Man's innocence exposed in 2007 when lawyers heard of Bernardo confession

Authorities dragged their feet, lawyers for wrongly convicted say


From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

June 25, 2008 at 4:54 AM EDT

Foot-dragging by authorities left London, Ont., roofer Anthony Hanemaayer unaware that serial killer Paul Bernardo confessed in 2006 to the sex attack Mr. Hanemaayer had been convicted of 15 years earlier, lawyers for the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted alleged yesterday.

They said Mr. Hanemaayer only learned of the Bernardo confession late last year, when AIDWYC lawyers fortuitously stumbled across the information while preparing to defend Robert Baltovich for the murder of his former girlfriend, Elizabeth Bain.

"The onus should not be on the victim of a miscarriage of justice - especially when he hasn't even been informed that he is one," AIDWYC lawyer Joanne McLean said in an interview yesterday. "If you care about justice, it isn't supposed to be a game."

This morning, a panel of Ontario Court of Appeal judges is scheduled to decide whether Mr. Hanemaayer should be exonerated in the 1987 attack on a 15-year-old Scarborough girl.

Crown counsel Howard Leibovich has already conceded that the details of Mr. Bernardo's 2006 confession leave no doubt he was the perpetrator.

Partway through his trial in 1989, Mr. Hanemaayer pleaded guilty in order to secure a lenient plea bargain. Upon completing his prison sentence of two years less a day, he heard no more about the case until two police officers arrived at his door in 2006 to question him about his recollections.

They did not reveal to him that their visit had been precipitated by Mr. Bernardo's confession - which they viewed as being truthful.

Several months later - in early 2007 - the Crown forwarded Mr. Bernardo's confession to Mr. Baltovich's defence lawyers, who intended to point to Mr. Bernardo as being Ms. Bain's real killer.

Ms. McLean said yesterday that, were it not for the serendipitous chain of events, Mr. Hanemaayer might never have known that his conviction was in grave doubt.

"Had Bernardo not been the other suspect in the Baltovich case, AIDWYC lawyers would not have known about the new information, and Mr. Hanemaayer would not have been in a position to pursue his exoneration," she said.

The Crown's position is that the Hanemaayer police investigation did not actually end until early 2008 - at which point Mr. Bernardo's confession was disclosed to Mr. Hanemaayer, said Valerie Hopper, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Attorney-General.

Ms. Hopper also said the police and Crown facilitated contact between Mr. Hanemaayer and a defence lawyer.

While Ms. Hopper did not provide the date this contact took place, Ms. McLean said it refers to a letter AIDWYC lawyer Edward Sapiano sent to the ministry in October, 2007, asking for help in reaching Mr. Hanemaayer.

Ministry spokesmen said the case was moved along as expeditiously as it could be.

But Ms. McLean said the ministry's explanations fall far short of excusing authorities for not telling Mr. Hanemaayer about the Bernardo confession by June, 2006, when police became convinced it was truthful.

"Nobody from the prosecutorial arm contacted Mr. Hanemaayer; nobody looked into finding him a lawyer; nobody contacted AIDWYC; nobody went to court and said: 'We think this should be overturned,' " Ms. McLean said.

"In its broadest terms, the implications of this are that if you stand convicted of an offence and later investigations show that someone else has admitted it - and truthfully admitted it - you will not be notified," she added.

In his confession, Mr. Bernardo referred to 18 other rapes or sexual offences that remained unsolved. Ms. McLean said yesterday the majority involved such sketchy detail that there is little likelihood the victims were ever ascertained.