Tag Archives: Appeal

Twitchell appeal: media tainted jury

EDMONTON — Mark Twitchell’s appeal of his murder conviction, filed this week, will hinge on proving a miscarriage of justice has occurred.

In his notice of appeal, Twitchell argues that he deserves another trial, this time by judge alone, because unwanted media attention was “so extensive, so blatant and so overly sensationalized that it is unreasonable to expect any unsequestered jury to have remained uninfluenced by it.”

He also raises concerns surrounding his credibility and grounds he believes are sufficient to establish reasonable doubt. (Download: Twitchell Notice of Appeal).

Twitchell is currently serving his life sentence for the luring death and dismemberment of Johnny Altinger at Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. During the trial, he admitted that he lured Altinger and dismembered his body, burned it, dismembered it again and then disposed of the remains down a sewer. He argued, however, that the killing was in self-defence and not a planned attack.

This process of appealing a first-degree murder conviction can take a few months or up to a year to proceed, if it does at all. He will have to convince a panel of three judges that there was an error of law that, had it not happened, would have changed the outcome of the trial.

It may therefore be prudent to revisit an important detail in this case that was not covered at length in the media: who were these 12 people who found Twitchell guilty after five hours of deliberations?

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Mark Twitchell’s next steps …

EDMONTON — Mark Twitchell has been transferred from the Edmonton Remand Centre to a maximum security prison where he’ll serve out his life sentence.

He’ll be at least 56 years old before he can even apply for parole. The 2.5 years he spent awaiting trial in custody do not count in a first-degree murder conviction.

Life in a federal prison is different than in custody at remand. He’ll likely have access to a computer (with no Internet connection), a television and have his own room. Compare this to the double or triple bunks in remand. Some say it is better, but it is still hard time.

But what about an appeal? I received a few questions on this topic, so here is the answer:

In Canada, it’s not like in other countries like the USA where someone can  jump from court to court and spend years or decades appealing their conviction and sentence.

Twitchell has 30 days from his conviction date to launch an appeal. After that, it’s over. He can’t appeal anywhere.

To have an appeal heard by Alberta’s Court of Appeal, he has to raise grounds, such as a legal error occurring during his trial that could have impacted the trial outcome. If that happens, then an appeal could be heard and a panel of three judges could then decide if a retrial is necessary.

I’m no lawyer, so I can’t offer an opinion on the likelihood of an appeal. But on one hand, an attempt at appealing seems to always happen in major criminal trials, not matter how flimsy the grounds could be. On the other hand, the courts already spent a great deal of time making sure he received a fair trial with countless pre-trial hearings sorting out what evidence the jury could hear and earlier issuing huge publication bans and sealing orders so Twitchell’s case stayed out of the papers, ensuring the jury pool wasn’t overly-influenced by media coverage. It could go either way.

His deadline to file papers for an appeal is May 12, 2011. I’ll let you know if anything happens on that front.

Secondly, Twitchell is still facing a charge of attempted murder in the October 3, 2008 luring of Gilles Tetreault.

As far as I know, the Crown prosecutor’s office has not made a decision yet on proceeding with that matter. If a trial goes ahead, it would likely be held late this year or early 2012.

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