Halifax man freed after 2 years as witnesses recant
After two years behind bars awaiting trial, Jimmy Melvin Jr. shouted "hallelujah" Friday and said he's looking forward to a cold beer as a free man.
Melvin, 26, was released in Halifax after the Crown withdrew 15 charges against him because two witnesses recanted their stories.
"I'm very overwhelmed. It feels like it's a hot summer day," he said outside the courtroom, grasping for words.
"I definitely need a drink to calm my nerves."
The charges — including robbery, forcible confinement and assault with a firearm — related to a March 2007 home invasion in Spryfield, N.S.
The Crown also withdrew charges against co-accused Anastasios Papadopoulos.
Melvin's defence lawyer, Josh Arnold, said he hired a private investigator to track down the Crown's witnesses.
Two of the three provided statements "recanting a substantial amount of information they had previously provided to the police and to the Crown and to the court," Arnold told reporters.
Prosecutor Christine Driscoll told CBC News she has a duty to withdraw charges when there is no chance of a conviction.
Reporters asked Melvin if he was surprised that the witnesses changed their testimony.
"I'm not surprised at all," he replied.
Halifax Regional Police said they'll investigate conflicting sworn statements from the witnesses and will likely refer the matter to prosecutors.
Left a free man
Melvin entered the courtroom Friday in the custody of three sheriffs. At the start of the hearing, he turned to a defence lawyer and said, 'I hope they're … happy."
"Justice is all I can think. Freedom. It's been a long legal battle," Melvin told reporters.
He said he spent most of the last two years in solitary confinement. He wouldn't say why.
As Melvin thanked his lawyer and family for supporting him, he also sent a message to the men at the prison in Renous, N.B.
"I feel your pain," Melvin said, adding he was "keeping it real" and "only God can judge me now."
He said he's looking forward to spending time with his family and getting to know his daughter.
Melvin had to post a $5,000 bond before he was released. He still has to face one count of conspiracy to breaking and entering.
Melvin was the most wanted man in Nova Scotia in the summer of 2006. Police began a provincewide search for him in connection with the shooting death of convicted drug dealer Wayne Marriott.
Police have blamed a number of firebombings and shootings on a feud between members of the Melvin and Marriott families.