Photo by: Barbara Howe
Ron Dalton spoke to students about his work advocating for those who are wrongfully convicted. Pictured with DC professor Joanne Arbour.
It happened to me… It could happen to you!! That was the slogan stamped on a black T-shirt draped on the table in front of the podium at a recent seminar held at Durham College (DC).
Ron Dalton spoke to about 60 students from various programs, about his struggle with the Canadian legal system which robbed him of the best years of his life.
Dalton lived in Gander, N.L., and in 1988 his wife, Brenda, died at their home. One year later, the former bank manager was convicted of second-degree murder and spent almost nine years in jail.
According to Michael Brooke, of Longboarding for Peace (LFP), which sponsored Dalton’s visit to DC, the former bank manager had no previous convictions and led an exemplary life.
It took 11 years to get Dalton a new trial and secure his freedom. In June 2000, forensic evidence determined his wife had choked on some cereal and died. In 2006 the Canadian government apologized to him and awarded him $750,000 in compensation.
However, the money did not bring back the years Dalton missed with his family. “His daughter is the most emotionally affected by what happened,” said Jacinta Dalton, Ron Dalton’s second wife who was at the seminar. “She was in kindergarten when he went to jail. He watched her graduate from high school days after he was freed,” she said.
According to Dalton, his conviction was based on the evidence of a pathologist who was not trained in forensics. The pathologist concluded the signs of trauma inside Brenda Dalton’s throat (caused by an inexperienced and clumsy emergency room doctor inserting a breathing tube), could only have been made by strangulation and directed the police to speak to her husband.
Dalton still has trouble adjusting to life outside prison. He described how the sight of a mailman in uniform, or the sound of jingling keys will take him back to those dark days behind bars. “I have a deep distrust of the Criminal Justice System,” said Dalton
The talk coincided with Wrongful Conviction Day. Organized by Innocence Canada, the day is set aside to highlight the causes and remedies for wrongful convictions.
Dalton now advocates for Innocence Canada on behalf of those who are in prison for crimes they did not commit. He is now married to Jacinta Dalton, who is also acquainted with legal wrangles. She advocated for her son to be exonerated from a murder charge.
Innocence Canada is a non-profit organization whose mandate is to identify, advocate for, and exonerate individuals convicted of a crime they did not commit and to prevent wrongful convictions though legal education and reform. According to Dalton the organization has helped secure 28 exonerations to date.
LFP’s Brooke said the aim of the talk was to educate students of the flaws in the Criminal Justice System. LFP is an organization which empowers skateboarders to step up for the good of their communities. It also encourages people to learn more about those who are wrongfully convicted.
“There is a good chance that someone in this audience will be called for jury duty, or will end up working in the legal system. You may end up being part of an actual case,” he said, “If there is one person in this audience that heeds Ron Dalton’s message today and is able to prevent a wrongful conviction, then our efforts will have been worth it.”