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Brenda Campbell

Another near-conviction based on bad interrogation -- Case hidden until reporter found it in court files

Woman cleared of murder charge
New evidence comes to light; another charged in slaying

Winnipeg Police crest

MANITOBA Justice will drop a second-degree murder charge against a disabled Winnipeg woman who her lawyer says was pressured into giving a false confession, the Free Press has learned.

New evidence -- including DNA analysis and witness statements -- came to light in recent months. That evidence has now led police to arrest a new suspect and charge him with the March 2003 slaying.

The man, Norman Duck, is not connected in any way with the wrongly accused woman, who has no prior criminal record and was simply found at the scene of the crime and taken into custody.

Although acquittals are not uncommon in the justice system, clearing a charged person of wrongdoing because a new suspect has been arrested for the same crime is extremely rare.

Defence lawyer Martin Glazer, who represents the woman, said the case raises troubling questions about the way Winnipeg police investigate serious crimes and treat suspects.

Brenda Campbell, 38, did admit to knifing Patrick Hamilton at a Powers Street rooming house, but only after a 10-hour interrogation by police, he said.

Glazer said police took advantage of his client's condition to elicit a bogus confession.

"She gave a statement to police in which she told them what they wanted her to hear. She advises she was yelled at and told, 'Don't lie to us. You're f---ing lying.' She was scared and she felt pressured," he said.

"It's not unusual or, sadly, that infrequent for even average full-functioning individuals to give confessions and false confessions. So imagine someone on the mental level of Ms. Campbell."

Campbell suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome and other disabilities that resulted from her being shot and hit by a car earlier in her life. She is a mother of two young boys, but lost custody of them several years ago.

"She is a vulnerable person, borderline retarded," Glazer said, adding police didn't simplify their explanation of Campbell's legal rights when dealing with the disabled woman, as required by law.

Campbell spent three weeks in jail before she was released on bail in late March. It was her first time behind bars.

"This has been a horrible experience for her," said Glazer. Although a lawsuit against police and justice officials is a possibility, no action has been initiated.

Crown attorney Chris Vanderhooft told court on Wednesday the murder charge against Campbell will be officially dropped in the coming weeks. He said the woman won't have to make any further court appearances.

Glazer is angry police and the Crown haven't moved more quickly, considering the new suspect was arrested in July.

"I only wish the speed in which they charge someone would be equal to the speed in which they clear someone," said Glazer, who doesn't understand the reasons for delay.

Despite his criticism of police, Glazer does credit homicide investigators with continuing their investigation and not simply "closing the book" on this case, which could have resulted in a wrongful conviction.

At the bail hearing in March, the Crown claimed blood evidence would help build the case against Campbell. However, DNA results completely cleared Campbell and took police in another direction.

Several witnesses emerged in the weeks following the killing with information about a new suspect, said Glazer.

Police have never publicly released information about the dramatic twist in the case, despite arresting the new suspect four months ago.

The information was obtained by the Free Press through court documents and legal sources, and then confirmed yesterday by police and justice officials.

"We are aware of the decision (to drop the charge against Campbell) and agree with it," Const. Bob Johnson said yesterday.

Hamilton, 52, of the Bloodvein First Nation was stabbed to death March 3 during a drinking party in a suite at 145 Powers St.

An autopsy revealed 23 knife wounds in his chest, abdomen and lower back.

On her videotaped confession -- which was taken over the course of 10 hours -- Campbell said she was molested by the victim while she used the bathroom in his apartment.

She told police about grabbing a kitchen knife and repeatedly stabbing Hamilton, who fell to the ground and died. Another tenant of the suite woke up hours later, found the dead man and called police.

Campbell was found by officers inside the suite, along with the tenant (who is not the new suspect).

Glazer said yesterday there was never a sexual assault against his client, who simply made up the story with the assistance and urging of Winnipeg police.