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The Wrongfully Convicted: James Driskell

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Kate McDonald

on 12 July 2013

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Transcript of The Wrongfully Convicted: James Driskell

James Driskell
The Crime and the Trials
A Wrongful Conviction
James Driskell maintained his statement of his innocence, even when sentenced to life in prison with no chance of paroll for 25 years. He appealed his conviction as much as possible with no success. With the help of the Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC), and many others, Driskell managed to get his case reviewed, and his conviction was squashed in 2005, by gradually eliminating the evidence used against him in his first trial.
For example:
In 2005, the federal cabinet granted James Driskell a new trial, according the section 696, and the Crown determined that the charges would be stayed. James Driskell, now a free and innocent man, spent 13 years in prison for the murder of one of his own friends, a first degree murder charge for a crime he didn't commit.
Wrongfully Convicted:
James Driskell was wrongfully convicted. In 1991, he was convicted of killing his friend, Perry Harder. But James continued to say he was innocent, and fought to get another trial, to have his case looked at once more. Finally, after 13 years in prison, Driskell was released on bail in 2003, and in 2005, the federal justice minister rejected the conviction and evidence as invalid. Driskell was finally a free man.
In June 1990, 29 year-old Perry Dean Harder was murdered. His body was found in a shallow grave close to a set of railroad tracks, near Brookside Blvd., in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The cause of death was determined to be multiple gunshot wounds to the chest.
The year before his death, police accused Harder of possession of stolen property. It was concluded that because Harder had planned to plead guilty, and maybe give evidence that James Driskell had been involved in the crime, Driskell had murdered Harder to prevent him from testifying.
The Trial and the Conviction
James Driskell's trial began on June 3, 1991, taking place before a judge and jury. Four main witnesses were used by the Crown to convict Driskell of first degree murder in the case of Perry Dean Harder on June 14, 1991.
Reath Zanidean and John Gumieny, both career criminals, with extensive criminal records, testified to having heard Driskell plot to kill Harder.
An RCMP officer testified for the Crown, saying that hairs found in the back of Driskell's van belonged to Harder.
Harder's girlfriend testified that he had been feeling pressure from Driskell to plead guilty to the stolen goods charges, and to take the ultimate blame for those charges.
Shakiv Kara, a Crown witness, presented a recorded conversation between him and Driskell, containing many statements that could be interpreted as admissions to Driskell's guilt.
A review of the police report, released in 2003, revealed that Winnipeg police had made a deal with Zanidean in order to recieve a false testimony against Driskell. Zanidean was to be charged with arson in the Swift Current, SK, home arson, but if he testified against Driskell. He is said to have recieved around $70, 000 during the duration of his witness-protection program. This destroyed one of the Crown's main pieces of evidence in testimony.
The taped conversation between Crown witness, Shakiv Kara, and Driskell that contained statements that could have been understood as Driskell admitting to the murder, which was another key piece of evidence turned out to be noncredible. Kara confessed much of his testimony was phony and accused police of intimidating him into testifying.
The three hairs found in the back of Driskell's van, that were said to have belonged to Perry Harder, were sent away to England for DNA testing (paid for by the government). The results showed that the hairs did not actually belong to Harder, in fact, all three hairs were not even from the same person. This revealed another piece of evidence that could be removed from the case.
Full transcript