Manitoba

Lawyer made deal in Ostrowski case

Lawyers for convicted murderer Frank Ostrowski were in a Winnipeg court Monday arguing that a key witness at his trial more than two decades ago got a sweetheart deal that shaped his testimony.

But pact was kept from client: Weinstein

In a 2007 interview from prison, Frank Ostrowski again maintained his innocence in the killing of Robert Nieman in 1986. ((CBC))
Lawyers for convicted murderer Frank Ostrowski were in a Winnipeg court Monday arguing that a key witness at his trial more than two decades ago got a sweetheart deal that shaped his testimony.

Ostrowski, a former hair stylist turned drug dealer, was put behind bars in 1987 after being found guilty of ordering the shooting death of drug dealer Robert Nieman.

The Crown said Nieman was killed because of fears he was informing police about Ostrowski's cocaine-dealing business, but Ostrowski has always maintained his innocence.

The federal government is reviewing Ostrowski's conviction and his lawyers want him out on bail while that happens.

Ostrowski was convicted largely on the testimony of Matthew Lovelace, who was facing separate charges of possessing cocaine when he testified. The Crown stayed the charges a few months after Ostrowski was convicted.

Lovelace was asked during Ostrowski’s trial whether he was receiving any favours for his testimony. He said he wasn’t.

Key witness never told of deal for testimony, lawyer says

In court Monday, Lovelace's lawyer testified he did negotiate a deal to have Lovelace's drug charges stayed, but never told his client.

"My deal was (with) the federal Crown … in return for him testifying, would you consider dropping the charges?," Hymie Weinstein said. "I kept that deal from him."

Ostrowski's lawyer, James Lockyer, suggested it is hard to believe that Lovelace wasn't told about the deal.

"Most clients tend to ask, 'What is going to happen to me?'," Lockyer said.

"My standard reply is ... I don't bet on horses and I don't bet on the outcome of criminal cases," Weinstein replied.

The Crown is fighting Ostrowski's bail bid. Prosecutor Rick Saull told court it is too early in the federal review to release him — a position he said he would outline Tuesday.

Weinstein told court he never talked with Lovelace about what he should say in Ostrowski's trial, and the deal with the Crown was contingent only on Lovelace being consistent with what he had told police months earlier.

"Did you think you were involved in serious ethical issues?" Lockyer asked.

"No, I did not," Weinstein responded.

3rd recent wrongful conviction-related bail hearing

Former Manitoba Justice prosecutor George Dangerfield prosecuted Ostrowski's case. (CBC)
This is the third time in recent years that a Manitoba man has applied for bail while the federal government reviewed a murder conviction.

James Driskell and Kyle Unger were both released after spending more than a decade behind bars. Their murder convictions were later quashed by the federal government as wrongful.

Unlike Ostrowski's case, Unger and Driskell's convictions hinged largely on RCMP hair analysis that was later proven through DNA testing to be wrong.

Ostrowski was one of three men convicted in Nieman's murder, but maintained his innocence from the outset.

A second man, Jose Luis Correia, was sentenced to life in prison but was granted early release last year and has since been deported to his native Portugal.

The other man, Robert Dunkley, was convicted of pulling the trigger and is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder.

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