BRAUN: New film details the battle to acquit Steven Truscott

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Many years ago, Steven Truscott and Lynne Harper were classmates in the small town of Clinton, Ont.

Harper, 12, was raped and murdered on a June night in 1959.

Her body was discovered on June 11. The next day, Steven Truscott — believed to be the last person to have seen Lynne Harper alive — was arrested for her murder; Truscott was eventually found guilty and sentenced to die by hanging.

He was 14 years old.

The death sentence was commuted to life in prison, and after he had served 10 years, Truscott was released on parole.

It would take nearly 50 years to clear his name and see him acquitted of the charges.

Two women were crucial to that journey to justice.

The first was Canadian writer Isabel LeBourdais, whose 1966 book, The Trial of Steven Truscott, detailed the errors in the police investigation and trial process and brought the attention of the whole world to the case.

The second woman is Truscott’s wife, Marlene, who worked tirelessly for decades to prove her husband’s innocence.

Marlene Truscott essentially moved heaven and earth to get her husband and her family out from under the shadow of wrongful conviction. She undertook the Herculean task of revisiting every detail of the case, for years poring over boxes of documents in search of new evidence that would clear Truscott’s name.

And she did it.

Marlene is a fascinating new film from director Wendy Hill-Tout that tells the story of the woman who devoted so much of her adult life to fighting for justice.


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Starring Kristin Booth, Marlene will open the Oakville Film Festival (OFFA) on June 23; as OFFA is a digital festival, anyone can get a ticket and watch at home. (Marlene opens in October across Canada.)

It’s an extraordinary story. Like every Canadian of her generation, Marlene knew about the  Truscott case, and after the publication of Isabel LeBourdais’ book, she became convinced of his innocence.

Truscott’s case galvanized the nation in the first place, and the LeBourdais book — an international best-seller — meantthe details of the case were discussed endlessly in Canadian households at the time.

LeBourdais became a family friend, and so the day came when Marlene and Steven Truscott met; they eventually married and had three children and have now been married 50 years.


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Marlene closely examines a particular chapter in judicial history, but it is also a compelling character study.

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Marlene and Steven Truscott lived for many years in Guelph under assumed names, and in addition to the usual hard work involved in raising a family, Marlene dedicated herself to proving her husband’s innocence.

The movie conveys heartrending personal detail about the Truscotts, such as what it was like to be held in a windowless cell at age 14, or what was involved in telling three children about their father’s true identity.

Marlene was single-minded about her quest for justice. Her hard work on her husband’s behalf is captured in the film, and that sheds light on Truscott himself.

Marlene inspires a viewer to want to know much more about the woman.


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In a recent interview, Toronto actress Kristin Booth spoke about the experience of portraying Marlene Truscott, with whom she exchanged daily emails during filming.

Booth described Marlene as a fascinating woman and said it was an incredible experience to have been able to meet her and Steven Truscott.

“What struck me most about her was her tenacity and her passion. She wasn’t going to give up until they received the justice Steven deserved,” Booth said.

Booth was also struck by Marlene Truscott’s generosity.

“We exchanged emails throughout the production, and it was an open dialogue between the two of us. For her to be so open, to share everything — it was a unique acting experience for me. I wanted to do her justice and tell her story.

“The biggest honour is that she saw the movie and said she felt she’d been seen and heard for the first time.”

According to Hill-Tout, Marlene is pleased with the movie and has told the filmmaker she feels they truly captured her character.

“The greatest thing Marlene wanted was truth,” said Hill-Tout

In 2007, the Ontario Court of Appeal acquitted Steven Truscott, calling his murder conviction a miscarriage of justice.


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