Malevolent shenanigans behind the scenes in the Fr Gordon MacRae case, from withholding evidence to witness tampering…It seems justice took a holiday – and hasn’t returned. Fr Gordon, now 70, has been in New Hampshire Prison for Men in Concord, USA, since he was 41.
As if the clearly observable issues in Fr Gordon MacRae’s wrongful conviction weren’t enough to cause dismay, a January 26, 2022 report by Ryan A. MacDonald in beyondthesesstonewalls.com, conclusively reveals the skullduggery that lay behind the trial. (See extracts below.)
MacDonald’s article was a response to Fr MacRae’s report of a few days earlier, which includes the following:
“It turns out that Detective James F. McLaughlin, who choreographed the case against me in 1994, was sanctioned and placed on the list for “Falsification of Records” in 1985, nine years before my trial.
“Needless to say, neither I nor my defence were made aware of the 1985 falsification of records infraction against Detective McLaughlin before my trial. But that was certainly not the only suppression of exculpatory evidence. In multiple police reports prepared by McLaughlin before trial — reports which steered the prosecutor’s case — McLaughlin made repeated references to tape recorded phone calls and interviews from which he made specific claims.
“Some of the subjects on those tapes claimed that McLaughlin grossly misquoted them or included statements that they never made at all. Despite a court order to turn those recordings over to my defense, every one of them disappeared before trial.”
EXTRACTS FROM RYAN A. MACDONALD’S ARTICLE: POLICE MISCONDUCT
Fr. Gordon MacRae wrote about the manipulation of facts and witnesses in his 1994 trial on charges brought forward by former Keene, NH Detective James McLaughlin. This manipulation included allegations that he coerced and threatened a witness, Debra Collett, to alter her first-hand testimony because it did not agree with his bias. Another witness, a former accuser of Father MacRae who recanted, alleged that McLaughlin presented him with a proffered bribe to concoct a false claim against MacRae and conspired to attempt perjured testimony before a grand jury.
These are very serious allegations. They were uncovered years after the trial by former FBI Special Agent James Abbott who conducted a three year investigation of this case. Mr. Abbott obtained signed statements from these witnesses and others that became part of a habeas corpus petition seeking to free Father MacRae from an unjust imprisonment.
As MacRae’s post linked above points out, New Hampshire judges at both state and federal levels overlooked these allegations, and declined to allow an evidentiary hearing to permit these witnesses to testify under oath. From a political standpoint, this may be business as usual in New Hampshire. From a justice standpoint, it is most disturbing.
At the start of 2022, advocates for Father MacRae learned that former Detective James McLaughlin appears on a newly published list of police officers with professional misconduct or credibility issues previously held in secret personnel files. The list had been held in secret for years by the NH Attorney General, but a recent legal decision required its public release. Formally called the “Exculpatory Evidence Schedule,” the list is also known as the “Laurie List” for the NH Supreme Court case that initiated it.
It came as no surprise to discover Detective McLaughlin on this list for a 1985 incident of “Falsification of Records.” That was nine years before MacRae’s trial. Over fifty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brady v. Maryland that state and federal prosecutors are required under the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution to reveal to defendants and legal counsel all exculpatory evidence uncovered in the investigation of a case.
The failure of prosecutors to reveal the “falsification of records” charge against Detective McLaughlin was a violation of what is known as the “Brady Rule” that can and should overturn a conviction. As a minimum, it constitutes new evidence that can reopen a case for judicial review of the entire case.
Advocates first learned of this Brady violation from an article published at InDepthNH.org by Damien Fisher entitled, “AG Hides Some ‘Laurie List’ Names Hours After Release.” The article, though largely accurate, contained some misinformation. It described MacRae as a “former” Catholic priest which is not accurate. It also cited that MacRae “claimed that McLaughlin offered to pay cash to one of his accusers.” That claim was not made by MacRae, but by the accuser himself who recanted in a signed statement obtained by former FBI Agent James Abbott.
Prior to this trial MacRae voluntarily took, and conclusively passed, two polygraph examinations with a noted expert. Some of Detective McLaughlin police reports made allusions to the possible creation of child pornography by MacRae. At the time of his sentencing, Judge Arthur Brennan cited this, claiming that “This Court has heard clear and compelling evidence that you created pornography of your victims.” This never surfaced at all during the trial…
Eleven years later in 2005 Dorothy Rabinowitz at The Wall Street Journal questioned Detective McLaughlin about the nature and substance of that evidence. “There was never any evidence of child pornography,” he admitted. In this entire matter, that was the only time McLaughlin told the truth.
During the trial, two court observers reported spotting a woman in the gallery giving hand signals to Thomas Grover to begin crying during his testimony. It came after he testified that he was unaware of any plan to sue the Catholic Church. He was asked by MacRae’s counsel to reveal to whom he went first with his accusations: the police or a lawyer. At this point, Ms. Pauline Goupil was observed from the gallery signalling Grover to cry. He was riveted upon her for his entire testimony. At that point she was seen placing her fingers below her eye and then down her cheek in a pantomime of crying. In response, 27-year-old Grover wept loudly and at length. The two witnesses who observed it reported it to the defense counsel who then approached the bench. Judge Brennan cleared the jury from the court and called Ms. Goupil to the stand. She identified herself as a therapist retained by Thomas Grover at the behest of his attorney. All treatment records of Mr. Grover were to be reviewed by the defense pretrial, but neither Pauline Goupil’s records nor the fact of her treatment of Grover were revealed.
Hard evidence surfaced pretrial that Detective McLaughlin conducted some of his one-sided investigation, not from his Keene police office, but from 60 miles away in the law office of Robert Upton, the personal injury lawyer who brought a lawsuit on behalf of Thomas Grover and obtained a $200,000 settlement from the Diocese of Manchester. Family members of Grover revealed years later that Grover was coached to “act crazy” before the jury, to appear vulnerable, and to commit perjury in regard to some of his testimony. When asked who did this coaching, their answer was Pauline Goupil and Detective McLaughlin. These family members, the former wife and stepson of Thomas Grover, were also barred from giving testimony under oath. The two people who observed Pauline Goupil’s courtroom witness tampering were also barred from testifying.