Canadian court nullifies 1959 murder conviction
TORONTO – An appeals court on Tuesday overturned a 1959 rape and murder conviction that had sentenced a then 14-year-old boy to hang – the youngest Canadian ever to face execution.The defendant, Steven Truscott, was victimized by a “miscarriage of justice” 48 years ago when he was convicted of killing a 12-year-old classmate, Ontario’s highest court ruled.Truscott, now 62, had long insisted on his innocence. “I never in my wildest dreams expected in my lifetime for this to come true,” he said after the ruling.His death sentence had been quickly commuted – three months after his conviction – because Canada’s government at the time feared the country’s image would suffer if it allowed a 14-year-old to be executed. Truscott was given a life sentence and was paroled after 10 years in prison.Truscott’s ordeal helped bring the abolishment of Canada’s death penalty in 1976 as those who favored abolishing executions cited the near hanging of a boy many people considered to be innocent.Truscott was convicted of raping and murdering Lynne Harper on Sept. 30, 1959, some three months after her body was found in a wooded area in southwestern Ontario.He said then that he had given the girl a ride on his bicycle, then saw her get into a passing car on a rural highway. Prosecutors argued he took the girl down a path, where he raped and strangled her.Last year, the Ontario Court of Appeal heard evidence that the original autopsy conclusions allowed for a time of death much later than cited by the prosecution, perhaps a day later – when Truscott was in school.”The conviction, placed in the light of the fresh evidence, constitutes a miscarriage of justice and must be quashed,” the court said Tuesday in a unanimous judgment.Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant said he would not appeal and asked a judge to advise on compensation. “On behalf of the government, I am truly sorry,” Bryant said.Truscott said he felt the apology wasn’t sincere because the government knew of the evidence in recent years yet fought against his appeal.After his release in 1969, Truscott lived quietly under an assumed name and raised a family.”What we’ve known for years and years, now other people will know,” he said.