A judge in Winnipeg released Clarence Woodhouse, 72, on bail Monday pending a ministerial review of his 1974 murder conviction.
“I’m very emotional and really happy,” said Woodhouse’s sister Linda Anderson after the hearing. “It’s good to see my brother come back home.”
Woodhouse, from Pinaymootang First Nation in Manitoba, was serving a prison sentence after his conviction in 1973 death of Ting Fong Chan, a restaurant worker who was stabbed to death in Winnipeg.
Allan Woodhouse (not related) and another man, Brian Anderson, were also convicted – both were acquitted of the crime in July.
Anderson was released on parole in 1987 and Allan Woodhouse in 1990.
Innocence Canada, a non-profit that advocates for people wrongly convicted of a crime, said it filed an application in September with Justice Minister Arif Virani for a ministerial review of Woodhouse’s conviction.
When acquitting Allan Woodhouse and Anderson, Chief Justice Glenn Joyal of the Court of King’s Bench said that systemic and individual racial discrimination within the justice system played a part in the wrongful conviction of both men.
“Let’s never forget the basis of this case started with the systemic racism that affected these men at all levels of the criminal justice system,” said Jerome Kennedy, a director of Innocence Canada.
Innocence Canada maintains the prosecution’s case at Clarence Woodhouse’s trial depended on a confession that he was supposed to have made in fluent English, despite Saulteaux being the language he spoke.
The group said Woodhouse testified that he was assaulted by Winnipeg police into signing a false confession, but the trial judge and the jury didn’t believe him.
“Forty-nine years has been an interminable wait for Clarence Woodhouse, but he never gave up. (Monday) will be an extraordinary day for him, to be back in the very same court where he was wrongly convicted,” said Kennedy.
In her decision to release Woodhouse on bail, Justice Joan McKelvey said that she didn’t believe he was a flight risk.
His conditions include that he must attend court when required, live with his son, have no other address unless he has her permission and can’t possess or carry any weapons.
Kennedy, along with another lawyer with Innocence Canada, James Lockyer, met with the media along with Linda Anderson after the hearing.
Woodhouse wasn’t released because authorities said he had to return to his cell at Stony Mountain Institution in Manitoba to clear out his cell.
Kennedy made an offer to newly elected Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew.
“Innocence Canada is willing to assist the government and the chiefs to uncover other cases of wrongful convictions involving Indigenous people. We know they’re out there.”
Brian Anderson was also on hand for the hearing. He said he’s doing well.
“I’m happy for him, it’s finally happening,” Anderson told the media. “I’ve been doing good too, I’m happy.”
A fourth accused, Clarence Woodhouse’s brother Russell Woodhouse, died in 2011.
Innocence Canada said it has also filed a posthumous application on Russell Woodhouse’s behalf with the support of Linda Anderson.
“I only had three (brothers) and two died. It’s just me and Clarence now,” Linda said.
With files from the Canadian Press.