Leighton Hay - Wrongful Conviction

May 26, 2021
Leighton hay spent more than 12 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Leighton Hay spent more than 12 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

In 2002, when Leighton Hay was only 19 years old he was arrested and charged with first degree murder for a murder he did not commit. In 2004, Hay was wrongfully convicted of the first degree of Collin Moore. Moore was shot and killed in an Etobicoke, Toronto nightclub July 6 2002 by two gunmen.

The Crown's case against Hay was based upon circumstantial evidence and questionable eyewitness testimony. One crucial eyewitness gave evidence that she had seen one of the gunman, alleged to be Hay, sporting two-inch long dreadlocks at the time of the shooting. She initially picked Hay out of a photo line-up, but during a second photo line-up she failed to pick Hay.

Her testimony proved to be problematic for the Crown as Hay had extremely short hair when arrested. To resolve the discrepancy between the eyewitness testimony and Hay’s appearance at he time of his arrest the Crown provided a theory. The Crown suggested that after the shooting Hay had immediately returned to his home and gave himself a haircut in the period of time between the shooting and his arrest.

The defence stipulated that if the Crown could not prove that Hay had cut his hair in the time between the shooting and his arrest, the description of the gunman provided by the eyewitness proved Leighton’s innocence.  At the time of his arrest the police had found some very short hairs in Hay’s garbage and razor. At his first trial in 2004 the Crown convinced the jury that these hairs must be evidence of haircut just prior to his arrest. Hay was consequentially convicted of first degree murder. Hay went on to appeal his conviction.

On May 9, 2009 his appeal was denied by the Ontario Court of Appeal, sighting that the hairs provided sufficient evidence of his guilt. With the help of the Association in Defence of the Wrongfully Convicted, Hay had some success with the appeal process. AIDWYC adopted Hay’s case on the bases of factual innocence and made an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.  AIDWYC brought a motion to the Supreme Court of Canada that the hair evidence be released for further scientific testing. This motion was granted on November 18, 2010. The finding of which were that the hair, to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, were from a facial shave and not from a haircut, and such could not have been the gun man that the Crown had described as having two-inch dreadlocks.

In April of 2013 ADWYIC presented this evidence to the Supreme Court of Canada. In November of 2013 the new scientific evidence in support of Hay’s innocence was admitted and his conviction was overturned. A new trial was ordered. Justice Rothstein found that

“ [the new evidence] is not so decisive as to allow an immediate disposition in the form of an acquittal. The Crown, in its submissions on the motion to adduce fresh evidence, has raised the possibility of certain limitations or gaps in the expert evidence adduced in this appeal. The interests of justice require that the Court remit the matter for a new trial, in which the Crown would have the opportunity to adduce evidence challenging the reliability of the fresh evidence.”

On Friday, November 28, 2014, Leighton Hay was released more than 12  years in prison. The charges against hime were withdrawn.  The Crown said that was no longer in the public interest to pursue the case against Hay and announced the termination of his prosecution for first-degree murder. James Lockyer, AIDWYC’s senior counsel, who represented Mr. Hay in the Supreme Court of Canada, said today: “Leighton has been through a nightmare for all these years. His walk into freedom today will be momentous for him and for us at AIDWYC. His family will be at court and he will need all their support and AIDWYC’s support in the months to come. This was a miscarriage of justice of the highest order.

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