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Unger's murder conviction overturned

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The first-degree murder conviction of Kyle Unger for the brutal 1990 murder of Brigitte Grenier at an outdoor rock concert has been quashed by the federal justice minister.

Justice Minister Robert Nicholson announced this morning that the conviction had been overturned and a new trial ordered.

"I am satisfied there is a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred in Mr. Unger’s 1992 conviction," Nicholson said.

It is up to Manitoba Justice, however, to determine whether to proceed with a new trial.

Unger said this afternoon he is not angry about what's transpired.  He said he now works in construction in British Columbia, and said he has a "new life" that's built in the years he's been out on bail.

"I'm pretty relieved," he said. "An opportunity to prove my innoncence has finally come my way and I'm looking greatly forward to it."

He said he hasn't thought about potential compensation.

Unger said the situation has "dragged on" and he wants closure.
 
His mother, Treva Unger, who moved with her husband to British Columbia to be close to her son, was by his side this afternoon and said she was "ecstatic" about the developments.

RCMP officials said this morning they would not comment on the matter.
 
Unger and co-accused Timothy Houlahan were both convicted for the 1990 murder of Brigitte Grenier. The popular teenager was found face-down in a creek bed, sexually assaulted and mutilated.
 
Police and prosecutors theorized that Unger, then 19, and Houlahan, 17 -- who did not know each other before the crime -- conspired to kill Grenier.
 
The prosecutor who handled the Unger case was George Dangerfield, a storied Crown attorney who, in recent years, has seen several of his cases overturned as wrongful convictions, including Thomas Sophonow and James Driskell.
 
Houlahan was released on bail after his conviction was overturned by the Manitoba Court of Appeal in 1994. While out on appeal, he committed suicide.
 
Unger’s appeal to the Manitoba Court of Appeal was rejected and leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was denied.
 
Unger has been out on bail since September 2004, after an advisory committee established by the Manitoba government, the Forensic Evidence Review Committee, called into question the hair comparison evidence used at trial.  He has maintained his innocence.

Nicholson made his decision to quash the conviction after reviewing the investigation report and advice of the Department’s Criminal Conviction Review Group; the submissions of Unger’s counsel and of the Attorney General of Manitoba; and the recommendations of Bernard Grenier, Nicholson’s special advisor on the criminal conviction review process.

gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

— With files from The Canadian Press

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