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article imageLeighton Hay, wrongfully convicted of 2002 murder, walks free

By Megan Hamilton     Nov 29, 2014 in Crime
Mississauga - After more than 12 years of incarceration in the psychiatric unit of a maximum security prison in Canada, Leighton Hay, wrongfully convicted of a 2002 murder, became a free man on Friday.
It's taking a while for his new-found freedom to set in.
With everything he's been through, said Hay's lawyer, James Lockyer said he wasn't certain that his client completely comprehends what has just happened, The National Post reports.
"Leighton has been through a nightmare for all these years," Lockyer said. "This was a miscarriage of justice of the highest order."
The nightmare began early in the morning of Saturday, July 6, 2002, when three men are ejected from a charity dance at a local restaurant after refusing to pay a $10 cover charge, The Star reports.
Within minutes, two armed men burst into the restaurant and corner the event's organizer, Martin Colin Moore, 51, and his brother Roger, in the kitchen. Martin Moore died after being shot eight times. His brother, grazed in the head, survived.
After a witness notes the license plate of the car carrying the murderers, police make their way to a home in Mississauga where Gary Eunick, 27, and Leighton Hay, then just 19, live, The Star reports.
Eunick was the boyfriend of Hay's sister and worked as a hair stylist. He also had a rap sheet for firearm-related offenses and cocaine possession. He'd been sentenced to 14 months and two weeks of jail time.
And he matched the description of one of the killers, The Star noted.
While searching the clothes hamper, police discovered a sock with six different kinds of ammunition inside. Also inside the hamper, they found a crumpled piece of newspaper with strands of hair inside.
They noticed that Hay had short hair.
Witnesses told police that the second gunman had "two-inch picky dreads," per The Star.
Despite the fact that Hay's hair was short, they arrested both men.
At the original trial, the Crown argued that Hay went home after the shooting and had a haircut. Along with the very short hairs they had recovered in the newspaper, police found an electric razor in his bedroom, CBC News reports.
One witness, however, fingered Hay by pointing to his image in a photo line-up. She said he looked more like the second gunman than the other 11. After being shown a second line-up three weeks later, she didn't choose Hay.
Despite this, the jury convicted him of first-degree murder, The National Post reports.
Then, after Ontario's top court rejected Hay's appeal, The Association For The Wrongly Convicted became involved.
At the association's behest, forensic experts examined the hair samples and determined that the hair came from his face, not his scalp. Obviously this finding cast considerable doubt on the Crown's contention that Hay had cut off his dreads to alter his appearance. After reviewing the new evidence last November, Canada's Supreme Court determined that this information could have made a crucial difference at Hay's trial, The National Post reports. The court granted a new trial for Hay.
On Friday, the Crown said it would not proceed against him.
Superior Court Justice John McMahon apologized to Hay and his family for the fact that it took so long for the system to correct its mistake, The National Post reports.
Because Hay was a teenager with mental health problems and the member of a visible minority, he was "vulnerable" and police had rushed to judgment, Lockyer said.
"He was another black guy," he said.
Hay, who spent most of his incarceration in the psychiatric wings of two prisons, maintained a quiet demeanor as he left court.
"He's out, he's free," an excited Win Wahrer, who also works for the association, told The National Post. "He just wants to go home."
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