Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Wrongful-conviction claim doesn't fly in killer's appeal

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A Winnipeg man who claims he was wrongfully convicted of first-degree murder has lost his bid to overturn what he calls the jury's "perverse" verdict.

William Henderson filed documents claiming he got an unfair trial, citing nearly two dozen grounds for ordering a new hearing. They included evidence the judge refused to exclude, instructions to the jury and rejecting four mistrial applications. Henderson also cited "fresh evidence" -- a witness who emerged after the trial ended, claiming he saw the killer, and it wasn't Henderson.

The Manitoba Court of Appeal released a written decision Wednesday rejecting his bid on all grounds.

"In the end, it was open to the jury to find the accused guilty of first-degree murder because, when the evidence is taken as a whole, a properly instructed jury, acting judicially, could reasonably have found that the murder was planned and deliberate," Justice Richard Chartier wrote in the 63-page decision.

Henderson had pleaded not guilty to the execution-style slaying of Frehley McKay in August 2002. Three witnesses identified him as the killer, but Henderson insisted he was kilometres away, asleep in his own bed.

Jurors found Henderson guilty after a five-week trial and only a few hours of deliberation. He was given the mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

"The system is messed up. When are we gonna learn?" Henderson said moments after hearing his fate. "All the inquests, inquiries about wrongful convictions. This still keeps happening. I don't get it."

Crown attorney Geoff Bayly accused Henderson of concocting a bogus alibi to cover his guilt. Defence lawyer Martin Glazer warned jurors it was dangerous to find his client guilty. He said there was a possibility the real killer has never been arrested.

McKay, 22, died on the front lawn of a Kilbride Avenue home in West Kildonan after being shot twice at point-blank range. The Crown has alleged a confrontation between Henderson and McKay in a crowded bar was the trigger for the killing hours later. Jurors heard McKay's ex-girlfriend and her friend picked Henderson out of a photo lineup. A third witness didn't see the shooting but testified about seeing Henderson flee the scene holding a handgun that was ditched in an alley.

Nearly three months after the guilty verdict, a man contacted the Free Press claiming he saw the deadly shooting and knows it wasn't Henderson who pulled the trigger. He was eventually interviewed by Glazer and police and gave a sworn video statement as part of the "fresh evidence" application. However, the man failed to appear before the Court of Appeal to testify on numerous occasions, citing safety concerns.

The Crown poked holes in his story and his credibility, noting the man has a lengthy criminal record and waited nearly eight years after the killing to come forward.

"In my view, the above inconsistencies, when coupled with the (witness's) unsavoury background, the timing of his involvement and his failure to attend for cross-examination, all raise significant credibility concerns," Chartier wrote in dismissing anything the man had to say.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 11, 2012 B4

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