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Victim's rights trumped by killer's rights, says Greg Parsons
Several weeks ago, Greg Parsons had every intention of being in British Columbia come April 2, but due to the COVID-19 crisis it simply isn’t possible, and now he says a parole board hearing for his mother’s killer is going ahead anyway.
That cuts deep for the son of Catherine Carroll, a son who was wrongfully convicted and then exonerated by DNA evidence.
It seems to Parsons as if Corrections Canada and the Parole Board of Canada are putting the prisoner's rights ahead of victims.
Brian Doyle, currently serving federal time in British Columbia, still has a hearing scheduled for April 2, Parsons said, but observers, victims’ families included, are banned from attending due to the COVID-19 crisis.
He said he’s been told by the parole board that the technology to allow him to participate by remotely is not available.
Both Parsons and at least one other family member of a convicted killer in Canada facing the same situation, asked for a postponement of upcoming hearings.
“There is nothing under Canadian law, no mechanism in place to postpone... (as the parole board says) it’s against his human rights. What about my family’s human rights?” Parsons told The Telegram on the weekend.
“I am so poisoned with this whole system.”
A few weeks ago, Parsons was still preparing to fly to B.C. in April but would not take his wife Tina with him, due to the pandemic fears.
“I was going to put my life at risk to make sure this guy who killed my mom stays in prison,” he said of the plan at the time, before the pandemic circumstances changed drastically.
That’s when he said he begged the board to postpone.
“If it wasn’t for my wife helping me with all this,” Parsons said of her devotion.
“The time he went up there … he poured his heart and soul out,” Tina said of Parson’s last trip to B.C.
“Twenty-nine years, we're still having to deal with this. Now we’re being victimized by Corrections Services and the Parole Board. There’s no justice…. We raised our boys thinking (Doyle) was being punished. He has been in this country club for years.”
They can submit a victim impact statement in writing, audio or video, and they were told it would be placed in the file. They don’t feel that has anywhere close an impact as if Parsons was able to actively participate in the hearing and face the killer and the board, even if via a live stream from Newfoundland.
“He is his mother’s voice and if he can’t face (Doyle), it's just not right,” Tina said.
“I am so poisoned with this whole system.” — Greg Parsons
Two years ago, Parsons attended a temporary-absence hearing for Doyle at William Head Institution, a minimum-security institution consisting of 87 acres of federal land located at the southern tip of Vancouver Island in Metchosin, B.C., about 30 kilometres northwest of Victoria. The facility is surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean.
Doyle, who sought to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, was successful.
Dubbed "club fed” by some media, the William Head prison includes duplexes and a theatre program — posh surroundings that turn Parson’s stomach.
In February, a parole board official said by email that the type of release an offender has applied for, along with their current prison location, is not public information. It was confirmed, however, Doyle is incarcerated in British Columbia.
Parsons has said the hearing may be for day parole.
- Catherine Carroll's killer up for another release hearing
- N.L.'s Greg Parsons wants the man who murdered his mother behind the walls of a maximum, not a minimum-security facility
Carroll homicide background
Carroll was murdered on New Year’s Day 1991. Parsons, then 19, found her Jan. 2, 1991, on her 16 James Pl. bathroom floor in a pool of dried blood. Eight days later, he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
Parsons was wrongfully convicted of the crime in 1994 and exonerated in 1998.
Doyle, who lived in the neighbourhood and was known to the family, pleaded guilty and in 2003 was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 18 years.
The shocking story of Carroll’s murder still reverberates in the Newfoundland and Labrador justice system for the way in which the case was originally handled.
Parsons was finally exonerated when DNA found at the scene didn't match his.
Parsons’ case, along with others, was also a key part of the Lamer Inquiry into wrongful convictions in this province. Its report was released in 2006.
Commissioner Antonio Lamer faulted many aspects of the justice system, including the investigation. Lamer said the case against Parsons was fueled by tunnel vision, and that the investigative team lacked training and experience.
According to details from the court case, Doyle broke into Carroll’s home early on Jan. 1, 1991, and used a steak knife from her kitchen to kill her.
PLEASE SHARE The Parole Board of Canada has informed me today that because of Covid-19, I have been banned from...Posted by Lisa Freeman on Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Ontario woman shutout of hearing
Parsons isn’t the only one in anguish over parole hearings going ahead during COVID-19, despite victims’ families requesting them to be postponed so they can attend.
Ontario nurse Lisa Freeman told CTV News last week that she was denied the opportunity to attend a parole hearing for the man convicted of murdering her father Roland Slingerland in 1991, who was killed by bludgeoning with a hatchet.
Freeman told CTV that she also got notice from the parole board.
While invited to also submit an impact statement in writing or a video/audio recording, she also told the TV network that she couldn't attend the hearings as a livestream because they require a secure video connection. John Terrance Porter is also at William Head, according to the report.
The parole board told CTV the hearings are being conducted remotely and not in institutions during the COVID-19 crisis, and that the cancellation of scheduled observers including victims was temporary.
CTV also reported that the parole board said there is no mechanism under the law to allow it to unilaterally reschedule an offender's review.