Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday 29 August 2001

Innocent man finally gets chance at polygraph

Nelson pleaded to take test in 1996

Jake Rupert
The Ottawa Citizen


Brigitte Bouvier, The Ottawa Citizen
Jamie Nelson asked Ottawa police to give him a polygraph test when he was arrested in 1996. They refused.

Five and a half years years after he begged them for one, Ottawa police asked Jamie Nelson to take a polygraph test yesterday.

Mr. Nelson, 34, who spent 31/2 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, had his wrongful rape conviction overturned by the Ontario Court of Appeal last week.

He then laid a complaint with Ottawa police against Cathy Fordham, the woman who falsely accused him of raping her in February 1996. The investigator assigned to this case contacted Mr. Nelson with the request, which stunned him.

"After all this, now they offer me the polygraph that I wanted years ago," he said. "It would have saved all those days in prison. It would have saved me losing my sons. It would have saved all these things, and now they offer it. It's outrageous."

Mr. Nelson said yesterday his first instinct was to take it immediately. "I'm absolutely not concerned about the results because I know what they will be," he said.

Police also intend to offer the test to Ms. Fordham to gauge her responses as a barometer of her truthfulness.

It is expected Ms. Fordham, 30, will also be offered the chance to take a polygraph test.

While polygraph results are not admissible in a criminal trial, they can be in a civil suit.

Three years ago, Ms. Fordham was offered a polygraph test after she accused two men of beating her. The men had alibis. One man's alibi was thin, so he took the test and passed.

Ms. Fordham made two appointments for the test but never kept them, police say. She was eventually charged with making a false complaint against the men and convicted.

Since Mr. Nelson's conviction, Ms. Fordham has been exposed as a person willing to lie to police, Crown attorneys and judges. She has made dozens of police complaints and sent several men to jail.

Mr. Nelson's conviction was almost solely based on her word. His appeal was largely based on fresh evidence that Ms. Fordham's word should not be relied on. It took three appeal court judges less than five minutes to agree on this and grant his acquittal last week in Toronto.

Also yesterday, Mr. Nelson met with a lawyer who will represent him in a civil suit he says he will file against Ottawa police, the attorney general's office and Corrections Canada.

During Mr. Nelson's incarceration, the son he had with his companion at the time of his arrest, now 5, was adopted. Another son, now 7, is at the centre of a custody battle between Mr. Nelson and Christine Thompson, a friend of Ms. Fordham's. The seven-year-old is still with Ms. Thompson.

Mr. Nelson says he doesn't know if he has the heart to try and get his younger son back from the adoptive parents. "I want to do the best thing for him, and maybe, that's to do nothing, and hope that one day he'll contact me. I just hope he is loved, and the family is good. I love him."

His position is different on the seven-year-old. "I'm going to make absolutely every effort to regain custody of my son. Not for just weekends and Wednesdays -- every day."

Yesterday's events capped a surreal several days for Mr. Nelson. For six years, nobody would listen to his claims of innocence. Since the appeal last Thursday, he has done countless media interviews. His picture has been on the front page of newspapers across the country.

He's heading back to Stratford today, where he has been living since he was paroled. He is putting his life back together. "It's been a wild and uncomfortable ride," he said. "It's not over, and it will never be over. I'll carry what happened for the rest of my life. But it's getting easier."

Copyright 2001 Ottawa Citizen Group Inc.