Two Native sisters who spent nearly 30 years in prison for what they say was a wrongful murder conviction now have reason to hope that their names will soon be cleared.
The Justice Department sent a letter to the attorney representing Odelia and Nerissa Quuwezance stating that there may be reasonable grounds to conclude that there was likely to be a miscarriage of justice in this case.
The letter, from the Criminal Conviction Review Unit (CCRG), says the matter will now proceed to the investigative stage of the conviction review process. Once the group has completed its investigation, a recommendation will be made to Justice Minister David Lametti for consideration.
Odelia was 20 and Nerissa was 18 when they were arrested for the 1993 stabbing of Anthony Joseph Dolff, a 70-year-old farmer, near Kamsack, Saskatchewan.
Their attorney, James Lockyer, said the siblings were present when Mr. Dolff was killed, but a minor then admitted to the murder and testified that the sisters were not involved. Odelia Quuwezance was recently granted a brief release from prison and traveled to Ottawa on Thursday to directly appeal to judicial authorities and request the release of Nerissa, who remains incarcerated in British Columbia.
Mr. Lockyer filed a request with Mr. Lametti’s office in December requesting a ministerial review into the matter.
He said he received the letter from RCMPThursday and today plan to file bail later this month or early July.
This is a sign that things may be going well for themsaid Me Lockyer. So exciting for them. They may begin to see a possible reversal of their judgment on the horizon. That’s really good news, and if I can get them both on bail, that’s even better.
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples writes in a press release that it is so happy to know that justice can come for the sisters.
Kim Beaudin, National Vice-Chief of the Convention, said that was excitingafter 30 years of massive injustice, women have taken another step towards freedom.
It must be fatesaid Ms. Beaudin, about the arrival of the letter to Me Lockyer, the same day Odelia Quuwezance appealed to Ottawa.
The example of David Milgaard
Mr. Lockyer, a Toronto-based lawyer who helped acquit David Milgaard in 1997 and found the advocacy organization Innocence Canada, said he took the sisters’ case because of Mr. Milgaard to them.
Odelia pointed out that Mr Milgaard, who spent 23 years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit in 1969, was his “biggest supporter” and became like a brother, an angel for him. Mr. died. Milgaard last month.
Mr. argued that. Lockyer the two young native women [étaient] essentially at the mercy of a whole group of agents RCMP and the statements they made were for five days without protectionunreliable.
Forget momentarily the loss of justice during their trial, they always are [incarcérées]20 years after being eligible for parolesaid Me Lockyer in an interview last month.
They must live the rest of their lives as independent peoplehe concludes.