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N.B. government in compensation talk with lawyers for two wrongfully convicted men

More than a month after two New Brunswick men were declared innocent of a 1983 murder, their lawyers say negotiations for compensation are underway with the provincial government.

Ron Dalton, co-president of Innocence Canada, the organization representing Robert Mailman and Walter Gillespie, says the discussions began last week and one of the group’s lawyers has described them as “fruitful.”

Sarah Bustard, spokeswoman for New Brunswick Justice Minister Ted Flemming, confirmed discussions are underway but said the government and Innocence Canada have agreed to keep their content confidential.

Mailman, 76, and Gillespie, 80, were acquitted on Jan. 4 by New Brunswick Court of King’s Bench Chief Justice Tracey DeWare, who said the justice system had failed the men.

They received life sentences in 1984 for the killing of a man in Saint John, N.B., the previous year.

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Premier Blaine Higgs said last month he was getting advice on the ruling and that he “certainly will do the right thing at the end of the day.”

Dalton says he hopes the negotiations produce quick results for the two men because Mailman has terminal liver cancer and was given about three months to live in November, while Gillespie is living on a meagre pension in a hotel room converted to an apartment.

“Mr. Mailman gets weaker by the day,” Dalton says. “His spirit is undaunted, though. He’s still fighting to the bitter end. But we’re all well aware, and he is well aware, that the bitter end is getting closer and closer.”

He says there is no reason the government should take much longer to agree to compensate the men.

“It could literally happen within days,” Dalton says. “There’s absolutely no reason that the end of this month has to come and go without this matter being finalized.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 10, 2024.

&copy 2024 The Canadian Press


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