Court of Appeal sets aside acquittal for Peter Khill, orders new trial

Ontario’s Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial for Peter Khill, the man found not guilty of second degree murder for killing Jon Styres, a First Nations man from Ohsweken, Ont.

“I would allow the appeal, set aside the acquittal, and order a new trial on the charge of second degree murder,” wrote Justice David Doherty in the court’s 48-page decision released Wednesday.

Khill was found not guilty following a 12-day jury trial last year.

In a statement to CBC News Michael Lacy, one of the lawyers who represented Khill at the Court of Appeal, said his client has “has consistently maintained that he was acting in self-defence and was not guilty of any crime.

“We are carefully reviewing the Court’s decision and considering next steps including an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada,” he added.

Khill, who spent several years as a part-time reservist, admitted he fired the two, close-range shotgun blasts that killed Styres from Six Nations of the Grand River, but he pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.

The Hamilton-area homewoner testified he was following his military training and fired in self-defence when he shot the man who appeared to be stealing his truck on the night of Feb. 4, 2016.

The trial was closely watched by Indigenous community leaders because it raised similar legal issues to the controversial case in Saskatchewan involving the death of Colten Boushie, an Indigenous man.

Following Khill’s acquittal Ava Hill, who was then chief of Six Nations, said the verdict shows the Canadian justice system is broken and continues to fail Indigenous communities.

As part of its appeal, the Crown asked for the controversial not guilty verdict be set aside and new trial be ordered, arguing the trial judge improperly included military training as a factor in Khill’s self defence argument — essentially casting him as a “reasonable reservist” rather than a reasonable person.

Susan Reid, the prosecutor appealing the verdict, said the key question the Crown was raising was whether Khill acted reasonably in lawful self-defence.

Reid argued the trial judge made four errors, including failing to instruct the jury that they must consider Khill’s role in the incident and in directing the jury to consider his military training as a factor when weighing the reasonableness of his actions.

Family and friends of Jon Styres hug outside court after hearing Khill was found not guilty on June 27, 2018. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

Military training is not a characteristic that should be attributed to a reasonable person, said Reid at the time, adding in her opinion Khill did not act reasonably.

“[Training] is relevant in the accused’s subjective belief and for how he behaved, but not a characteristic for a reasonable person,” she explained.

Defence lawyers Michael Lacy and Joseph Wilkinson responded for Khill, arguing nothing from the trial indicates the points from the Crown would have changed the verdict.

“The Crown here had the trial they wanted, they had the jury instructed in the manner … they wanted. And what the Crown is really complaining about is they did not get the result they wanted,” said Lacy during the hearing.

The lawyer added the reason the Crown didn’t object to including Khill’s military training is that they wanted to use it to show he didn’t act reasonably based on what he had been taught.

More to come.

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