Justice Donald Layh made the decision Monday morning at Yorkton Court of King’s Bench to release sisters Nerissa and Odelia Quewezance on bail.
They have spent nearly 30 years in prison.
“Right now, I am just overwhelmed, and I just want to go be with my family,” said Odelia. “I’m in shock, I just always knew in my heart we would be free today.”
The sisters were convicted of second-degree murder at a Yorkton, Sask., courthouse in 1994, where they both received life sentences. Both have always maintained their innocence.
They were convicted of killing 70-year-old Anthony Joseph Dolff at his house near Kamsack, Sask., in 1993. As part of their release conditions, they are to have no contact with Dolff’s family.
While the sisters testified at a previous hearing that they were at Dolff’s home the night of his death, their cousin, a youth at the time who was also present that night, actually confessed to the murder. He received a four-year sentence.
Kim Beaudin, National Vice Chief of The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, has offered to house Nerissa upon her release.
“The reason I put my name forward is that I recognize how the courts work and they will pretty much use any excuse to make sure that people can’t get home. Particularly Indigenous people,” said Beaudin.
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Beaudin has worked in the mental health industry for 10 years and has taken in people like Nerissa before. He said he is going to work to make sure Nerissa has a proper support system during this time.
“These two are not just fighting for themselves. They are fighting for other Indigenous women, and even men, who are falsely imprisoned that should not be there. It will give them hope.”
Defence lawyer James Lockyer asked for the sisters to receive a conditional release while their case undergoes a federal conviction review, which started last year.
He says the sisters are victims of racism in the justice system and false confessions.
“They have been in such a long time, in prison,” said Lockyer. “It’s not easy for them just to step out into a free world.”
He added that he is confident the Minister of Justice will see the Quewezance sisters’ conviction as a miscarriage of justice.
Crown prosecutor Kelly Kaip has argued that there is still enough evidence to show the sisters were involved in the murder.
“The Crown, in the coming days, will be carefully reviewing the decision of the judge and will be determining our next steps at that point,” Kaip said.
— with files from The Canadian Press and Global News’ Jeanelle Mandes