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Miscarriage of justice before B.C. teen's 1983 guilty plea in girl's murder: lawyer

Last Updated Nov 23, 2020 at 4:24 pm EST

VANCOUVER — A lawyer for a man who spent 37 years in prison for the murder of a toddler says the British Columbia Appeal Court should first consider new evidence in the case he believes involved a miscarriage of justice.

Thomas Arbogast says Phillip Tallio pleaded guilty in 1983 based on “ineffective assistance” from his lawyer at the time.

Tallio was 17 when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of his 22-month-old cousin Delavina Mack, who court has heard had been sexually assaulted in a home in the northern community of Bella Coola.

Tallio, now 54, told the court last month that he wasn’t aware of the implications of the plea agreement his trial lawyer had him sign when he was a teenager.

Rachel Barsky, another of Tallio’s lawyers, says testimony last month from experts suggests DNA tests by a lab in Texas on the girl’s tissue samples taken during an autopsy do not positively point to Tallio as the perpetrator.

Barsky says later testing done at the B.C. Institute of Technology was botched by a lab through contamination.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020.

The Canadian Press