A Toronto Man is Acquitted After Spending Six Years in Prison
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A Toronto Man is Acquitted After Spending Six Years in Prison

Justice came way too late in the case of Nosakhare Ohenhen.

The Pillars of Justice sculpture at the courthouse at 361 University Avenue. Photo by scarboroughcruiser from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

The Pillars of Justice sculpture at the 361 University Avenue Courthouse. Photo by scarboroughcruiser from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

The Toronto Star reports on a wild story involving drugs, racial profiling, wrongful conviction, and suspicions of police planting evidence.

In 2010, Nosakhare Ohenhen was convicted of several drug and firearm offences, as well as for resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. He was sentenced to nine years in prison and, with credit for time he’d already spent behind bars since his 2008 arrest, he was released in 2013.

The Ontario Court of Appeal ordered a new trial in 2015, and that wrapped up in September. The verdict: not guilty.

The judge found Ohenhen’s rights to not be arbitrarily detained and unreasonably searched were “totally and shockingly ignored by the police.”

Ohenhen alleged that police had planted evidence on him. The judge at the retrial said this was “distinctly possible and arguably probable on the evidence.”

As the Star reports:

“About a half hour prior to Ohenhen’s arrest, Const. Scott Tait and Const. Craig Westell had stopped a young man nearby and confiscated crack cocaine and marijuana from him. Westell testified that he put the drugs in his left breast pocket…

At the police division, Ohenhen was subjected to a strip search. Afterward, the officers brought Ohenhen before the sergeant and said they had found cocaine and marijuana. On the booking video, Westell can be seen pulling a baggy from his breast pocket, which he said were the drugs found on Ohenhen.”

According to the Star, the professional standards unit of the Toronto Police Service is now investigating the matter.

Ohenhen was arrested in Parkdale in 2008. Two officers told different stories about why he was pulled over in his vehicle. One said it was because he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, while the other said it was due to loud music.

Ohenhen’s story was that he’d parked his car and was walking to a friend’s house when police approached and asked for ID.

“The officers’ evidence about carding practices in Toronto and the plain and legitimate concerns about racial stereotyping raises the concern that Mr. Ohenhen was pulled over at least in part because he was a black man driving an expensive car,” the judge wrote.

Ohenhen finally got justice, but it came much too late. Nearly six years of his life are wasted. There’s no way he can ever be properly compensated for that loss.

While the story seems pulled straight from a crime thriller, miscarriage of justice-type cases like this one do happen.

Since 1993, Innocence Canada (formerly the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted) has exonerated 20 people who served a total of 190 years in jail for crimes they didn’t commit.