Ivan Henry, a man who was wrongfully convicted of a string of sexual assaults in 1982, is thought to be the first wrongfully convicted person in Vancouver to be forced to sue the province for compensation, according to an article in the
Last Friday, on the eve of his trial seeking compensation, Henry inadvertently learned that the woman who first identified him in a photo lineup had “strong emotional ties” to the lead detective, William Harkema. Henry’s lawyer, Marilyn Sandford, explained the integral role the woman had in Henry’s conviction: “This was the first identification against our client that the authorities deemed had any weight and led to his arrest and things went from there. (The woman) was a key witness . . . a key complainant.”
According to the
this previously undisclosed information was revealed in a 1983 letter to Harkema from the woman, which Sandford described in court:
“She says among other things, ‘of all the factors I weighed in deciding not to go out there for the trial, the one that put me in the most conflict was you. I didn’t want to let you down, I didn’t want to disappoint you, and I guess I didn’t want to risk never seeing you again. There is no way I could tell you this at the time but I believed in my soul that you understood me at the deepest level and you have since proven this to me.’”
Henry was released in 2010 after the British Columbia Court of Appeal acquitted him for lack of evidence and because DNA evidence pointed to another man as responsible for some of the sexual assaults of which Henry was convicted, writes the
Because Henry was not officially exonerated, he has had to fight for compensation from the government. In May 2011, before Henry’s lawsuit began, Harkema released the letter to state lawyers, and it was not until this past July that Henry’s lawyers mistakenly received the letter on a CD containing other updated documents from the government.
Now Henry’s lawyers are arguing that the letter is a critical piece of evidence that should have been handed over to them much earlier and that it is of great relevance in Henry’s conviction and entitlement to compensation. Henry’s trial begins Friday.
Learn more about Henry’s case