Tuesday, August 28, 2007

50 Years Later, Truscott Murder Conviction Deemed 'Miscarriage of Justice'

Almost a half century after the events at the heart of the case, the Ontario Court of Appeal today acquitted Steven Truscott of murder in the death of Lynne Harper in Clinton, Ontario. Fresh forensic evidence surrounding the time of death of the victim helped Truscott's case.

At age 14, Truscott was sentenced to hang in 1959 in what became one of the most famous and controversial trials in the Canadian history. His sentence was later commuted to life in prison. He was paroled after 10 years in federal penitentiary.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has put together an extensive file on the case, with links to court documents going back 5 decades, video of the Appeal hearings last winter, factums, and CBC archival material.

In a 300 page decision, the Court of Appeal unanimously declared that the conviction and sentencing of the teenager was a "miscarriage of justice". The Justices did not declare Truscott innocent but they did order the original conviction quashed and entered a verdict of acquittal. A summary of the decision is provided on the website of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted.

Earlier Library Boy posts about miscarriages of justice/wrongful convictions include:
  • Wrongful Conviction Resources on the Web (December 19, 2005): "The LLRX.com website has just published a bibliography entitled Wrongful Conviction and Innocence Resources on the Internet. It is divided into sections on current awareness, 'innocence projects' (groups and research projects that help investigate cases of wrongful conviction), government commissions, case profiles and case databases, reports on wrongful conviction published by the government, academics, various organizations and the media in the United States, courses, conferences and organizations." The post mentions other Canadian resources
  • James Driskell Wrongful Conviction Report (February 16, 2007): "This week, the Manitoba Attorney General has released the report of the judicial commission of inquiry in the James Driskell case (...) Driskell was wrongfully convicted in 1991 of murder. That verdict was overturned in 2005 by the federal government, which launched a commission of inquiry into how this miscarriage of justice could have happened. Driskell spent 13 years in jail. The commission report concluded that police and Crown lawyers failed to disclose crucial evidence that could have prevented Driskell's wrongful conviction. The jury was also 'seriously misled' on issues including the reliability of a key Crown witness."
  • Wrongful Convictions Database at University of Texas Law Library (April 12, 2007) : "The Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas has created an Actual Innocence awareness database that covers the area of wrongful criminal convictions in the United States."
  • Wrongful Convictions: Public Inquiry Called Into Actions of Ontario Pathologist (April 24, 2007): "The chief coroner of Ontario revealed last week that Dr. Charles Smith, a former leading Ontario child pathologist, made mistakes in 20 cases involving the deaths of children. The announcement cast doubt on 13 criminal convictions (...) As a result of the chief coroner's report, Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant announced yesterday that he is launching a public inquiry with powers of subpoena for people and documents. Cabinet will name a senior judge tomorrow to lead the inquiry."
  • Annual Report on Applications to Review Miscarriages of Justice (June 12, 2007): "'Under Canadian law, the Minister of Justice has the legal authority to review a criminal conviction on the basis that there may have been a miscarriage of justice (...) This is the fourth annual report and it covers the period April 1, 2005 to March 31, 2006. Under the regulations, the Minister's annual report must address the following matters: the number of applications for ministerial review made to the Minister; the number of applications that have been abandoned or that are incomplete; the number of applications that are at the preliminary assessment stage; the number of decisions that the Minister has made; and any other information that the Minister considers appropriate."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:19 pm


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