'It’s horrible': Wrongful Conviction Conference calls for justice reform
WINNIPEG -- A panel of Canadians -- who spent years incarcerated for crimes they didn't commit -- is in Winnipeg to talk about the need for federal intervention for those wrongfully convicted.
On Friday afternoon the Canadian Museum for Human Rights hosted five people who collectively spent more than 73 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted.
“It's the most terrible, terrible moments of my life when the justice system just messed everything up so terribly for me," said David Milgaard who spent 23 years in prison for a crime he was wrongfully convicted for. “Getting out of prison for a person that's been in there a while is not an easy thing to do.”
“It’s horrible, that’s the only way to describe it,” added Milgaard.
Knowing what going to jail for a crime you didn’t commit is like, the topic is very important to the panel members.
“Me and the other panelists hope that our presence and stories will inspire and encourage other wrongly convicted individuals to never give up their fight to prove their innocence and regain their freedom," said Tom Sophonow, who was wrongfully incarcerated for more than four years according to the CMHR. "Tragically, there are innocent people languishing in prisons across this country waiting for their voices to be heard and for someone to come to their rescue.”
The panel is calling for the implementation of an independent criminal case review commission that will make it easier for incarcerated people who are potentially innocent to have their cases reviewed.
“There are a number of them and right now Canada doesn't have a proper system to uncover wrongful convictions and find the wrongly convicted,” said James Lockyer, lawyer and co-founder of Innocence Canada
The panelists at the event are:
- Brian Anderson: wrongly convicted and incarcerated for 10 years;
- James Driskell: wrongly convicted and incarcerated for 13 years;
- David Milgaard: wrongly convicted and incarcerated for 23 years;
- Frank Ostrowsk: wrongly convicted and incarcerated for 23 years;
- Tom Sophonow: wrongly convicted and incarcerated for 4.5 years;
- James Lockyer: co-founder of Innocence Canada (previously known as Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted) and lawyer who represented several of the wrongly convicted including Guy Paul Morin, David Milgaard and Steven Truscott;
- Greg Rodin, Q.C.: lawyer who represented David Milgaard and Kyle Unger in connection with their respective civil claims seeking compensation for their wrongful conviction and incarceration and who, together with now Supreme Court of Canada Justice Sheilah Martin, assisted the late Hersh Wolch, Q.C. in settling David Milgaard’s precedent setting compensation package; and
- Gavin Wolch: criminal lawyer and advocate for the wrongly convicted and co-counsel for Kyle Unger
-With files from CTV's Mason DePatie