In a move that’s sure to create significant public outcry, Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General has ruled that the Attorney General’s office will be paying the tab for Michael Rafferty’s appeal.
Rafferty was found guilty of the murder of eight year old Tori Stafford, who died after being driven to a secluded field by Rafferty and his then-girlfriend Terri-Lynne McClintic, where she was sexually assaulted and beaten to death. Both are serving life sentences after being convicted of first-degree murder charges in Stafford’s death. Rafferty is also serving time for a sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping.
Appeal Court Justice Marc Rosenberg determined that Rafferty is incapable of being his own representation as he has only a Grade 9 education and no legal resources to draw from. The argument for the appeal is that the jury should have been instructed to consider that Rafferty could have been an accessory after the fact in young Tori Stafford’s murder.
There was no such instruction given.
Lawyer Paul Calarco says that the instructions to the jury may have been deficient, and pointed out that the trial judge may have made some errors when considering the conflicting evidence McClintic offered and said this could have indeed impacted the overall outcome of the trial. Now Rafferty’s appeal will be paid by the Ontario Attorney General.
Victoria Stafford, who would be 12 now, was lured from her school in Woodstock, ON, in April 2009 by McClintic. Together, McClintic and Rafferty drove Stafford to a secluded field and it was there she met a brutal death. McClintic offered very contradictory evidence when she was brought on the stand to testify against Rafferty and had initially admitted in court that she was the one who had killed the 8 year old. The case had actually aired on America’s Most Wanted, with Stafford’s remains finally being discovered in Mount Forest, ON, July 21, 2009.
Rafferty and McClintic were tried separately in court, with Rafferty being the one who was convicted for first-degree murder. He had said during the trial that he was a hapless witness to the event, horrified that she had killed the child. Nonetheless, Rafferty was found guilty and told the court that while he’d had a number of things that he was ashamed of, he was not guilty of murder and was sorry Stafford was dead.
It has been Rafferty’s contention for some time that the instructions to the jury were inappropriate and that they may have been improperly instructed in how they were to have considered the evidence. Rafferty says he missed the initial date to apply for an appeal – 30 days after date of conviction – because he was unable to access a telephone in order to contact legal counsel.
Rafferty has been turned down four times previously for Legal Aid, and Appeal Court Justice Rosenberg said that if Rafferty was turned down again, the lawyer who initially filed the motion for appeal will be hired to help Rafferty with the appeal and would be paid by the Office of the Ontario Attorney General.
By Christina St-Jean