In Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, on August 16, 1988 Randy Dalton’s wife, Brenda Dalton, died in the home that they shared together. Ronald Dalton, a bank manager at the time, was charged with murder just five hours after his wife’s death. It was alleged that he had strangled or smothered her to death.
Dalton maintained his innocence throughout his ordeal. He explained that his wife had chocked to death while eating Harvest Crunch cereal and that he had attempted to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in an effort to save her life. At his first trail forensic pathologists testified that Brenda Dalton had been strangled or smothered to death. This testimony was the crux of the Crown’s evidence against Dalton. One year after Brenda’s death the jury was convinced and Dalton was convicted of second-degree murder. Although an appeal was filed within weeks, it was not until 1998 that the Newfoundland Court of Appeal heard his case. Dalton was finally released on bail pending an appeal and acquitted in June, 2000.
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At the Court of Appeal his second-degree murder conviction was set aside and a new trail was ordered. The defence successfully argued that the police investigating her death prematurely arrested Dalton before the autopsy had even been concluded. At his Supreme Court trial, beginning Wednesday, April 19, 2000 a professor of forensic pathology dismissed theories that Brenda Dalton had been strangled or smothered, and told the jury, Brenda Dalton had died of reflex cardiac arrest. He said he believed the arrest was triggered by something in the woman’s airway that she had become afraid, that fear caused various physiological affects that eventually caused her heart to shut down. Another forensic expert told a jury today, he didn’t think Ronald Dalton killed his wife.
The Crown maintained that she was either strangled or smothered and had expert witnesses testify to their theory. However the defence prevailed, as after hearing five months of evidence the jurors sided with the defence. On June 20, 2000 the jury in Dalton murder trial entered into deliberations. Five days later on Sunday, June 25, 2000 Ronald Dalton was declared innocent and was finally a free man. He was fully exonerated twelve years following his wrongful conviction for a murder that never happened.
Dalton said, “I’m just really happy and glad that it’s over. I’ve always known I’m not guilty, but it’s nice to have everybody know that”
Dalton called for a public inquiry into his wrongful conviction. Following the inquiry the Newfoundland and Labrador government agreed to compensate Dalton who spent nearly eight years in prison waiting to appeal a murder conviction, $750,000 in compensation,
“You’re never going to restore my confidence in the justice system. I’ll always know there’ll be people out there thinking that I got away with murder and that’s not going to go away. … I’m not going to get back the 15 years that I lost. There’s no amount of compensation or apologies that will deal with that.”” Dalton spoke of his hardship.