Toronto – Steven Truscott has been given $6.5-million from the Ontario government as compensation for his wrongful murder conviction back in 1959.
Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley announced the award on Monday. It includes $100,000 to be paid to Truscott’s wife, Marlene, and in addition, the province will pay legal fees of over $900,000 for the family.
Truscott was just 14 in 1959 when he was arrested, tried within a few months, and sentenced to death in a Goderich court. His sentence was later changed to life in prison, he was parolled ten years later, and spent 40 years on parole. He moved to Guelph, raised a family, and lived an anonymous life until several years ago when he went public to reclaim his name and overturn his conviction.
Last August, the Ontario Court of Appeal found Truscott not guilty of the rape and murder of 12-year-old Lynne Harper in 1959. She was killed near Clinton.
This April, the Ontario legislature approved a motion seeking compensation with all-party support.
The Truscotts were still torn over receiving the award and what Truscott had to go through.
“This is a bittersweet moment for us,” the family stated in a press release. “When we began this journey more than a decade ago, we thought only of exonerating Steven – the possibility of compensation never entered our minds. Although we are grateful for the freedom and stability this award will provide, we are also painfully aware that no amount of money could ever truly compensate Steven for the terror of being sentenced to hang at the age of 14, the loss of his youth, or the stigma of living for almost 50 years as a convicted murderer.”
The family was pleased about the report that exonerated him, and that the entire ordeal is now over.
“We have had an opportunity to read Justice [Sydney] Robins’ report, and are very pleased with his findings and their acceptance by the government,” the family press release stated. “This is the final and long-awaited step in recognizing Steve’s innocence.
“We are especially appreciative of Justice Robins’ finding that, ‘It was the state, through the operation of the criminal justice system, that inflicted the harm on Mr. Truscott. We are all dependent upon the proper functioning of the criminal justice system and we must all share the burden of its errors.
‘Through no fault of his own, Mr. Truscott suffered as a result of one of those errors. His loss should be borne by the community as a whole, and not by Mr. Truscott alone. The state has a moral obligation – an obligation that springs from a sense of justice and equity – to provide some redress to Mr. Truscott.
‘The public’s interest in the proper administration of justice – and, indeed, the public’s conscience – demand that a payment be made.’ ”
The family also thanked all those who worked on their behalf, particularly a group called AIDWYC.
“We also thank the [Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted] lawyers who represented Steven on the application to the Minister of Justice … All of our lawyers brought great commitment and creativity to a series of very difficult tasks, and we know we would not be here today without each of their efforts. The staff at AIDWYC, especially Win Wahrer, were always present behind the scenes, and while their work was perhaps less visible, it was no less important.”
The Truscotts concluded, “On a more personal note, we wish to thank our children, Lesley, Ryan, and Devon, for their unwavering support. They stood by us when we made the difficult decision to re-open the case, and have continued to do so despite the stress and loss of privacy that have resulted.
“We also wish to thank the thousands of Canadians – and individuals around the world – who have expressed their support over the years. Your care and kindness have sustained us through some very difficult times, and we are thrilled to be sharing this good News with you today.
“We know that many of you will be eager to convey your congratulations, but right now we need some quiet time to absorb this News and to reflect with our friends and family on everything we’ve been through. We will not be giving any interviews or further statements to the media at this time. We have always appreciated your respect for our privacy, and trust it will continue.
“With Justice Robins’ report and its acceptance by the government, we have finally achieved a degree of closure – something we have sought for many years. We hope now to go on to live the rest of our lives in peace and tranquility.”