Connie Oakes 'ecstatic' after Medicine Hat murder charge stayed
Medicine Hat woman freed from prison after prosecution decides against new 2nd-degree murder trial
A Medicine Hat woman says she holds no grudges now that she's out of prison after an Alberta appeals court threw out her murder conviction.
In 2013, Connie Oakes was found guilty of second-degree murder in the 2011 stabbing death of Casey Armstrong, 48. She was sentenced to 14 years behind bars.
Oakes appealed, arguing that the jury's decision was based on the evidence of her co-accused, Wendy Scott, who gave inconsistent testimony and has an IQ of 50.
Last month, the Appeal Court agreed there had been a "miscarriage of justice" and ordered a new trial. But on Thursday, the Crown opted to stay the charges against Oakes.
"I'm ecstatic," Oakes said on The Eyeopener on Friday.
"I am going home. I'm going to be with my family, get re-acquainted with them, go see my son. And, just carry on."
In an interview with CBC News last year, Oakes said she dreamed of returning to Nekaneet First Nation in southern Saskatchewan, where her mother has a small farm.
After a charge is stayed, the Crown has one year to re-commence the prosecution, but it is rare for that to happen.
Oakes says she has forgiven Scott for giving false testimony against her.
I knew I would walk one day ... I'm just happy to finally be out- Connie Oakes
"For not being a strong person and saying, right from the beginning, that I had nothing to do with this," she said.
"I feel sorry for her."
The Court of Appeal also overturned Scott's second-degree murder conviction last year and ordered a new trial, which has been set for next year.
Oakes says systemic racism is partly to blame for her long legal ordeal.
"It's just unfortunate that the justice system in Medicine Hat, it was racial."
A spiritual connection with her cultural ways, working with her elders, and knowing she was innocent helped Oakes maintain a positive outlook, she said.
"I knew I would walk one day," she said. "I'm just happy to finally be out."
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.