Justice James Chipman has ordered the release of Glen Assoun, the man convicted of the brutal murder of Brenda Way. Way was the 28-year-old mother of two whose body was discovered on the morning of November 12, 1995 in the parking lot behind an apartment building on Albro Lake Road. She had been repeatedly beaten and stabbed. Assoun was convicted of her murder in 1999, and sentenced to life in prison.
He’s being released because he very likely is innocent. Crown prosecutors have agreed to bail for Assoun as his case is reinvestigated. His lawyer expects that eventually Assoun’s conviction will be reversed, but that could take as long as five years.
He is being released on extraordinary procedures only given to five previous prisoners in Canada. Basically, because everyone agrees he is likely innocent, it would be a miscarriage of justice to keep him in prison, so he is being granted bail before he would otherwise be eligible for bail, in 2016. He is now being processed, and should be released within an hour.
A publication ban continues to apply to documents submitted to the court, but Chipman has allowed reporting of oral arguments made today. Assoun’s lawyer, Phillip Campbell, quickly outlined the case for Assoun’s release.
As soon as Assoun heard about Brenda Way’s death, he went right to her father’s house and contacted the police, said Campbell. Assoun “roamed the streets looking for information” with a man who later testified against him. From the day Way was murdered to the present, he has cooperated with police, said Campbell.
“There has never been physical evidence implicating Mr. Assoun,” said Campbell. “This case has always depended on five witnesses with stories that he had confessed to murdering Ms. Way. A court has already ruled that the first witness should be regarded as worthless. And there’s evidence of collusion among others of the witnesses. A witness who alleged to have been assaulted by Mr. Assoun appears to have been assaulted by a different man.”
Assoun has continuously maintained his innocence. Immediately upon his conviction in 1999, he told the court that “it’s official that I’m wrongfully imprisoned right now.” Because he has not admitted to the crime, he is in a medium security and not a minimum security prison, and he “carries with him the consequences of asserting his innocence,” said Campbell, including less access to prison services and a likely negative recommendation when he would’ve otherwise become eligible for parole, in 2016.
“Mr. Assoun went into prison on March 25, 1998,” said Campbell. “He went in at 42, and comes out today out at 59.”
Throughout that time, Assoun has kept his luggage packed, as a statement of his belief that he shouldn’t be in prison.
The Association in Defence of the Wrongfully Convicted took up Assoun’s case, and has uncovered evidence that Way was killed not by Assoun, but rather by serial killer Michael McGray. Earlier this year Mark Green, a lawyer with the federal Criminal Convictions Review Board, wrote that “there may be a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred” in Assoun’s conviction.
Still, even though he is being released because he is likely innocent, an actual finding of innocence or a reversal of his conviction could be years in the future. Campbell, however, said during a break in the hearing that there is still some other piece of extraordinary information that will cause the federal Minister of Justice to act very quickly. “I want my client to be a free man,” said Campbell.
Assoun’s will live with family in another province. His bail conditions require him to wear an electronic bracelet, remain in his house from 10pm to 6am, report to police and a bail officer once a week, and stay away from alcohol.
More to come.
Which also means that no evidence was presented on open court today either?
That’s right. The Preliminary Assessment is still under a publication ban. I’ll have more about this soon, hopefully tonight.