Ottawa

Romeo Phillion, wrongfully convicted of murder, dead at age 76

Romeo Phillion, who spent more than 31 years in prison before being released in 2003 on bail for a murder charge that was finally withdrawn in 2010, has died at age 76.

Man who spent more than 31 years in prison died Monday in Mississauga, Ont., hospital, says AIDWYC

Romeo Phillion had been convicted in the 1967 stabbing death of an Ottawa firefighter, and spent 31 years in prison on a wrongful conviction before he was released on bail. He died this week at age 76.

Romeo Phillion, who spent more than 31 years in prison before being released in 2003 on bail for a murder charge that was finally withdrawn in 2010, has died at age 76.

Phillion, who had been in failing health for years, was admitted to hospital in Mississauga, Ont., on Sunday and passed away around 9:25 a.m. ET Monday, said the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) in a statement.

He had been convicted of murder in 1972 for the the 1967 stabbing death of Ottawa firefighter Leopold Roy, confessing to it while in custody on a robbery charge, but later said that it was a "bad joke."

In 2003, he filed an application asking for a new trial after his lawyer and a group of law students found a police report — not shown to the defence at the original trial — that put Phillion 200 kilometres outside Ottawa when the stabbing happened, along with evidence four Crown witnesses all changed their testimony about when he was there.

He was released from prison on bail on July 21, 2003, at age 64, and the murder charge was withdrawn on April 29, 2010.

Phillion was the longest-serving inmate in Canada to have a murder conviction quashed.

"Romeo did what he could to draw attention to the devastation that a wrongful conviction imposes on the innocent individual and their family," said AIDWYC in the statement.

"We are extremely grateful to him for his commitment to make a difference regardless of his personal challenges and losses."

In February, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled he could sue Ottawa police and the Crown when it declined to hear an appeal wanting to block that lawsuit.

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