Metro Morning

Man wrongfully convicted of killing his wife fights to save Innocence Canada

After serving nearly eight years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Ronald Dalton is fighting to make sure that nobody else in Canada suffers the same fate.

Ronald Dalton says non-profit is ‘struggling to survive,’ urges Canadians to donate

Ron Dalton, co-president of Innocence Canada, served nearly eight years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. (CBC News )

After serving nearly eight years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, Ronald Dalton is fighting to make sure that nobody else in Canada suffers the same fate.

The P.E.I. man was arrested and charged with murdering his wife Brenda Dalton in 1988, insisting all along that she had died after choking on food.

"I immediately went from my biggest loss upfront to an ongoing nightmare that lasted for the next dozen years," Dalton told Metro Morning on Monday.

Dalton hopes that an art exhibition about his life that opens in Toronto on Monday will raise awareness about wrongful conviction and lead people to donate to Innocence Canada, a non-profit organization of which he is co-president.

"If it can happen to me, it can happen to other people," he said.  

'I didn't get to do any grieving'

Dalton was a 32-year-old bank manager in Gander, NL., when his wife was rushed to the hospital while choking on cereal that she had been eating. She died after being intubated incorrectly by the young doctor working at the emergency room, he said.

"The following day, the hospital pathologist, with no forensic training, did an autopsy and couldn't find a cause of death. He saw a scratch on the inside of her throat from the intubation and thought he had a strangulation and homicide on his hands," he said.

Dalton was quickly charged with murder, and missed his wife's funeral while he waited to appear in court.

"I didn't get to do any grieving," he said.

Dalton was convicted, and consequently, he was absent for more than ten years of his three children's lives, while he served a portion of his sentence and then went through another trial. He was freed from prison in 2000.

Art project focuses on 'lost time'

Artist Michael Murphy, inspired by Dalton's story, created a sculptural installation called 12 Years Stolen, which he said on Metro Morning is a reflection on "the passage of time, and all the time that's lost."

The installation consists of 100 double sided photo prints "suspended in an array." When seen from a distance, they create two portraits of Dalton — one from before he went to prison, and one from after he was released.

Up close, each print contains "ghost images of family photos that Ron was not a part of," Murphy said.

Both Murphy and Dalton hope the exhibition helps to familiarize the public with Ron's story and with Innocence Canada, which works to free people who are wrongfully convicted.  

"We're a non-profit, and we're struggling to survive. We are currently reviewing 85 cases, 16 of which we've determined are instances of wrongful conviction," said Dalton.  

Alhough Innocence Canada was not involved in his own case, Dalton said he feels strongly that the organization needs to continue its work.

He said, as funding runs out, wait times will get longer, and some Canadians may have to wait more than ten years for Innocence Canada to review their case.

12 Years Stolen is open from November 14-19 at 130 Adelaide Street West. 

With files from Metro Morning