Call me a cock-eyed optimist. In spite of my ideological predilections, somehow I still imagine, if only at the gut level, that justice may be found in a courtroom.
Not today. Not in Justice Robert Maranger’s court.
In a brief oral decision, the judge found that the bogus handwriting evidence against Hassan Diab was not “manifestly unreliable.” A defence motion to have it excluded from Diab’s extradition hearing was dismissed. The whole hearing, in fact, turns precisely upon this evidence, which the Crown has referred to as a “smoking gun.”
It was a crushing, possibly fatal blow to the defence.
Three internationally-renowned handwriting experts testified on Diab’s behalf. The French “expert,” Anne Bisotti, turns out to have no credentials in the field, and she made elementary blunders in her analysis.
Here is what one of the experts had to say:
Mr. Radley questioned the qualifications and professional development of the French handwriting analyst, Ms. Anne Bisotti. He was troubled and astonished by the fact that she has had only 21 hours of professional development in handwriting analysis since 1993. He stated, “I find this whole [handwriting] report unacceptable and not what I would expect from a trained, competent expert”.
Mr. Radley was also troubled by the fact that Ms. Bisotti accepted a biased mandate from the French examining magistrate that restricted her to two possible conclusions: whether Hassan “is certainly or may be” the writer of the hotel registration card that the presumed Rue Copernic bomber filled out.
In his technical review of the French handwriting analysis, Mr. Radley concluded, “In over 30 years of dealing with casework and having to produce critiques on literally hundreds of Police Laboratory reports, I have never had to express criticism in such robust terms. I wish to stress that this not because I have been hired by one side or the other side but this is a truly held reflection of the review, such is the degree of unacceptability of virtually the entirety of the report.”
The other two experts offered equally robust opinions about Bisotti’s qualifications and her work. In sum, the report of a patently unqualified, biased individual with slanted terms of reference has been allowed to stand.
If Bissotti’s report doesn’t meet the test of “manifest unreliability,” it is hard to conceive what might.
The wider context should also be considered. Two earlier handwriting reports from the land of Alfred Dreyfus were hastily withdrawn when the French learned that expert rebuttal testimony might be permitted. The most recent “evidence” was allowed in by the judge last September, over defence objections.
The result of the hearing in Maranger’s courtroom is almost a foregone conclusion. The farcical and contradictory French evidence must be taken as “presumptively reliable” under current extradition law. Canadian citizens whose extradition has been requested have little legal recourse to prevent it. Now, thanks to Justice Maranger, they have even less.
And the frosting on this evil-smelling cake? Our extradition treaty with France is one-way only. France will not extradite its citizens.
A sad day for Hassan Diab, and for anyone who has managed to retain, in the teeth of the evidence, a childlike belief that the scales of justice are balanced.