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Rafferty to appeal first-degree murder conviction in Tori Stafford case

A Facebook photo of Michael Thomas Rafferty who is charged in the death of eight-year-old Victoria Stafford.

The Canadian Press

Michael Rafferty is appealing his first-degree murder conviction in the brutal death of eight-year-old Tori Stafford.

In documents filed at the Court of Appeal in Ontario, Mr. Rafferty said the judge did not properly instruct the jury in his first-degree murder trial.

The appeal papers were filed from Kingston Penitentiary. Mr. Rafferty, 31, was sentenced in May in the 2009 abduction, rape and murder of the eight-year-old Woodstock, Ont. girl.

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To appeal a conviction, new evidence or proof of an error by the trial judge must be introduced.

Joseph Neuberger, a Toronto criminal defence lawyer, told the Globe that Mr. Rafferty has applied for a legal aid support. "If successful, then he has requested that I and my firm represent him, which we are prepared to do," Mr. Neuberger said on Thursday.

The judge in Mr. Rafferty's murder trial Thomas Heeney was criticized for excluding character evidence, a decision he later defended saying the evidence was legally inadmissible because it breached Mr. Rafferty's Charter rights.

The jury, for example, did not hear about evidence seized from Mr. Rafferty's laptop, including videos of child pornography, rape and abductions.

It is not uncommon for those sentenced to life to appeal, but Mr. Rafferty missed the 30-day deadline to appeal. He has requested an extension citing difficulties reaching legal counsel.

Mr. Rafferty was sentenced to an automatic life sentence, with little chance of parole until 25 years have elapsed. He was also sentenced to two 10-year terms for the sexual assault and the abduction, to run concurrently.

Two years ago, his then-lover Terri-Lynne McClintic also pleaded to first-degree murder and was is serving a life sentence.

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The 10-week wrenching murder trial was full of surprises. In the weeks leading up to his trial, Ms. McClintic altered her account of events, saying it was she – not Mr. Rafferty – who wielded a hammer that killed Tori.

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