A Saskatchewan judge is set to deliver his decision on whether to give bail to two sisters who have spent nearly 30 years in prison for what they say are wrongful murder convictions.
Odelia and Nerissa Quewezance were convicted of second-degree murder in the 1993 stabbing death of 70-year-old Saskatchewan farmer Anthony Dolff near Kamsack.
Defence lawyers have asked for the Indigenous sisters to get a conditional release while their case is undergoing a federal conviction review.
The federal Justice Department started the review last year, saying there may be a reasonable basis to conclude there was a miscarriage of justice.
The Crown prosecutor argued that even if there were issues with the police investigation, there was still enough evidence to show the sisters were involved in the killing.
James Lockyer, the sisters’ lawyer, has said the women are victims of racism in the justice system and false confessions.
Lockyer told a bail hearing in January that the sisters encountered “a police station full of white men” after their arrest. He said they were held in the station for days despite court orders to have them moved and their statements were never recorded.
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Crown prosecutor Kelly Kaip said it has also been a difficult 30 years for the farmer’s family, who also attended the sisters’ bail hearing. Kaip said Dolff was beaten before he was stabbed.
“I don't want us to forget how much this haunts his loved ones," she said.
The sisters from the Keeseekoose First Nation have always maintained their innocence. Another person, who was a youth at the time, confessed to the killing.
Odelia Quewezance was 20 years old and her sister was 18 when they were arrested. Both sisters attended residential schools.
If released, Odelia Quewezance would live with her partner of 26 years and their children in a small Saskatchewan community, court heard. Nerissa wants to stay with Kim Beaudin, national vice-chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, in his Saskatoon home.
Justice Donald Layh of the Court of King's Bench in Yorkton, Sask., had asked for more information on what conditions the sisters would have if they were released on bail before he reserved his decision.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 27, 2022.