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Lametti orders new trial after finding possible miscarriage of justice

Wednesday, March 30, 2022 @ 3:36 PM | By Cristin Schmitz

Citing the reasonable likelihood of a miscarriage of justice, federal Justice Minister David Lametti has ordered a new trial in British Columbia Supreme Court for Gerald Klassen who was convicted of first degree murder in 1995.

Lametti exercised the justice minister’s rarely used remedial power under s. 696.1 of the Criminal Code, following his own review, and an in-depth review and investigation by the criminal conviction review group within the federal Department of Justice.

“The minister’s decision that there is a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred is the result of the identification of new information that was not before the courts at the time of Mr. Klassen’s trial or appeal,” the Department of Justice explained in a March 29 statement. “It is not a decision about the guilt or innocence of the applicant, but rather a decision to return the matter to the courts where the relevant legal issues may be determined according to the law.”

Klassen served nearly 26 years of a life sentence for the 1993 death of 21-year-old Julie McLeod near Merritt, B.C. He was released on bail in December 2020, pending the outcome of Lametti’s review.

Following investigation by the UBC Innocence Project at the Allard School of Law, after Klassen was imprisoned, a number of forensic pathologists cast doubt on critical evidence led by the Crown at trial which indicated that the deceased had been badly beaten. The new evidence opened the possibility that her death was accidental.

The British Columbia Court of Appeal dismissed Klassen’s appeal in 1997 and the Supreme Court of Canada declined Klassen leave to appeal.

Section 696.1 of the Criminal Code allows a person who has been convicted of an offence and who has exhausted all rights of appeal to apply to the justice minister for a review of their conviction.

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