Saturday, October 31, 2009

Canadian official denies compensation to wrongfully convicted man

It is difficult to see what this garbage is talking about. Unger was convicted on the basis of bogus scientific evidence, the testimony of a jailhouse snitch and withheld evidence

Provincial [Manitoba] Justice Minister Dave Chomiak says there will be no offer of compensation for the 14 years Kyle Unger spent in prison and no inquiry into his wrongful conviction.

"The sad reality of this entire tragedy is that had it not been told to an undercover officer that he killed Brigitte Grenier, even all of the other evidence available would not have sent him to jail," Chomiak said yesterday. "Without his confession he would not have been charged ... External legal advice to the department indicates there are no grounds for compensation."

Chomiak argued Unger's case differs significantly from the wrongful convictions of Thomas Sophonow and James Driskell. Sophonow received $2.6 million for his wrongful conviction in the 1981 murder of Barbara Stoppel. Driskell received $4 million after spending 13 years in prison for the 1990 killing of Perry Harder.

"In the case of Thomas Sophonow there was factual evidence given by the chief of police that Sophonow was not the alleged killer so he was compensated," Chomiak said "In the Driskell case there was clear evidence that some information had been wrongly and inaccurately withheld from the defence so compensation was required. In this case, the 12 men and woman who convicted him did so on the basis of a confession that nowadays would not be entered into court."

Unger's lawyer expressed surprise that Chomiak announced a decision on compensation before even being approached. "We haven't talked to anybody about our position," he said. Wolch confirmed his client will be "looking at" filing a civil lawsuit seeking compensation.

Chomiak said the province learned much from the Sophonow and Driskell inquiries and does not need to a call another one into Unger's conviction.

Original report here

Background: From March this year:

Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced Wednesday that a new trial has been ordered for Unger, who spent 14 years in a B.C. prison for the 1990 sexual assault and killing of Grenier. She was been beaten, strangled and sexually mutilated at a rock concert in the small Manitoba community of Roseisle, about 120 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.

"I am satisfied there is a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred in Mr. Unger's 1992 conviction," Nicholson said in announcing his decision.

Unger was convicted, along with Timothy Houlahan, who was released on bail in 1994 when his conviction was overturned by the Manitoba Court of Appeal in 1994. Houlahan committed suicide later that same year. Unger's initial appeal to the Manitoba Court of Appeal following his conviction was rejected and leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was denied. But in September 2004, a Forensic Evidence Review Committee established by the province called into question the hair comparison evidence used at Unger's trial. New DNA testing suggested a strand of hair found at the scene of the crime and originally used to convict Unger did not come from him.

Unger's lawyer subsequently filed an application to the minister of justice for a review of the murder conviction. Based on the DNA evidence, a judge of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench said she had "very serious concerns [he] may have been wrongly convicted of murder." In November 2005, at age 34, Unger was granted bail pending the minister's decision.

Despite Nicholson's call for a new trial, Lockyer told media he's not certain there will even be one because there is no forensic evidence left against Unger. In fact, there is more in his defence, Lockyer said. Police and prosecutors kept evidence from the defence during the original trial and used a jailhouse informant who was not credible, he charged. Since Unger's release, Lockyer said the defence team has discovered evidence Houlahan was a Satanist and the Crown knew it. "If you know about what [Satanism] is … you would quickly understand how that fits the nature of the crime," he said.

Original report here

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