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Chris Bates walked free from prison yesterday, after a lengthy battle by a Toronto group to clear his name. He had served six years of a life term for the 1991 shotgun murder of a variety store clerk in the Eastern Townships community of Cowansville, Que. Bates, 26, won a fresh trial on May 12 after the court heard new evidence, pointing to a more likely suspect, which was gathered by the Toronto-based , Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted. "That's it, I'm out," Bates said in an telephone interview from the Sherbrooke Detention Centre, just minutes after he received the good news from his lawyer's office yesterday around noon. "It's just excellent." 'I don't want anything else but a new trial' He left the prison at 4 p.m. to meet his mother Janet at a nearby restaurant.
Bates said he planned to have a good night's sleep "because I haven't had a good night's sleep in six years." "I don't want anything else but a new trial because I am innocent," he added. "They had their day in court and found me guilty of a crime I did not commit, so I think it's fair that I have my day in court." Bates' supporters were upset that he had to remain in prison for another month after the new trial was ordered. But his lawyer, Josee Ferrari, said the time was necessary to properly prepare for yesterday's bail hearing.
The crown did not contest his release. Prosecutors have not yet indicated whether they will proceed with the new trial ordered by the appeal court. Bates said he doubts whether his release would have been possible without the help of Toronto Sean Gladney and Bill Joynt of the Investigator's Group, who gathered the new evidence for the association at their own expense. He added that the support of former boxer Rubin (Hurricane) Carter, whose wrongful murder conviction and 20-year imprisonment is the topic of an upcoming movie, and that of Win Wahrer, who fought for the vindication of Guy Paul Morin, were also crucial. Without efforts of Bates' mother, he might still be in jail Gladney believes that without the "persistent" efforts of his mother to see her son vindicated, Bates might still be behind bars.
"I didn't want to go to Quebec," he said. "But after she did quite a guilt trip on me, I went to Quebec." Meanwhile, Bates is nervous about returning to society. "I'm going to get out of here and go day by day," he said. "Everything is changed out there.by Peter Edwards and Harold LevyToronto Star, December 30, 1999