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Inmate claims self-defense; seeks case review

D.B. Smith, Windspeaker Staff Writer, Edmonton

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A Native offender who says he killed a fellow prisoner in self-defense may finally have his two-year-old "mercy application" for a case review examined by the minister of justice.

Richard McArthur's application for a review of his 1987 second-degree murder conviction has not been reviewed since its submission in 1991. But Reform MP Jack Ramsay said he contacted the minister's office to see that McArthur's application gets prompt attention.

"As long as the delay is extensive, it may extend the injustice that may have occurred," he said.

McArthur is in Edmonton's maximum security prison for stabbing to death Michael Zima, a violent offender with a reputation for intimidating and threatening other inmates.

His 1991 application under Section 690 of the Criminal Code to then Justice Minister Kim Campbell to have his case reviewed includes evidence to suggest that he was acting in self-defense when he stabbed Zima during a dispute in the Drumheller penitentially Jan. 24, 1986.

Section 690 authorizes the minister to either order a new trial, order an appeal or refer a question to a court of appeal for its opinion. It is not an appeal process and is not intended to be used to overturn decisions but does provide applicants with a last chance to correct errors that may have escaped previous court inquiries.

Four inmates, none of whom testified at McArthur's 1987 murder trial, have signed affidavits claiming that Zima was stalking McArthur and had threatened to kill the 30-year-old Pheasant Rump Band member after the two men got into a confrontation over the volume level of a fellow inmate's stereo.

Inmate Mike Tkachuk overheard Zima say he would "get" McArthur only hours before the stabbing. His affidavit also states that Zima flashed a home-made knife in the prison's television room and said he was going "to get that S.O.B. tonight" moments before the stabbing occurred in the doorway of McArthur's cell.

Zima was taken to hospital where he died two days later of complications from the wound, but not before giving police a detailed report on the incident with McArthur.

"At the time I stabbed him I felt relief that I got him before he got me because that's what I thought was going to happen," McArthur said.

"At the time, this all happened so fast. There was no time to think. Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think this fellow was going to die."

The four witnesses refused to testify at his trial because the rule in prison is not to get involved, McArthur said.

"I didn't know them, they didn't know me. The golden rule is mind your own business."

Two of those witnesses, Tkachuk and fellow inmate Sam Roasting, are now out of prison.

The third, Clark Manybears, is still serving time in Stony Mountain Penitentially in Manitoba. The fourth witness, Buddy Greenwood, drowned last September while running from police.

Ramsay said he took an interest in the case because lawyers often have no political resources to influence the ministry in moving on a decision.

"I will carry these concerns in a more substantive way to the justice minister. I'm very concerned about people sitting in jail when there's evidence to the contrary."

Justice department spokesman Wendy Sailman said the ministry is aware of the application and is in the process of considering it.

"We have it and we're working on it," she said.

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