Romeo Phillion was convicted in 1972 for murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in Canada. The charges were finally withdrawn in 2010, but Phillion, 73, is now demanding $14 million from the Ontario government as compensation for 31 years of wrongful imprisonment, the longest in Canadian history, The Ottawa Citizen reports.”I didn’t do 32 years for nothing,” Phillion, 73, told the Toronto Star on Thursday. “I lost my freedom. Somebody’s got to pay for that.” He says the compensation will provide closure and help pay rising medical bills (he says he has emphysema and lung disease) and debts.
For reference, only a few people globally have been cleared after spending that much time in jail. For instance, James Bain, an American, was freed in 2009 after 35 years served, and a Texas man was cleared last year after spending 30 years in jail for a robbery and rape he was later exonerated of.
Phillion was arrested for the 1967 murder of Ottawa firefighter Leopold Roy, who was stabbed to death when he confronted an alleged intruder in his apartment building. Roy’s wife identified Phillion’s twin from a photograph, but Phillion had an alibi: a receipt from an auto repair shop in Trenton, 288 kilometers (179 miles) from Ottawa, stamped two hours before the murder took place. So he was dropped as a suspect, according to the Canadian Press.
But four years later, he was arrested again for an attempted robbery, when he confessed to the murder. However, he later recanted, saying he only wanted to impress a gay lover and make sure he collected a $2,500 reward, The Windsor Star reports.
During his trial, police did not disclose Phillion’s previous Trenton alibi or supporting evidence. Phillion is alleging the charge, prosecution, wrongful conviction, and imprisonment resulted from “malicious, reckless and negligent conduct” of the Attorney General of Ontario, the Ottawa Police Services Board and retired detectives John McCombie and Stephen Nadori who carried out the investigation. He also claims witness statements were coached in an “effort to support Phillion’s confession and advance their case against him.”
Phillion refused to apply for parole, seeing it as an admission of guilt. So he stayed in prison for almost 32 years. It was only in 1998 that a 1968 police report was anonymously sent to Phillion, confirming his earlier alibi, according to the Toronto Star, and he was released on bail in 2003. Prosecutors called for a retrial in 2009, but then decided there was no chance of conviction. Consequently, the charges were dropped in 2010. Prosecutors have refused to comment on Phillion’s claims, and McCombie has denied any wrongdoing.
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