While not a quite a finding of “factual innocence”, the court essentially found enough evidence to support the Appellant’s position that information was withheld, ignored, and that reasonable explanations were dismissed and unreasonable explanations applied. While they decided that there might have been enough evidence to convict, the “fresh evidence” (evidence either not obtained that would have readily been available at the time but not pursued; evidence hidden by the Crown at the time; or forensic evidence so badly gathered or improperly interpreted by even the standards of that day) could have brought about an finding of innocence 28 years ago.
For these reasons, dealt with in considerably more detail above, we have concluded that, while it cannot be said that no jury acting judicially could reasonably convict, we are satisfied that if a new trial were possible, an acquittal would clearly be the more likely result. Having regard to the highly unusual circumstances of this Reference, we have determined that the most appropriate remedy is to enter an acquittal. Accordingly, in the words of s. 696.3(3)(ii) of the Criminal Code, the appeal is allowed, the conviction for murder is set aside and an acquittal entered. [read the full Ontario Supreme Court decision]
A few words on the difference between “Not guilty” and “Innocent”….
We may, in our hearts know or believe someone to be “innocent” of a crime. However, the court, whether a jury or a judge (or judges) is charged with finding a verdict or “Guilty” or “Not guilty” beyond a reasonable doubt, not “Guilty” or “Innocent”. Short of retrying the case, the best the court could do was to quash the original conviction and acquit.
I believe that this closes the case in that the Crown can not bring Steven to trial again on the charges.