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The lawyers of the two men exonerated after 40 years denounce the failures of the investigation

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Robert Mailman and Walter Gillespie spent more than 18 years in prison. On Thursday, they were exonerated 40 years after their murder convictions.

The Canadian Press

The miscarriage of justice suffered by two New Brunswick men is a reflection of everything that is wrong with the Canadian justice system, say the lawyers who have proven their innocence.

Lawyers for Innocence Canada argued, in a written statement presented in court Thursday, that police narrow-mindedness, non-disclosure of important evidence, the false statements of two important Crown witnesses and the disregard for the defendants' alibi led to the guilty verdicts for Robert Mailman and Walter Gillespie in 1984.

Robert Mailman, now aged 76, and Walter Gillespie, aged 80, were imprisoned for 18 and 21 years respectively. On Thursday, Tracey DeWare, Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench, declared the two men innocent in the eyes of the law in the murder of George Gilman Leeman, committed on November 30, 1983 in Saint John, New -Brunswick.

They were convicted in 1984 of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 18 years. An appeal of their convictions was rejected in 1988.

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The Minister of Justice, Arif Virani.

Federal Justice Minister Arif Virani overturned both convictions last month, saying there were reasonable grounds for to conclude that a miscarriage of justice probably occurred in this case 40 years ago.

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The legal document submitted to the court dates back to November 30, 1983. That day, a runner discovered the partially burned body of George Leeman in a wooded area in Saint John, New Brunswick. He had received around twenty blows to the head and face. A pathologist concluded that the death was at least 24 hours old.

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Robert Mailman and Walter Gillespie leaving the courthouse in Saint-Jean, New Brunswick, Thursday afternoon.

Innocence Canada's lawyers question the credibility of witnesses, including one had pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter in exchange for her testimony against Mailman and Gillespie.

They also added that neither the police nor the prosecutors took into account the defendants' strong alibis. They noted that at least four public inquiries had revealed similar problems in other cases of miscarriage of justice.

The two men had claimed that they were repairing a car when the murder was committed. They were going to get a part to repair a windshield wiper. A witness corroborated the story, a receipt was discovered in the business where the part was purchased on November 29, we can read in the lawyers' document.

< source srcset="https://images.radio-canada.ca/q_auto,w_700/v1/ici-info/16x9/ron-dalton.jpg" media="(min-width: 0px) and (max-width: 1023px)">Open in full screen mode

Ron Dalton spoke on behalf of Robert Mailman and Walter Gillespie leaving the Saint-Jean courthouse.

Innocence Canada mentions that the police of Saint-Jean had investigated the alibi after the conclusion of a first trial on a jury disagreement. She was able to confirm that the windshield wiper had recently been repaired, but did not notify the defense.

This did not prevent the Crown from urging the jury at a second trial to conclude that it was a false alibi, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

Two of the key witnesses have recanted. In the case of one of them, it even happened five times, notes Innocence Canada. The witness in question recanted his statement to his lawyer, to a journalist, in two letters and to a lawyer from the federal Department of Justice who reviewed the trial in 1998.

He said he presented false evidence in court, that he was forced to do so by Inspector Al Martin and the deputy chief of police of Saint-Jean, Charlie Breen, the lawyers argue. However, in a first statement to the police in December 1983, which had never been communicated to the defense, this witness declared that the last time he saw the victim, it was ;was a week before the murder.

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Pointed out, the Saint-Jean police refused to comment on the cause for the moment.

Saint-Jean police declined to comment on this case, saying they were awaiting a paper copy of the ;Department of Justice review that led to the trial and acquittal of Robert Mailman and Walter Gillespie.

According to Innocence Canada, it is impossible to determine who is telling the truth and who is lying when witnesses recant. In such a case, in the absence of corroboration, the police and the Crown should have rejected their versions of the facts.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116