Réjean Hinse, a Quebecer who was wrongfully imprisoned in the 1960s before being acquitted by the Supreme Court of Canada 30 years later, is getting a record $13.1 million in compensation.
The federal government will give Hinse $8.6 million, subject to a possible appeal, while Quebec settled with Hinse prior to the Quebec Superior Court judgment and will pony up $4.5 million.
Hinse, who is in his early 70s, was imprisoned after a 1961 armed robbery in Mont Laurier, Que., about 250 kilometres north of Montreal.
The owner of a general store was assaulted and his wife was tied up in an hour-long attack by five robbers who made off with about $4,000 on Dec. 14, 1961.
Hinse spent most of the next three years behind bars until he was sentenced to 15 years in 1964. He was paroled in 1969.
At a news conference in Montreal on Thursday, an emotional Hinse held used a copy of Edvard Munch's classic painting The Scream to illustrate how he felt in prison.
"This defines the psychological condition I was in," he said in French.
"During the trial I had headaches but after I was sentenced … the headaches were unbearable. The only way to cope with the pain was to keep banging my head against the stone wall — a little harder, then a little harder still, until the pain I was inflicting on myself became more intense than the other pain."
Once released, Hinse continued his fight to clear his name.
In 1994, the Quebec Court of Appeal quashed his conviction, partly on the basis of new evidence, and ordered a stay of proceedings.
But Hinse wanted his name cleared and fought to the Supreme Court in 1997. The highest court ruled that evidence presented at his trial wasn't sufficient to convict him of aggravated robbery.
Hinse sued the governments in civil court in Montreal last November and December after never having received any form of apology or compensation.
The federal government indicated last December it would go to appeal regardless of the amount rewarded to Hinse. But a member of Hinse's legal team, Guy Pratte, said Thursday he hopes Ottawa lawyers would have a change of heart.