VANCOUVER - A man who spent 27 years in prison claiming he wasn't responsible for the rape of eight women was acquitted Wednesday after the B.C. Appeal Court concluded he was the victim of an egregious abuse of process.
The Appeal Court panel unanimously tossed out Ivan Henry's convictions, outlining a litany of serious errors by the judge, police and Crown in Henry's 1983 trial.
The time Henry wrongfully served in prison is considered one of the longest on record in Canada, his lawyer said.
An hour after the verdict, Henry was freed from his electronic monitor and walked out of the Vancouver courthouse with a big smile on his face and his two daughters by his side.
He said his belief in God and honesty got him through.
"We all got to believe in honesty in some sense, that something will work right if you just wait for it," he told a crush of reporters.
Henry, 63, said he wasn't angry because anger wouldn't heal him.
"I'd like to say to people who are still incarcerated: 'Don't give up. Keep plugging ahead and work to get out and to learn what society's all about. It's not all a dirty world. We're all here to try and help each other.'"
When asked about his lawyer at the original trial, Henry replied "That's like a boat without oars, hey," and laughed.
Henry acted as his own lawyer, and the Appeal Court noted that such people are at a "substantial disadvantage."
He was convicted for a series of rapes against women in Vancouver between May 1981 to June 1982.
Jurors at his trial were shown a photo of a police lineup. Henry is held in a headlock by other officers, while the other people in the lineup were smiling.
"The trial judge erred by instructing the jurors that they could use evidence of the appellant's resistance to participation in a police lineup as evidence of consciousness of guilt," B.C. Appeal Court Justice Richard Low wrote in the ruling for all three judges.
Low said the trial judge's instructions to the jury were inadequate and incorrect and on one point, would have caused a mistrial.
"Any of those errors, standing alone, would require this court to order a new trial," the judge said.
"The evidence as a whole was incapable of proving the element of identification on any of the 10 counts and verdicts were unreasonable."
After the guilty verdict, he was declared a dangerous offender and given an indefinite prison sentence.
Shortly after his conviction, Henry began application after application to get evidence and exhibits in his case that weren't disclosed to him before his trial.
The Supreme Court of Canada refused an application for leave and several other court applications were dismissed.
The doubt about Henry's guilt didn't begin until Vancouver Police reopened investigations into 25 unsolved sexual assaults and eventually linked DNA to a man who can only be identified as D.M.
The man was convicted in three offences and then prosecutors started connecting the similarities between Henry's case and those of D.M.'s convictions.
One of Henry's three lawyers, David Layton, said the case against Henry was "polluted" and "farcical."
"There was no basis to convict him in 1983 and there's no basis to do that today."
Marilyn Sandford, also Henry's lawyer, said DNA evidence freed Henry.
"It showed that similar offences were occurring and had continued to occur after his conviction, and the DNA identified another perpetrator."
Sandford said despite Henry's constant applications, no one listened to him.
"Perhaps because he was, sort of in peoples' minds, labelled as kind of a quirky guy who didn't have a lawyer and was a nuisance litigant."
His daughter, Tanya Olivares, told reporters that her father has always claimed innocence.
"He knew it was just a matter of time," she said. "I am so proud of him. He's always kept his chin up from day one."
His other daughter, Kari Henry, said she was amazed and happy that the process was finally over.
"This is a huge weight off our shoulders," she said, her voice trembling with emotion.
"We don't have to be ashamed anymore," Olivares added.
She noted that the B.C. Appeal Court decision came 20 years to the day that her mother passed away. "So she is here with us."
Neither the Henry family, nor his lawyers would talk about the possibility of financial compensation for Henry's years spent in prison, except to say they'll explore the possibility and that there is precedent for such compensation.
Henry joins a growing list of wrongfully convicted in Canada, including Steven Truscott, Guy Paul Morin, David Milgaard and Donald Marshall.
Henry's daughters said their dad's only plans were to go out for dinner with the knowledge that he wouldn't have to be home at 7:59 for an 8 p.m. curfew.