Canada appeals court quashes 1959 verdict that helped undermine death penalty

[JURIST] The Court of Appeal for Ontario [official website] on Tuesday overturned [judgment, PDF] the 1959 guilty verdict against Steven Truscott for the rape and murder of 12-year-old Lynne Harper. Last year, the Canadian appeals court heard new evidence suggesting that the death very likely may have occurred much later then prosecutors originally argued, when Truscott, then 14, was in school. After hearing the new evidence, the five-judge panel set aside the conviction, writing:

Based on evidence that qualifies as fresh evidence in these proceedings, we are satisfied that Mr. Truscott's conviction was a miscarriage of justice and must be quashed. We are further satisfied upon a review of the entirety of the evidentiary record and the additional material available to this court and not previously judicially considered, that if a new trial were possible, an acquittal would clearly be the likely result. The interests of justice dictate that we make that order. Mr. Truscott should stand acquitted of the murder of Lynne Harper.
The Ontario Attorney General said that the government will not seek an appeal of the judgment.

Truscott was originally sentenced to death after being convicted of the rape-murder. The death sentence was commuted four months after the conviction, and Truscott was released on parole after spending 10 years in jail. Truscott was the youngest person ever to be sentenced to death in Canada, and his case was used as support for the abolition of capital punishment in the country. AP has more. CBC News has local coverage.


 

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