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

Barb Kalugin, chair of the Community For Kids Port Alberni Chapter, is presented with a cheque for $832 for the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation from Anita Sutherland, Director of Operations and Opportunities with McLean Mill National Historic Site. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
McLean Mill Christmas event raises more than $800 for BC Children’s Hospital

Festival of Trees fundraiser went virtual due to COVID-19

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

On Aug. 26, 1947, a fire sparked in the lumber piles between Alberni Pacific Division sawmill and Alberni Plywood (located where Canal Waterfront Park is now). What resulted was a huge fire on Assembly Wharf One, where several buildings were gutted and stacks of lumber were burned. This photo is one of 24,000 contained in the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives, at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN07386 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)
LOOK BACK: 1947 fire destroys Port Alberni wharf

Take a peek into the Alberni Valley’s history with the Alberni Valley Museum

Artist Jim Holyoak’s installation “Quagmire.” Holyoak will be the first speaker for the Artist Talk Online Winter 2021 series. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
North Island College Artist Talk goes online for winter 2021

The series invites contemporary Canadian artists to speak about their professional practice

(NEWS FILE PHOTO)
City of Port Alberni, ACRD prepare for compost collection in 2021

Roadside pickup is expected to begin in the City of Port Alberni in June 2021

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)
Search plane lights up Nanaimo mountain with flares during icy rope rescue

Rescuers got injured hiker down Mt. Benson to a waiting ambulance Saturday night

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Most Read