Ap­peal Court tosses mur­der con­vic­tion

Cape Breton Post - - NEWS -

ED­MON­TON (CP) — It wasn’t ex­actly the stuff of elo­quent court­room drama.

An Al­berta man forced to con­duct his own de­fence against a charge of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der proved so in­ept that the prov­ince’s Ap­peal Court has tossed out his con­vic­tion and or­dered a new trial.

“ The haunt­ing record of the un­fold­ing nar­ra­tive and the clear dis­play of this ap­pel­lant’s be­wil­der­ment com­pels ap­pel­late in­ter­fer­ence,” said the court judg­ment, re­leased Thurs­day.

Paul White, 23, was charged with the 2005 killing of Greg Shoe­maker, 21, both from the Red Deer area. Shoe­maker had been stabbed 34 times.

Trial jus­tice Den­nis Thomas con­victed White, cit­ing ev­i­dence that the then-18-year-old had wounds con­sis­tent with a knife fight and that the vic­tim’s blood was found on White’s shower cur­tain.

But the trial was marked by re­peated de­lays that be­gan when the de­fence opened its case by call­ing White to the stand in May 2007. White tes­ti­fied that it was his girl­friend who had stabbed Shoe­maker.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter that tes­ti­mony, White’s lawyer quit, cit­ing “ir­rec­on­cil­able dif­fer­ences.”

Court ad­journed un­til July to al­low White’s new lawyer to get up to speed, then again un­til Septem­ber when the lawyer told court he in­tended to ar­gue for a mistrial. Ad­di­tional ad­journ­ments de­layed things un­til midDe­cem­ber, at which time White’s sec­ond lawyer quit the case.

Court heard other lawyers were will­ing to rep­re­sent White, but wouldn’t be avail­able for the Fe­bru­ary dates that Thomas pro­posed. Thomas re­jected a pro­posal to ad­journ un­til June 2008 and told White the trial would pro­ceed on Feb. 19, 2008, with or without coun­sel. When that day came, White rep­re­sented him­self. He called his girl­friend to the stand.

What hap­pened next had a lot more in com­mon with the TV show Judge Judy than Law and Or­der.

At one point, he asked if he could have a copy of the Crim­i­nal Code of Canada, or, as White phrased it, “the big book with all the rules in it.”

White, whose for­mal ed­u­ca­tion pretty much ended at Grade 9, also asked “What is Sec­tion 10 and 11 of the Crim­i­nal Code? I’m just cu­ri­ous ’cause I don’t know.”

The Ap­peal Court ruled that while it’s im­por­tant that cases move ahead, a 21-year-old with no crim­i­nal record fac­ing a manda­tory life sen­tence shouldn’t have been left on his own.

The court also found no ev­i­dence that White was sim­ply try­ing to game the sys­tem by caus­ing re­peated de­lays.

Al­berta Jus­tice must de­cide whether to seek leave to ap­peal to the Supreme Court of Canada or sim­ply gear up for a new trial.

White will re­main in cus­tody, but move from a fed­eral jail to a re­mand cen­tre. He may reap­ply for release on bail.

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