Phillip Tallio was just 17 when he was convicted of murder in 1983 (file photo)

Phillip Tallio was just 17 when he was convicted of murder in 1983 (file photo)

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

Tallio was 17 when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of his 22-month-old cousin

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 said Monday that 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.

Arbogast said DNA evidence the Crown has rejected because it does not point to Tallio as the perpetrator could have made a difference at his trial because experts have testified it is reasonable, relevant and credible.

“You say that that is the basis on which to set aside a guilty plea, even if the plea was otherwise entered in conformity with the law?” asked Justice S. David Frankel, one of three judges on the appeal panel.

“Yes,” Arbogast replied, referring to three other cases with valid guilty pleas he outlined that were found to be unreliable based on subsequent information.

He said the Crown’s view that a voluntary and valid guilty plea is the end of the matter and requires no further analysis may be acceptable in most cases considered by the Appeal Court, but not in cases like his client’s.

Tallio, who is out on bail, received a life sentence without chance of parole for 10 years as part of a plea agreement. He was never released from prison because he refused to admit his guilt to the parole board.

The opinion of a second psychiatrist was particularly problematic during the trial, Arbogast said.

The Crown and defence counsel relied on the statement, he said.

“That caused an entire string of events to unfold with respect to the plea,” he said, adding that the opinion “could not have been used as proof of the truth in 1983.”

READ MORE: Appeals trial begins for Phillip Tallio, convicted of killing toddler in 1983

The court has heard the second psychiatrist wrote in a letter dated May 17, 1983, that Tallio made incriminating statements about the crime scene.

The first psychiatrist who met with Tallio several times starting when he arrived at a psychiatric institute for a court-ordered assessment on April 25, 1983, found the teen had a low IQ but was not necessarily mentally ill.

Arbogast said Tallio’s compelled placement at the institute the following day was without consent and done on the basis of an assessment of his fitness to stand trial and mental health.

He said questions on whether statements to psychiatrists in that context could be used as proof of the truth were before the courts as far back as the 1960s before amendments in 1992 allowed them to be used to discredit an accused but not as evidence against them.

Arbogast said trial counsel would not have been involved in plea negotiations if the second psychiatrist’s statement “was not in play.”

“There was no other cogent evidence to support guilt that was admissible,” he said.

Rachel Barsky, another of Tallio’s lawyers, said 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 said later testing done at the B.C. Institute of Technology was contaminated.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

BC Supreme Court

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Hannah Ankenmann, who works with k’awat’si Economic Development Corporation, winces as she received her first shot of the Pfizer vaccine administered by a Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Family Health nurse. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
Vancouver Island’s small remote towns to get community-wide vaccine clinics

Island Health to take a wholesale approach to immunization, rather than age-based appointments

From left: Mint Cleaning Service founders Monika Scott and Robyn Pook, The Den founders Kristen O’Keefe and Diane Rudge, and Black Rock managers Adele Larkin and Lara Kemps celebrate their new partnership. (Jordan Dyck photo)
West Coast businesswomen empower hospitality industry to champion a zero waste, ocean-friendly future

“Always surround yourself with women who support you and challenge you.”

Pluvio Restaurant has temporarily closed due to a staff member testing positive for COVID-19. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Ucluelet’s Pluvio Restaurant announces positive COVID-19 test

Ucluelet mayor commends business for transparency.

Dan Law is Tofino’s new mayor. (Westerly file photo)
UPDATED: Dan Law elected mayor of Tofino

Cathy Thicke and Jacky Challenger earn council seats.

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Have thoughts on B.C.’s review of the provincial Police Act?

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Anyone with information is asked to call Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 or contact Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-8477 or submitting a tip online at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.
21-year-old motorbike rider dies after crash with ATV on Nanaimo back road

Incident happened Sunday afternoon near Boomerang Lake

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complaints about that condo

Most Read