Michael Kassa was convicted of the murder of his friend Sonia Gaudet solely on the basis of his ex-girlfriend’s evidence. Not only was her – that is, Megan Fitzpatrick’s – evidence completely uncorroborated, but it also made no sense. She claimed Michael was covered in blood on the evening in question, but there was no blood involved in Sonia’s death. Moreover, after the trial ended, Megan swore under oath that she lied at Michael’s trial and yet the appellate system will not grant Michael a new trial. He has exhausted his appeals and, after sitting in jail for decade, is still waiting to be eligible for parole.
The evidence against Michael
I said above that Michael was solely convicted on the basis of Megan’s evidence, but to be fair, the Crown introduced three other pieces of evidence. However, as I see it, none of them assisted the Crown’s case.
The first piece of evidence was the video surveillance of the entrance into Sonia’s building, which showed that a black male in dark clothing entered around the relevant time. Sure, Michael was a black male wearing dark clothing that night, but even when Megan was implicating him in the offence she told police that the black male in the video was not Michael. In fact, after she watched hours of the video surveillance, she said she never saw Michael enter the building – so, I ask rhetorically, how does the video surveillance help the Crown?
The second piece of evidence was a cigarette butt in Sonia’s garbage can that had Michael’s DNA on it. The same butt also had Sonia’s DNA on it, so at most, it was evidence that Michael was there when Sonia was alive and socializing. However, I also point out that it would have been strange for Sonia to have emptied the ashtray into the garbage can mid-visit. Thus, in fact, the cigarette butt would suggest that Sonia was still alive after he left.
The third and final piece of evidence the Crown presented (aside from Megan’s evidence) was a statement Michael made to police, three months after the offence, stating that the last time he was at Sonia’s apartment was over one month prior to her death. Now, in light of the cigarette butts that statement seems to have been inaccurate. However, even if Michael was lying, rather than misremembering, isn’t it quite possible that an innocent person would lie to police about being in Sonia’s apartment not long before she died?
So what did Megan actually tell the police?
Before I outline her evidence, it is important to understand how she came to give an inculpatory statement in the first place. Sonia was killed on Jan. 5, 2005. On multiple occasions, Megan told police that she had no information that could assist with respect to how Sonia died. However, 18 months to the day after the murder, that is July 5, 2006, police showed up unexpectedly at Megan’s doorstep and on that day, her story changed. At that point, police only had a gut feeling that Michael was involved. I wonder if the police were making one last ditch effort to get some evidence against Michael before closing the case. I wonder what kind of pressure was put on Megan to say something against her ex-boyfriend, who had not treated her very well. In any case, she did not directly implicate him. In fact, according to what she said in one of her statements, she never thought he would be convicted on her testimony.
That’s not surprising since her evidence was as follows: On the night in question, she got in an argument with Michael. He left and returned a few hours later. When he returned he was covered in blood. He had blood all over his dark top and black jeans. He washed his hands for 10 to 15 minutes and still had a noticeable amount of blood on them. She asked what had happened and he responded that “something terrible had happened to Sonia.” That was it. That was the sum total of her inculpatory evidence. To be clear, he did not say that he did anything to Sonia. Instead, he – if you believe that he said anything – used the passive voice, “Something terrible happened to Sonia”.
What is particularly troubling is that Sonia’s death did not involve blood. She was strangled and, according to the pathologist, it was most likely from behind. So how could he have ended up covered in blood? Perhaps more troubling is the fact that she would not have been able to see “red” blood on his black jeans. I am not asking you to believe my layperson opinion on that, it was the expert forensic scientist who said she would not have been able to identify blood on black jeans.
No one will know how the jury came up with a guilty verdict. Although, it’s interesting to note that at one point the jury told the judge they were deadlocked. The trial judge reminded them that no other jury would ever be in a better position then them to come to a verdict and insisted they keep trying. They obviously eventually agreed he should be found guilty.
Megan’s changing evidence
After that verdict, Megan wrote him a letter saying she was sorry for lying on the stand. It seems around the time the letter was sent, they had rekindled their relationship. However, due to the slow workings of the justice system, by the time Michael’s lawyer had a chance to test the truthfulness of her letter (that would be me), their relationship had clearly turned sour once again. At that point, she confirmed that she had lied on the stand. And even after their relationship was over yet again for a second time, she admitted under oath to perjuring herself at Michael’s trial.
Well, the story doesn’t end there. Two days after she admitted to lying under oath, police showed up at her doorstep and spent a day tearing her house apart. Their “search” only ended when she agreed to consider recanting her recantation. Once again, she asserted that Michael was covered in blood and said, “Something terrible happened to Sonia”. She admitted that she changed her story once again in hopes that police would simply stop bothering her.
Does this remind you of a little story about a man named Steven Avery?
When I passed on Michael’s story to someone I know, they commented that it had “so many parallels” to the case in “Making a Murderer”. To a certain extent, I would agree. In both cases, the police went out of their way to secure convictions against the accused and in both cases, police pressured witnesses to inculpate the accused in stories that did not make sense and simply did not add up. However, there are significant differences between the two cases. There was a great deal of evidence against Avery. In fact, the prosecution did not even introduce the questionable statement from Avery’s nephew at trial. In contrast, the entire Crown case against Michael was the statement induced by the police from Megan which was entirely inconsistent with forensics. In short, Avery’s conviction is questionable since it seems police planted evidence, but Michael’s conviction is questionable since there was a complete lack of credible evidence against him.
Michael’s current predicament and Megan’s current thoughts
As I have said, Michael’s appeals have been exhausted (see: https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onca/doc/2013/2013onca140/2013onca140.html?resultIndex=3). He is serving a life sentence, with a 13-year period of parole ineligibility. He should be eligible for full parole in 2019. Sadly, he will likely have a difficult time getting parole since he, like Steven Avery, is maintaining his innocence.
In hopes of helping him with both the appeal and parole process, I have tried to spread the word about the weaknesses with his case. One of the things I did was make a video on line (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPAF1C2ASh0). Interestingly a “Megan F” commented on my video as follows, “This is such a one sided story. Lmao as long as she getting paid n can have a good rep who cares wat kind of lies are told.” Unfortunately, “Megan F” – assuming that is in fact Megan Fitzpatrick – did not elaborate as to what I said that was misleading or why her “side of the story” is different. However, what is truly unfortunate about the situation is not what “Megan F” did or did not say, what I find truly unfortunate is that, in light of the evidence that was presented to the Court, Michael should never have been convicted and now may be in custody ‘til the day he dies for an offence he did not commit. So “yes”, as I see it, the justice system has failed Michael Kassa.