With the death of Randy Druken on Christmas Day, Ronald Dalton remembers their friendship and the public scrutiny both men faced for years after having their murder convictions overturned.
Druken, who was 57, had been in the public eye after his conviction in 1993 for the murder of his then-girlfriend Brenda Young. He spent six years behind jailhouse walls before being granted an appeal in 1999. Druken was later found to be wrongfully convicted.
Dalton was incarcerated during that same period. He waited eight years for a second trial that found him not guilty of murder.
The pair first met at Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. John's in 1988. Dalton was 32. Druken was 23. They later spent about five years together on the same range in a federal prison.
"We've known each other ever since. We've been through some shared experiences that weren't very pleasant," Dalton told CBC News on Monday.
"I got to know him fairly well."
In 2005, both men, along with Greg Parsons — who was wrongfully convicted in 1994 for the murder of his mother Catherine Carroll — went through a public commission of inquiry into overturned murder convictions in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Lamer concluded at the time that Druken and Parsons were the victims of overzealous prosecutors and police investigations plagued by "tunnel vision." Lamer also found the justice system had failed Dalton. Druken was awarded $2 million in compensation in 2006.
But Dalton said both he and Druken faced public scrutiny even after they were cleared. He said they both would turn heads from passersby when out in public, adding the consistency has slowed down in recent years.
"He spent five years living in my basement apartment because nobody else would rent to him," Dalton said.
"There's permanent damage done when you go through an experience like that and probably nobody exemplified it better or worse, depending on how you use the word, than Randy."
Dalton is the co-president of Innocence Canada, a non-profit organization with the mandate to identify, advocate for and exonerate individuals who have been convicted of a crime they did not commit.
He said his experiences took a toll on his relationship with his family and the same for Druken and his.
He said he's saddened by Druken's death but remembers the time they spent together after imprisonment.
"Randy attended events and gatherings with me and that organization as well," said Dalton.
"We had a couple of retreats up in the woods where it was just wrongly convicted individuals spending three or four days together in a log cabin on the lake."
Druken's funeral is being held in St. John's on Wednesday.