Romeo Phillion to ask Ottawa court to exonerate him in decades-old murder
A man whose decades-old murder conviction was overturned by Ontario's top court will be in an Ottawa court Monday asking it to go one step further and exonerate him.
Romeo Phillion, 70, served nearly 32 years in prison based on a confession he recanted in the 1967 stabbing death of Ottawa firefighter Leopold Roy.
The Court of Appeal for Ontario overturned Phillion's murder conviction last March and ordered a new trial, but made it clear it had not concluded Phillion was innocent.
Following that ruling the attorney general withdrew the charge, but both Phillion and his lawyer say that's not enough.
"I don't want to go to my grave without my name cleared," Phillion said in a telephone interview.
"Come on, now. I didn't commit this crime."
The Crown has said they would not proceed with a retrial on the merits of the case. In ordering a new trial the Appeal Court gave the Crown three options: staying the charge, withdrawing the charge or arraigning Phillion and offering no evidence, which would lead to an acquittal.
His lawyer, James Lockyer, will be arguing that instead of the withdrawal the Crown has chosen, the court should order that Phillion be arraigned so he can plead not guilty and be acquitted.
"He deserves to be acquitted, especially after spending 32 years in prison," Lockyer said.
In the majority ruling - one judge dissented - the Appeal Court found important evidence was not disclosed to the defence.
Investigators had, at one point, concluded Phillion was far from the crime scene and could not have been the killer. Police later claimed they had debunked the alibi and therefore the prosecution had no duty to tell the defence about it.
The Appeal Court also concluded Phillion's spontaneous confession four years after the murder was "compelling" in its accuracy, but wrong on one key fact.
The dissenting opinion of one judge argued that Phillion's confession showed a level of detail that only the killer could have known.
He was released on bail in 2003 pending the appeal hearing.
In maintaining his innocence Phillion has never explained why he confessed, but his lawyers say he was trying to impress his lover.
He said withdrawing the charge doesn't clear the cloud that is still hanging over him.
"I want them to apologize and exonerate me," Phillion said.
"If I don't (get that) I'm going to pitch a tent in front of Parliament. That's my plan."