#wrongfullyconvictedwednesdays Steven Truscott

June 14, 2020
Steven Truscott was sentenced to be hanged at only 14 yrs old.
Steven Truscott was sentenced to be hanged at only 14 yrs old.

Canadian teenager, Steven Truscott was wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of his classmate Lynn Harper. When he was thirteen his classmate Lynn Harper was found raped and strangled to death in the woods by her home. It was alleged that Truscott had ridden Harper on his bicycle handle bars towards her home and that en route to her house he had taken her to the woods and raped and strangled her. As he was the last known witness to see her alive he was an automatic suspect. Truscott maintained his innocence throughout his ordeal maintaining that he had dropped Harper off at a road crossing and witnessed her getting into an unknown vehicle. Truscott was taken into custody on June 12th 1959 and on June 13th he was charged with first-degree murder under the provisions of the Juvenile Delinquents Act. On June 30, Truscott was ordered to be tried as an adult, an appeal on that order was dismissed. On September 16, Truscott's trial began in the then Superior Court of Ontario in Goderich before Mr. Justice Ferguson and a jury. Steven Truscott was represented by criminal defence lawyer, Frank Donnelly. Despite the fact that all the evidence presented against Truscott was circumstantial, and centred on placing Harper's death within a narrow time frame which implicated Truscott, he was found guilty. As on September 30, the jury returned a verdict of guilty, with a recommendation for mercy. Mr. Justice Ferguson, as was then required under the law, sentenced Truscott to be hanged December 8th 1959. Truscott was only fourteen years old, becoming Canada’s youngest death row inmate. A temporary reprieve on November 20, 1959 postponed his execution to February 16, 1960 to allow for an appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeal, that was dismissed on January 21, 1960. On January 22, 1960, his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. An application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was denied on May 4, 1967. The Supreme Court of Canada denied 8-1 to hear his appeal citing inconsistencies in his testimony. At that time he did not automatically have the right to appeal to the Supreme Court. He was released on parole on October 21, 1969 and his parole restrictions were lifted on November 12, 1974. On November 29, 2001, Truscott filed a section 690 (replaced by sections 696.1 to 696.6)  Canadian Criminal  Code application for a review of his 1959 murder conviction. Hearings in a review of the Truscott case were heard at the Ontario Court of Appeal. It wasn’t until August 28, 2007, 48 years later, the Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously overturned Truscott's conviction and he was formally acquitted, declaring the case "a miscarriage of justice" that "must be quashed." The judges went on to say, however, that "the court is not satisfied that the appellant has been able to demonstrate his factual innocence." In July 2008, the Ontario government announced it would pay Truscott $6.5 million in compensation for his ordeal.

Read: Legal Resources of US Citizens

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