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3rd Pinaymootang First Nation man’s conviction overturned in 1973 Winnipeg murder in light of new evidence

July 2, 2024

Evidence suggests ‘miscarriage of justice’ in Clarence Woodhouse’s conviction, federal justice minister says

A man wearing a ball cap is seen sitting in a vehicle, with trees in the background, and looking at the camera.
Clarence Woodhouse, seen in an undated photo sent to CBC News by his son, will face a new trial, the federal minister of justice and attorney general announced Tuesday. (Submitted by Justin Fritzley)

CBC News: A new trial has been ordered for a third First Nations man convicted for the murder of a Winnipeg man 50 years ago.

Clarence Woodhouse, now in his early 70s, was one of three men and members of Pinaymootang First Nation who were found guilty of murder in the death of Ting Fong Chan in 1974. The three were sentenced to life in prison.

The new trial is being ordered for Woodhouse in light of new information that was not included in Woodhouse’s initial trial or appeal, said Arif Virani, the federal justice minister and attorney general of Canada, in a Tuesday news release.

Virani says the evidence suggests that “a miscarriage of justice likely occurred” in Woodhouse’s conviction.

However, the decision to order a new trial is not meant to be a statement about Woodhouse’s guilt or innocence, but rather to return his case to the courts, Virani said in the release.

The decision comes nearly a year after two of his co-accused were acquitted. Allan Woodhouse and Brian Anderson were acquitted in connection to Chan’s murder in July 2023, after being released on parole in 1987 and 1990, respectively.

Last April, the two men filed lawsuits against the federal and provincial attorneys general, the City of Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba. They claim police and a Crown prosecutor colluded against them to give false evidence during the trial that led to their convictions.

Anderson and Woodhouse’s lawsuits also allege that Winnipeg police officers coerced them and two others — Clarence Woodhouse and his brother, Russell Woodhouse — into signing false confessions to Chan’s murder, after two teams of officers interrogated them using “violence, threats, racial slurs and other racialized abuse.”

The suits say those confessions were the only evidence used by a jury to convict them in the killing of Chan, a 40-year-old chef and father of two who was beaten and stabbed to death near a downtown construction site on July 17, 1973.

During the hearing last year where the two men were acquitted, Manitoba Prosecution Service executive director Michele Jules told court that the men were wrongfully convicted and their confessions were “entirely manufactured by police detectives.”

A man sitting in a wheelchair speaks to reporters.
From left to right: Newly acquitted Allan Woodhouse and Brian Anderson, along with James Lockyer, one of the lawyers for the two men and director of Innocence Canada, speak to the media outside the Winnipeg Law Courts last July. (Brittany Hobson/The Canadian Press)

Clarence Woodhouse has always proclaimed his innocence but no one listened to him, a news release from Innocence Canada said last fall.

His lawyers have said a confession Woodhouse supposedly made was in fluent English, although he primarily spoke Saulteaux.

An appeal by Woodhouse to the Manitoba Court of Appeal was dismissed in 1974. He was first granted parole nearly 10 years later.

Recent criminal charges resulted in his parole being revoked, and he was sent back to prison, but the details of those charges are under a publication ban.

Woodhouse applied for the review of his conviction in September 2023. He was granted bail by a Manitoba judge last October while his conviction was under review.

His brother, Russell, was also found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years behind bars in connection with Chan’s killing.

He died in 2011, but Innocence Canada filed a posthumous application to have his conviction reviewed alongside his brother’s.

Ozten Shebahkeget · CBC News

With files from The Canadian Press