recall committing because they sounded the same as the other allegations to which he was pleading guilty. Although he claims he couldn’t remember committing these acts to which he pleaded guilty and can’t remember he was quite adamant that they did not happen in a car or at the office;
- he pleaded guilty to sex of abuse of some boys even though he didn’t remember abusing the boys because, and I think I have his words accurately ‘you would have to have been there to know the facts,”
- said he gave the names of the boys he abused to police, but acknowledged that there were victims the police tracked down on their own and laid charges Miller then said that the latter charges were dismissed, but then he agreed that there were charges laid to which he pleaded guilty and it was not he who gave those names to police so obviously there were “some I don’t remember I guess,”
- said he was not a “youth minister” because that was not his sole job, but admitted that he did do a lot of work with youth;
Credit where credit is due, the Crown did a good and often masterful job of exposing Miller’s tap dancing and deception. He unfortunately knew little about Catholicism, the priesthood and the Roman Catholic Church- often a problem at trials such as this.
That said, back to the issue at hand: the judge’s question.
Justice James’ question related to the victim’s memory. James essentially wondered why, when writing that piece on sex abuse, the victim recalled being sexually abused by an uncle but failed at the same time to mention or recall all the abuse by Miller, and why the victim did not recall the sex abuse by Father Miller until he was triggered by an article in the local paper announcing the sex charges against the priest
The judge asked both lawyers if either or both could tell him anything about repressed memory. He wondered why the memory of abuse by one person was repressed while the memory of another was not? He wondered about the role of science, and the complexity of the human mind? He wondered about the neuroscience of recovered memories.
To my knowledge there was never a diagnosis made of “repressed” memory. True enough the word was used a few times in court, but I got the impression it was not used in a medical or scientific sense, and I also thought that on those occasions in which “repressed” was used the word “suppressed” or the phrase “completely forgotten” could have been used by the speaker.
Sadly, as I said, there were no expert witnesses called who might have clarified the matter. Sadly too no witnesses were called who could corroborate testimony given by the victim. There is a publication ban on the victim’s name and anything which might reveal his identity so I must be careful what I say here, but I do believe there must be people out there who recall the victim’s church-related activities as a child.
It is important to note here that at trial and when Justice James posed the burning question he seemed to be impressed by the victim’s testimony; he noted that sometimes the Crown has to deal with “unsavory witnesses” and that in this case the witness (victim) was at the other end of the spectrum,
No matter, the question was posed.
And the response?
The Crown said that he himself is not a neuroscientist.
Defence said that in the absence of an expert witness being called the judge could not assume the memories are reliable,
No expert witness.
Not even a stumbling attempt to explain why the victim wrote an article referencing sex abuse by an uncle without reference to abuse by the priest.
I could not believe it.
I think that at that moment the writing was on the wall.
Yesterday, the acquittal.
In his reasons for judgement Justice James said he found the victim credible, articulate and not evasive., but…..
yes, – but, – the memory thing.
I am sick.
That’s where it’s at people.
I need to think about all of this a bit more.
The reasons for judgement should be available within the next couple of weeks. When I get them I will post.
Please please keep the complainant in your prayers.
Enough for now,