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Looking Again at the Nyki Kish Case

One of the most depressing things about wrongful conviction cases is when they just seem to fade away. Luckily, there are often supporters and family members out there that just don’t let people forget. I thought of this fact when I was in Toronto this week, and I saw something on social media about Nyki Kish’s wrongful conviction. It was my first time in Toronto so it took me a minute, but then I remembered that her case stems from an incident that occurred just a couple of miles (o.k. kilometers) from where I was in the Little Portugal neighborhood. Having blogged about the case in the past, I clicked a few links and refreshed my memory as to the street address and took a stroll down to where the incident occurred.

Arriving on the corner of Bathurst and Queen Streets, I remembered the ruling of the judge in her case. Dozens of witnesses testified in court as to what they saw, and every witness had a different story about what they observed. Most witnesses placed Nyki Kish away from the altercation that led to the death of the deceased, showing up only when the matter had already begun. This didn’t stop the judge from selecting a fact or two from each witness’s testimony to coble together his rationale to convict Nyki of murder. To recap the case a bit, Ross Hammond and his associate George Dranichak were leaving a bar in Toronto when they were approached by a woman name Faith Watts who asked them for money. The two men responded to her with insults and a fight ensued. Other people got involved and Hammond ended up being stabbed and died soon thereafter. The deceased’s companion identified the woman requesting money as Faith Watts, but this didn’t stop the judge from substituting his own judgment and concluding that this woman was instead Nyki Kish. (Nyki Kish was in the area celebrating her 21st birthday with her boyfriend on the night in question.) The judge concluded that Nyki had been the one that stabbed Ross Hammond, despite overwhelming evidence that it was not her.

The case was decided under considerable public pressure. The media (encouraged by the police) sensationalized the case and mischaracterized Nyki as a “panhandler” and the deceased as a respectable businessman who was without fault in the incident. As is often the case, the case reflects the importance a criminal justice system puts on the relative worth of each human life. Nyki’s life was not valued as much (by the media) because she was falsely portrayed as a street person. In reality, she was and is an artist and singer. She often associated with a number of Toronto residents from various backgrounds. The conviction has been upheld on appeal, and Nyki Kish remains in the Grand Valley Prison in Kitchener, Ontario. For more information on her conviction see FreeNyki.org,