Bail hearing for sisters who claim wrongful conviction continues in Saskatchewan

Lawyers for two women who have spent nearly 30 years in prison are to argue today why they should be released on bail while they await the results of a federal conviction review.

Odelia and Nerissa Quewezance were convicted of second-degree murder in the 1993 stabbing death of 70-year-old Anthony Dolff.

The federal Justice Department started a review last year, saying there may be a reasonable basis to conclude there was a miscarriage of justice.

Their lawyers laid out in Court of King’s Bench Tuesday in Yorkton, Sask., how the two women would be supported by family and community if they get bail.

The Crown prosecutor told court that the sisters should not be released as there’s too much risk and both have a history of breaching conditions.

The sisters told court in separate testimonies that the long incarceration has been difficult and contributed to their trauma but they are hopeful about their futures.

“Today I’m a stronger person,” Odelia Quewezance told court.

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 the pair was arrested near Kamsack, Sask.

Court heard the youth confessed during a preliminary inquiry and trial the following year. The Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear their appeal three years later.

Odelia Quewezance received day parole last year with strict conditions. She is currently staying at the YWCA in Regina. Nerissa Quewezance’s parole was denied and she has remained behind bars in Fraser Valley Institution for Women in British Columbia.

Odelia Quewezance would live with her partner of 26 years and their children in a small Saskatchewan community if released, court heard.

Her sister is looking to stay with Congress of Aboriginal Peoples National Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin in his Saskatoon home if she gets conditional release.

Beaudin told court that while he has spoken with Nerissa Quewezance many times over the phone, he could only meet her for the first time this week at the bail hearing.

“You can tell she has a heart,” he said.

The judge told court that he would reserve his decision for a later date.

A criminal conviction review can take years. When it is over, a report and legal advice will be prepared for the federal justice minister. The minister can then order a new trial or appeal, or dismiss the application if he is not convinced there has been a miscarriage of justice.

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