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Conviction: The Innocence Canada Blog

29 09, 2016

Peter F. Meier (April 22, 1944 – September 21, 2016)

By |September 29th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Peter F. Meier (April 22, 1944 – September 21, 2016)|

Peter Meier was honoured to be chosen as this year’s recipient of the Rubin Hurricane Carter Champion of Justice Award. Sadly, Peter unexpectedly passed away on the evening of Wednesday, September 21st.

Peter came from England with his lovely wife, Rosemary in 1973 to make Canada their home. Peter by profession was a lawyer but devoted his life trying to help those that were often forgotten and rejected by society.

Peter was a member of the Justice for Guy Paul Morin Committee and one of the founders of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC). Peter was AIDWYC’s president from its inception in 1993 until 2004 when he felt the need to resign as president after he was diagnosed with Parkinsons disease. Peter remained actively involved as a Board member, mentor and friend to the wrongly convicted and AIDWYC where served on the Board for 18 years.

Peter was a quiet, thoughtful, humble and unassuming gentleman. He was an intellect who was strong of heart, spirit and determination who never lost the common touch. He championed the cause of the wrongly convicted, always welcoming a challenge head-on. His leadership qualities and abilities were unsurpassed! Peter was loved by many, it was often said that, “if you didn’t like Peter Meier there was something wrong with you.”

Peter always treated everyone with respect, dignity, and integrity.

Peter, we are honoured that we had the privilege of having you amongst us fighting the good fight. You gave so much to so many. You will never be forgotten. Rest in peace knowing you are loved and cherished.

The pain of losing Peter is immeasurable.

We extend our deep and heartfelt condolences to Peter’s wife Rosemary, his son Paul, daughter Kate and their [...]

7 09, 2016

Wrongful Conviction Day Event

By |September 7th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Wrongful Conviction Day Event|

Please join Innocence Canada for the third annual, “Wrongful Conviction Day” Reception on October 6th
Location and Time:
Law Society of Upper Canada, Convocation Hall
130 Queen Street West
Toronto, Ontario
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm

RSVP Win Wahrer at the following:

Toll free: 1-800-249-1329 x 227

Direct line: 416-504-7500 x 227

Cell phone: 416-459-2065


23 08, 2016

Wrongful Conviction Day Media Alert

By |August 23rd, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Wrongful Conviction Day Media Alert|

OCTOBER 2, 2016 will be the Third Annual Wrongful Conviction Day

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

-Martin Luther King Jr.                                    

Innocence Canada (AIDWYC), has helped in the exoneration of 21 Canadians since its inception in 1993.  These innocent individuals combined spent in excess of 190 years in prison. However there are far too many more Canadians who have been wrongly convicted who remain incarcerated.

Innocence Canada has approximately 90 cases that are currently under review.  It has been estimated that Innocence Canada volunteer case reviewers contribute approximately $3, 500,000 in pro bono work to the review of these cases.

In the United States alone there were 149 recorded exonerations in 2015 representing 29 states, the District of Columbia, federal courts and Guam. The 149 exonerees served on average over 14 years in prison prior to their release.  Since 1989 there have been 1,733 recorded exonerations in the United States. On an average there are nearly 3 exonerations a week.

Wrongful Conviction Day was launched internationally on October 2, 2014.

During its inaugural year organizations, schools, businesses and individuals representing eight countries were involved in raising awareness concerning wrongful convictions.  In 2014 the city of Toronto proclaimed October 2, as Wrongful Conviction Day.  In 2015, 24 cities across Canada and the State of Michigan signed proclamations declaring October 2nd as Wrongful Conviction Day and 15 countries were represented.    This year we are expanding our efforts worldwide.  A number of cities across Canada will be illuminating landmark buildings, stadiums or bridges in their cities to acknowledge and honour the wrongly convicted.

What:  This campaign is to encourage organizations and the public at large which includes faith communities, representatives of all levels of [...]

19 08, 2016

#Social & Wrongful Convictions: How might the Law of Incorrect Tweets affect the Rule of Law?

By |August 19th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on #Social & Wrongful Convictions: How might the Law of Incorrect Tweets affect the Rule of Law?|

Author: Rachel Wood, 2016 Innocence Canada Summer Fellow and University of Manitoba Law Student
“…the media and the courts are locked in a mutual, if sometimes uncomfortable embrace. We need each other; our interests are inextricably intertwined. As the media invent and re-invent themselves, so must judicial understanding evolve of how we relate to the media. We must look forward; we dare not hang back. This is our only choice, for what is at stake is nothing less than the rule of law.” – Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin[1]
The media is obsessed with the criminal justice system and, in particular, when it makes mistakes. This has led to provocative hit series and podcasts about wrongful convictions that are quickly devoured by the general public. This interest is undoubtedly positive. Journalists have been instrumental in uncovering important evidence that has led to exonerations. The media has acted as an integral ally to the wrongly convicted and their influential role cannot be overemphasized. Lorenzo Johnson, a Pennsylvania man who has been maintaining his innocence for over 20 years, agrees: “When the press tells our stories and shows how the judicial system failed us, it sheds light on the people responsible for our suffering.”[2]

Reporters have the ability to easily reach large audiences and generate public interest in a wrongful conviction. There is no doubt that the Serial podcast contributed to Adnan Syed obtaining a re-trial. The Netflix series Making a Murderer has educated millions on the risks of false confessions and other contributors to wrongful convictions. The advent of social media has created an even wider support base for the wrongly convicted, evidenced by the sheer amount of Reddit threads devoted to Adnan Syed and Steven Avery.

Social [...]

29 07, 2016

History Repeating? Forensic Evidence, Motherisk and Miscarriages of Justice CPD Recap

By |July 29th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on History Repeating? Forensic Evidence, Motherisk and Miscarriages of Justice CPD Recap|

On June 06, 2016, Innocence Canada held a two-part continuing professional development event designed to provide valuable insight and instruction to lawyers on how to approach complicated forensic evidence in a trial setting. The first half of the event included talks from James Lockyer, Rachel Mendleson and the Honourable Susan Lang and their respective roles in uncovering the Motherisk Scandal. The second half of the event included a demonstration, where Brian H. Greenspan and Philip Epstein – two of Toronto’s well-known lawyers – demonstrated how to qualify, examine and cross-examine experts. Dr. Michael Pollanen, Chief Forensic Pathologist for Ontario, played the role of the expert witness. Dr. Dirk Huyer, Ontario’s Chief Coroner, moderated the panel and probed their techniques of questioning the experts in the mock trial. To view the full event, click here

Mr. Lockyer and Ms. Mendleson discussed the triggering case R v. Broomfield, wherein Tamara Broomfield was convicted of aggravated assault endangering life, assault causing bodily harm, administering noxious substance, and failing to provide the necessaries of life. The facts of the case are troubling: Ms. Broomfield’s two year old son suffered permanent and debilitating brain damage after a severe cocaine overdose. Subsequent analysis of her son’s hair indicated that he had been exposed to extremely high levels of cocaine every month for 14 consecutive months. This hair analysis was conducted in the Motherisk Lab, and was later shown to have been unreliable. For more information on Motherisk, please view a previous blog post on the topic:

The early discussion highlights how the revelations of the Motherisk Independent Review serve as learning posts for experts, lawyers, and judges working toward preventing miscarriages of justice. All three speakers discussed ‘red flags’ to [...]

18 07, 2016

What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Why Eyewitnesses Should be Educated on Eyewitness Misidentification

By |July 18th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Why Eyewitnesses Should be Educated on Eyewitness Misidentification|

Author: Yongyu (Sara) Chen, H.B.Sc. University of Toronto Mississauga Forensic Science Student

Try to imagine being an eyewitness to a crime – are you confident you could correctly identify the perpetrator? Would a high level of confidence in your identification be matched with a high level of accuracy? Are you sure you would not contribute to a wrongful conviction? Shockingly, eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions, contributing to 75% of the first 297 wrongful convictions overturned by DNA testing in the United States, according to the Innocence Project [1]. Would being educated about this reality affect your identification, compared to not being educated about witness misidentification? The short answer: yes.

The current situation regarding eyewitness misidentification is serious, and jurors tend to believe witnesses who are more confident, even though confidence is not a reliable predictor of eyewitness accuracy [2]. Many research studies have been done with the goal of improving identification accuracy and educating jurors on the evaluation of eyewitness testimony. Rarely, however, do studies focus on educating eyewitnesses to help improve their identification accuracy. The development of an educational procedure for eyewitnesses about misidentification would therefore be valuable to prevent eyewitness overconfidence, making them more cautious when identifying an individual as the perpetrator of a crime.

To address the above issues, I designed a study to investigate whether educating witnesses on wrongful convictions related to eyewitness misidentification will impact their identification accuracy and confidence. The study emphasizes the importance of educating eyewitnesses in criminal cases about the limitations of eyewitness evidence, so as to improve their identification accuracy and mitigate their overconfidence. It is hoped that this study may also be used to assist juries in assigning the appropriate weight to [...]

29 02, 2016


By |February 29th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on MARIA SHEPHERD’S CASE BACK BEFORE THE COURT OF APPEAL 25 YEARS LATER|

Press Release:
February 29, 2016

TORONTO:  The Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) announced that today the Ontario Court of Appeal will be asked to quash Maria Shepherd’s 25-year-old conviction for manslaughter in the 1991 death of her 3½ year old step-daughter, Kasandra.

This dramatic hearing before the Court of Appeal is based on fresh evidence that the opinions expressed at Ms. Shepherd’s trial by the now-discredited, pathologist, Dr. Charles Smith were dangerously wrong.

The hearing will commence at 10:00 a.m. this morning, Monday, February 29, 2016 before the Ontario Court of Appeal at Courtroom 10, Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West, Toronto.

Maria Shepherd, her husband Ashley, and their four children will be at the hearing of the appeal.

Maria Shepherd said yesterday:
“It has been a very long wait. I hope today that the Court of Appeal will clear my name.”
Media and members of the public are able to attend the Court of Appeal’s proceedings at 10:00 a.m.

In addition, there will be a PRESS CONFERENCE to be attended by Maria Shepherd and her family at:

Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel

123 Queen St W, Toronto

Suite 1929

12:45 p.m.


For further information please contact:

James Lockyer: 416-518-7983
Russell Silverstein, co-President of AIDWYC, said today:
“Maria Shepherd has suffered immeasurably due to her wrongful conviction and deserves to have her name cleared by the Ontario Court of Appeal today.  Sadly, she is not the only person to have suffered at the hands of Dr. Smith.”
On the late afternoon of Tuesday, April 9, 1991, Kasandra Shepherd began vomiting in her bedroom, was gasping for air and went into a coma.  She was taken to the Hospital for Sick Kids (H.S.C) and two days later was taken off life support and died.

Dr. Charles [...]

28 01, 2016

Rest Easy? That advice is a little nutty, Professor!

By |January 28th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Rest Easy? That advice is a little nutty, Professor!|

Amanda Carling, AIDWYC Legal Education Counsel

It has been just over a month since Netflix released Making a Murderer and it has been devoured by people around the world. As an organization dedicated to preventing wrongful convictions and exonerating the innocent, AIDWYC is pleased with the attention this series has brought to our work. On the other hand, we fear that Steven Avery’s case and the buzz it has created could do more harm than good. Case in point? The op-ed from Professor Michael Arntfield titled Rest easy: an unfair trial like Steve Avery’s won’t happen in Canada, published on January 13 in the Globe and Mail, Debates section.

While it is important for the public to understand that most police officers and prosecutors are not out to frame the wrong guy, Professor Arntfield’s unduly rosy outlook flies in the face of what those in the field have seen in actual wrongful conviction cases across Canada – past and present. AIDWYC has exonerated 20 innocent people who together spent almost 200 years in prison. We are currently reviewing upwards of 100 cases. It is with this experience and expertise that we respectfully disagree with Professor Arntfield’s conclusion that a highly questionable conviction like Avery’s is unlikely to happen in present-day Canada.

Professor Arntfield would have Canadians believe that tunnel vision akin to that exhibited in Avery’s case is, in Canada, a thing of the past – a problem solved by virtue of “binding case law” and “official recommendations arising as a result of formal judicial inquiries.” While it is true many judges have identified tunnel vision in cases before them, and have encouraged efforts to avoid it, the thing about tunnel vision is you can’t ‘make it [...]

12 01, 2016

Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) Review of the Eric “Action” Morgan Case

By |January 12th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) Review of the Eric “Action” Morgan Case|

Late last year the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) decided it would not lay charges against the Peel Regional Police Detectives involved in Eric “Action” Morgan’s case. Morgan spent more than three years in pretrial custody before he was acquitted of second degree murder. The fifth estate’s program on the Morgan case can be watched here and for a detailed review of how witness statements can be shaped by coercive interview practices, click here.

While the reasons of the OIPRD are not public, Wendy Gillis of the Toronto Star covered the story here. According to Gillis, the OIPRD refused to charge the officers who used what Superior Court Justice Fletcher Dawson concluded were “improper threats and overly aggressive and abusive tactics” because the tactics, according to the OIPRD, “were consistent with [the Peel Detectives’] training.”

To our knowledge, there are now many police services across Canada (including the Peel Regional Police Service!) who are training their investigators to conduct interviews that are less coercive than those wherein the Reid technique is employed, as it was in the Morgan case. (For past blog posts on the Reid technique, click here.) In fact, AIDWYC is very proud to have formed a partnership with the Niagara Regional Police Service wherein many of their officers are receiving education not only in an alternative interview model but also about wrongful convictions. What’s troubling is the fact that some Canadian services continue to use elements of the Reid technique (although increasingly it seems police are moving away from calling their interview method “Reid’s” while continuing to employ the minimization and maximization techniques that make Reid’s likely to coerce an unreliable statement and, at the extreme, a false confession).

It is [...]

22 12, 2015

Dangers for Wrongful Convictions for Non-English/French Speaking Accused

By |December 22nd, 2015|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Dangers for Wrongful Convictions for Non-English/French Speaking Accused|

Note: On October 19, 2015, AIDWYC held a continuing professional development (CPD) lecture on this topic wherein Ms. Hilliard was one of the speakers (click here for more info). That event was video recorded and will be available to watch online soon.
The Canadian Courts will provide an interpreter pursuant to section 14 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and section 650(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada to an accused who does not speak either of Canada’s official languages. The purpose of these sections is to ensure an accused is able to understand and participate in the court process. Interpreters, however, do not always place a non-English or French speaking accused person on an equal footing. Counsel representing accused persons who do not fluently speak an official language need to be mindful of the dangers for wrongful convictions, due to the language barrier. This article will review some of those dangers and make some recommendations for counsel to mitigate these risks.
Danger #1: Improper Interpretation
In 2009 the Ministry of the Attorney General overhauled the existing interpreter testing process following some strong criticism by the courts.1 The new testing model creates different levels of interpreters. An accredited interpreter scored 70% or higher on the new universal tests, a conditionally accredited interpreter scored 50% – 69%, an unaccredited interpreter received 50% or lower on the tests and, finally, non-accredited interpreters have not been tested.2 The testing model acknowledges that an accredited interpreter is not expected to translate with perfect accuracy, as the interpreter is only required to score 70% or higher on the accreditation test.

Criminal courts are very busy and often proceed at a fast pace. It is not uncommon for [...]