OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada has ordered a new trial for the man accused of killing a Winnipeg girl more than 30 years ago.
Mark Grant was found guilty of second-degree murder in 2011 in the abduction and murder of 13-year-old Candace Derksen in November 1984.
The conviction, which carried a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years, was overturned by the Manitoba Court of Appeal in 2013.
Grant’s lawyer had argued that the trial judge was wrong to deny him the right to present evidence that could show Derksen might have been killed by someone else.
A new trial was ordered but provincial prosecutors appealed to the high court after being granted leave to do so in 2014.
In a unanimous 7-0 decision released Friday, the Supreme Court upheld the appeal court’s decision.
“In this case, I conclude that the trial judge erred in evaluating and assessing the credibility of the unknown third party suspect evidence on a balance of probabilities,” Justice Andromache Karakatsanis wrote on behalf of the court.
“I agree with the Court of Appeal that a new trial is required.”
Derksen disappeared on her way home from school and her body was found six weeks later, bound and frozen, in a storage shed near her home.
Grant — who repeatedly denied killing Derksen — wasn’t charged until 2007 after numerous tests on a piece of twine used to bind the teen.
In the Court of Appeal ruling, Justice Michel Monnin wrote that some evidence not presented at trial “could provide the basis upon which a reasonable, properly instructed jury could acquit.”
Now prosecutors will need to decide whether to hold another trial or drop the case.