Faulty Identification by Eyewitnesses is a Leading Cause of Wrongful Convictions

Update: see prevous post – November 8, 2010 The Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted Foundation – Charitable Organization.

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The Ontario government awarded Joe Webber $392,500 in compensation Wednesday — $660 for every day he spent behind bars.

Webber, 31, a cement floor finisher, had been wrongly convicted of armed robbery in connection with a 2006 home invasion in the southwestern Ontario town of Aylmer.

“I’d like to offer my sincere apologies to Mr. Webber for the miscarriage of justice that occurred,” Attorney General John Gerretsen said in a statement. “It is my hope that Mr. Webber and his family will now be able to move forward and put these events behind them.”

Responding through his lawyer, Sean MacDonald, Webber said the apology is worth more to him than the money because it means his 11-year-old son, C.J., can hold up his head high and be proud of his father.

All it takes is faulty identification by an eyewitness and a person's life can be changed overnight

Webber was convicted in 2008 of forcible confinement and armed robbery in connection with the home invasion, in which four people — a couple, their 15-year-old son and a friend — were tied up and held at gunpoint for more than an hour by two masked intruders.

The Crown’s case was grounded in the father’s mistaken identification of the culprit. The victim insisted he recognized Webber after looking into the eyes of one of the robbers.

Webber had done work around the victim’s house.

Faulty identification by eyewitnesses is a leading cause of wrongful convictions.

The Ontario Court of Appeal set aside Webber’s convictions and acquitted him in February 2010 after another man, Justin Parry, came forward and confessed. An accomplice, Mansa Fraser, had already been convicted in connection with the crime.

Webber had been sentenced to 7½ years in prison. Most of his 594 days in custody were spent in Millhaven penitentiary.

Asked how the compensation awarded Wednesday compared with the amount he was seeking, Webber said he had only ever asked to be treated fairly.

The province, he added, didn’t disappoint.

Gerretsen’s apology and the compensation are a “blessing,” he said.

Webber said he has no immediate plans for the money. He just wants to enjoy Christmas with his wife and son.

 

 

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