Thursday, February 23, 2006

New hearing for Steven Truscott

I just heard this morning that the Ontario Court of Appeals is going to begin hearings June 19th into the 1959 murder conviction of Steven Truscott. Truscott has been a cause celebre in Canada for generations. You'd be hard-pressed today to find people who believe him guilty of the rape and murder of Lynn Harper, for which he remains convicted. Despite the fact that he was paroled in 1969, he has maintained his innocence, and it looks like there's a chance the courts may finally overturn his conviction.

Steven Truscott was 14 when he was tried and convicted, and he was sentenced to hang. The public, without regard to his guilt or innocence at the time, revolted at the idea of a 14-year-old boying being hanged, and his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. An ideal prisoner, Truscott was paroled in 1969. Under an assumed name, he married and raised three children in Guelph, Ontario, where he worked as a millwright for decades, his real identity a widely-known "secret" among the people around him. In 2000, after discussions with his family, he came out of anonymity. CBC's the fifth estate documented his case that year, and brought forward substantial (albeit circumstantial) evidence hinting strongly that the real culprit was an RCAF supply technician named Alexander Kalichuk, who died in the 1970s.

In 2004, retired Justice Frank Kaufman produced a report concluding there had been a miscarriage of justice in the Truscott case, prompting Ontario Justice Minister Irwin Cotler to ask the appeals court to reopen the matter. This hearing will be unusual for an appeals case in that new evidence is due to be admitted; in this case, from defence witnesses who were ignored during the trial in 1959, when they were children.

Here's hoping the justice system will finally make official the verdict Canadians have held in their hearts for two generations, by clearing the name of Steven Truscott.

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