WINNIPEG — Deveryn Ross has always wanted another chance to go to court and prove his innocence. Now the former Brandon lawyer will get that chance in the highest court in the province.
Sources confirmed that federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay will refer Ross’ case back to the Manitoba Court of Appeal to review new evidence. It is the first time a Manitoban claiming innocence has their case referred back to the appellate court.
“What this does is give me the opportunity to show that this isn’t a guy trying to get off on a technicality,” Ross said in an interview. “This is my opportunity to really get rid of the cloud.”
Ross was convicted in 1995 of two counts of fraud in connection with a failed restaurant investment in Brandon. He spent five months in the Brandon Correctional Institute.
Ross’ claim of wrongful conviction is supported by hundreds of pages of undisclosed evidence. These include documents from the Manitoba Securities Commission that showed the crown’s two star witnesses — mutual fund salesmen Sheldon Gray and William Knight — admitted responsibility for many of the misdeeds that formed the charges against Ross.
There is also evidence the prosecutor in the case was aware of the securities commission proceedings during Ross’ trial, but failed to disclose that evidence to the defence.
Ross applied to Ottawa in 2004 for a review of his case under Sec. 696 of the Criminal Code, which allows the justice minister to quash a conviction if new evidence shows there is a “reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred.”
A federal investigator completed a review of the case in 2009. His report confirmed that Ross had been denied numerous key pieces of evidence.
Despite these findings, in 2010 then-Justice Minister Rob Nicholson denied Ross’ application for a new trial, arguing the non-disclosure would not have affected the verdict.
Believing Nicholson had ignored legal precedents and overstepped his authority under the Criminal Code, Ross and his lawyers decided to challenge the justice minister in federal court.
In a decision last month, Justice Richard Mosley soundly rebuked Nicholson for ignoring the standards for review under Sec. 696 and ordered Ottawa to reconsider the new evidence in Ross’ application.
The justice department’s Criminal Convictions Review Group notified Ross and his lawyers last week that MacKay had decided to send the case to the Manitoba Court of Appeal.
» Winnipeg Free Press