Kyle Unger reaches settlement over wrongful murder conviction
Kyle Unger spent 14 years in a B.C. prison for the 1990 sexual assault and
killing of Brigitte Grenier in Manitoba. He was acquitted in 2009. (CBC)
A lawsuit filed by a B.C. man who was acquitted of a teenage
girl's murder after spending 14 years in jail for her slaying has been
settled out of court.
Unger filed suit in 2011 for $14.5 million against the RCMP and a number of
federal and provincial justice officials including former Manitoba Crown
prosecutor George Dangerfield, who was responsible for three other murder
convictions that were eventually overturned.
spokesperson for Manitoba's justice department confirmed Monday afternoon
that an out-of-court settlement had been reached.
waited a long time to try and put this in the past," said Calgary lawyer
Gavin Wolch, who was one of the lawyers who worked on the case.
message that I hope he receives loudly and clearly from the process and from
everybody or anybody who reads about it or listens to it or sees it
somewhere is that he is unequivocally innocent. He is as innocent of this
crime today as he was the day he was born and hopefully that is recognized
and that's recognition that he can feel."
spent 14 years behind bars in B.C. for the high-profile 1990 sexual assault
and killing of Brigitte Grenier in Roseisle, Man. Another man, Timothy
Houlahan, was also convicted in the murder. Houlahan died by suicide in 1994
while waiting for a new trial.
Unger smiles as he talks to media outside a Winnipeg
courthouse in this file photo. He served 14 years in prison before being
formally acquitted of first-degree murder. (John Woods/Canadian Press)
Unger was acquitted in
2009 after former federal justice minister Rob Nicholson ruled there was a
reasonable likelihood he had been wrongfully convicted.
Caitlin MacGregor, press secretary for
Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen, responded to an email request
for an interview with the minister by saying, "The terms of this agreement are
Calgary-based lawyer Greg Rodin, who led the civil suit, was not immediately
available for comment.
Mr. Big sting
Unger claimed he had killed Grenier while speaking to undercover police officers
who were pretending to be gang members looking to recruit him.
The officers were part of a "Mr. Big" sting and told Unger he had to prove he
had committed a serious crime if he wanted to join them in their lucrative
lifestyle. Unger got key facts wrong about the killing but it was still used
against him. He later told reporters he'd lied because he was young, naive and
desperate for money.
A three-day hearing in Manitoba civil court regarding the lawsuit was supposed
to start Monday but instead was adjourned. Wolch said Unger's lawyers were still
planning on being in court up until "late stages."
George Dangerfield has retired from his role as a
Manitoba Justice Crown lawyer. (CBC)
Wolch, whose late father Hersh Wolch represented Unger
before his 2009 acquittal, said while the settlement is great news, it
doesn't mark the end for Unger.
"Notwithstanding this step, it's not magically over for him. He lives
with what he went through and how he was branded and he'll live with
that forever. It's not just magically going to end with the case."
Dangerfield is the now-retired Crown prosecutor behind four
high-profile murder convictions that were later quashed. His lawyer did
not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
most recent case involved Winnipeg man Frank Ostrowski, who had a
1987 murder conviction set aside by Manitoba's Court of Appeal last
other men convicted of murder who would later have their convictions
quashed were Thomas
Sophonow, exonerated in 2000, and James
Driskell, exonerated in 2005.
federal and provincial attorney general's office and the RCMP had filed
statements of defence in the case saying they acted in good faith and
should not be held liable for the wrongful murder conviction.
argued Unger was to blame for repeat confessions he made to undercover
RCMP and federal Justice Minister David Lametti were not immediately
available for comment.