Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Judge could soon release Winnipeg man claiming wrongful murder conviction

Suborned evidence again

Convicted murderer Frank Ostrowski could spend his first Christmas in 23 years at home in the company of family and friends instead of inside prison walls. The 60-year-old grandfather, convicted of a 1986 drug hit and sentenced to life behind bars, likely will find out within two weeks whether he'll be granted bail while Ottawa weighs whether he's a victim of a wrongful conviction. "I know he'll be home for Christmas," Ostrowski's daughter, Amber, said outside of the Law Courts Building in Winnipeg this week. "She'll make the right decision."

Amber Ostrowski was referring to Justice Colleen Suche, who presided over two days of submissions from James Lockyer of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted and Crown attorney Rick Saull.

The judge said she needed about 10 days to decide whether Ostrowski should be released on bail. Lockyer said in court there's considerable - if not overwhelming - evidence Ostrowski got a raw deal at his 1987 murder trial, in that important information was not disclosed by the Crown and police. Ostrowski has maintained his innocence since the day he was arrested.

One piece of evidence had to do with a secret deal key witness Matthew Lovelace made with federal authorities to testify against Ostrowski in order to get a cocaine-trafficking charge against him withdrawn. Lovelace testified at Ostrowski's trial the accused ordered two men to kill Robert Nieman because Nieman told police about Ostrowski's cocaine business.

Lovelace told the jury he did not have a deal to get his drug charge wiped clean in exchange for his testimony, but months later he was acquitted on the drug charge at a trial where no evidence was called.

Saull told the judge the secret deal was not disclosed because chief prosecutor George Dangerfield didn't know about it.

Lockyer said the second piece of evidence that was not disclosed was a Sept. 24, 1986, police report detailing a phone call to police in which a man, who identifies himself as Sonny, says, "Frank has a contract out on my friend."

"Sonny" was later identified as Lovelace. In the call, Lovelace didn't mention Nieman at all. He only referred to carpenter Dominic Diubaldo as the target. Lockyer said the secret deal and Lovelace's phone call should have been disclosed to the jury so they had a full picture of Lovelace's credibility.

Lockyer said if Ostrowski is released on bail, he'll be the fifth person in Canada claiming wrongful conviction to get such treatment. Two of the four are Manitoba cases, James Driskell and Kyle Unger, who were also prosecuted by Dangerfield.

Original report here

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