GUELPH - Two Steven Truscott backers want Canada's new justice minister to know extensive public support exists for the man's conviction to be overturned -- and quickly. The call from Mary and Jeff Yanchus for public pressure to be put on Justice Minister Irwin Cotler comes at a key time.
A response from Cotler could follow in February or March.
Public pressure could affect the minister's reaction to a review of the case by former Quebec Court of Appeal judge Fred Kaufman, said Lockyer.
"It's a highly political process," Lockyer said yesterday.
Steven Truscott, who has lived in Guelph under an assumed name for more than three decades, has consistently maintained his innocence since June 1959, after the body of Lynne Harper, 12, was found in a bush near the Clinton air force base where she and Truscott lived.
Two years ago this month, the justice minister of the day -- Martin Cauchon -- announced Kaufman would review the Truscott case, in response to a request by the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted.
The review can lead to Cotler ordering a new trial, issuing a pardon or even referring the case back to the courts.
Jeff Yanchus said he and his wife are putting the word out to fellow supporters of the Truscott cause to lobby for a quick response from the minister, as well as a quick legal remedy.
"We want people to know it's not finished," Yanchus said. "A new minister has been appointed and we want Cotler to know Steven has a lot of supporters."
A referral to the courts could take months or years to conclude, while a new trial -- with no evidence from the Crown -- would lead to a quick not guilty verdict and finally a cleared name for Truscott.
Yanchus said it would be nice to see Truscott exonerated while he and relatives, like his elderly mother, are alive to witness it.
"Steven isn't getting any younger," he noted.
Truscott turns 59 this month.
All but 14 years of his life have been spent under the dark cloud of a murder conviction.
Truscott was observed giving Harper a ride on his bicycle the day she was last seen alive in June 1959.
He maintains he dropped her at the side of a road between Clinton and Seaforth and saw her get into a car, but authorities didn't believe him.
Truscott was charged with murder, found guilty by a jury based on circumstantial evidence and sentenced to hang.
The sentence was commuted to life in prison and he was paroled in 1969 .
Truscott has lived in Guelph since 1970, raising three children with his wife Marlene, who said yesterday the wait for a decision from the justice minister is weighing heavily on her family.
"It's very hard. I don't think people realize how hard it is," she said.
It's only continually incoming letters and e-mail from supporters that keeps the Truscotts' faith in the process alive, she said.
inJusticebusters wish Steven Truscott justice and luck with his application for exoneration, filed Nov. 29, 2001
Linden MacIntyre and fifth estate brought this story back into the national conscience.
The Federal government released the Report on the Prevention of Miscarriages of Justice. This should be required reading for every prosecutor, cop, and criminal defence lawyer in the country. Federal prosecutor's report 2005
It has become obvious to me that many of you are not clear on the 4 options the Justice Minister may take in Steve's case. I will endeavor to make these options as clear as possible by shortening this section of the 690 prepared by AIDWYC lawyers.
1. New trial: Steven would appear before the Supreme Court of Ontario in Goderich where he was convicted. After the Crown indicates it will call no evidence, he would be acquitted.
If it appears that the Ontario Attorney General is unwilling to permit justice for Steven in open court, then the Minister should consider referring to his colleagues in Cabinet the question of a free pardon.
2. Free Pardon: Governor In Council may grant a free pardon only if they are satisfied Steven is innocent. Steven is not seeking an act of mercy or forgiveness.
Because this is an executive decision and not a judicial order, we regard it as less appropriate to the historic nature of this case. It is Steven's preference and AIDWYC's that the Minister take one of these two available steps to reverse the unjust conviction.
If we have failed in our efforts to satisfy the Minister that he should provide a remedy, he has 2 other options:
3. Ontario Court of Appeal Referral and 4. Supreme Court of Canada Referral.
A referral to either of these courts would enable Steven to argue his conviction be quashed and a verdict of acquittal entered. Either of these will result in years of further litigation. This case has been carefully scrutinized over 40 years and can be exhaustively examined in the 690 application. We urge the Minister to act quickly and boldly. We ask that the conviction of Steven Truscott for the murder of Lynne Harper be quashed and a new trial ordered.
In January, 2002, this case was turned over by the Justice Minister to Justice Fred Kaufman for review and recommendations to the Justice Minister. The final decision then lies in the hands of our Justice Minister, the Honorable Martin Cauchon.
Trusting this information brings a better understanding of the 4 remedies.
For more about 690 applications, see the case of Clayton Johnson
As we await the outcome of Judge Kaufman's inquiry, many Canadians are thinking of Steven Truscott. For us, he was a dusty case we included among gross injustices we knew about when we launched this site four years ago. He came to life for the whole country when he and his family went public on fifth estate. Yesterday, we received the following e-mail intended for the Truscott family:
Subject: Steven Truscott Date: Thu, 28 Mar 2002 12:56:38 -0500
I have just finished reading "Until you are dead" and I feel just as sure today that you were wrongfully accused as I was when I read The Steven Truscott story over 20 years ago. I know the best is yet to come for you and your family. All the best.....George & Sandra
I made a successful attempt to get the message through and was assured by daughter Lesley that it was fine to post their e-mail address so people could write directly. This morning we rec'd:"
Date: Fri, 29 Mar 2002 11:43:57 -0500
From: Steve and Marlene Truscott
Thank you for forwarding email on to us from George and Sandra.
Steve and Marlene
This is the world many of us want to live in -- where strangers can send messages of encouragement -- not the world where innocent people are imprisoned and silenced. We thank Steve, Marlene and family for helping to show the way. -- Sheila Steele