Focus On

Procedure - Trial judge’s duties - Charge or directions - Evidence of witnesses - Inferences of guilt

Thursday, November 24, 2016 @ 7:00 PM  

Appeal by the accused, Oland, from a conviction for second degree murder. A judge sitting with a jury convicted the accused in connection with the fatal beating of his father in 2011. Identity was the sole issue at trial. The accused appealed on the basis the verdict was unreasonable. Alternatively, the accused submitted that the trial judge made erroneous evidentiary rulings, and/or erred in charging the jury. The accused sought an acquittal, or alternatively, a new trial.

HELD: Appeal allowed. Although the jury verdict was based on circumstantial evidence, it did not meet the threshold of unreasonableness. The verdict followed 30 hours of deliberations. Based on the totality of the evidence, admissions, and available inferences, the jury could reasonably conclude that the accused was the perpetrator. The trial judge’s evidentiary rulings regarding phone records, statements by the accused to his wife, and a forensic examination of the accused’s jacket were correct. However, the trial judge misdirected the jury regarding a post-offence statement by the accused to police. The trial judge failed to instruct the jury that a conclusion that the accused lied to police was without probative value unless other independent evidence supported a conclusion that the lie was concocted to conceal the accused’s involvement in the murder. As a result, the jury instructions on a key evidentiary component were flawed in a manner that potentially affected the verdict. The conviction was quashed and a new trial was ordered.