Crown wit­ness con­fesses to mur­der dur­ing tes­ti­mony

Nathan John­son tells Hal­i­fax court­room he was the one who killed Don­ald Chad Smith in 2010, and not the man who’s on trial—Randy Des­mond Ri­ley.


Abizarre twist in a first-de­gree mur­der trial saw a Crown wit­ness take the stand, only to con­fess to the mur­der in ques­tion, say­ing the man ac­cused had noth­ing to do with the crime.

Randy Des­mond Ri­ley, 27, is charged with killing Don­ald Chad Smith in 2010 with a sawed-off shot­gun after Smith was called to a res­i­dence in his job as a pizza de­liv­ery man. Last week, the Hal­i­fax Supreme Court mur­der trial came to a stand-still and lawyers en­tered into voir dire hear­ings after Crown wit­ness Nathan John­son said dur­ing tes­ti­mony that it was he who com­mit­ted the mur­der, not Ri­ley.

Those hear­ings are under a pub­li­ca­tion ban and can’t be re­ported on.

John­son re­turned to the stand Mon­day to con­tinue his tes­ti­mony in open court, but be­fore he did judge James Chip­man in­formed the jury for the first time that John­son had al­ready been con­victed in the first-de­gree mur­der of Smith back in 2015.

Chip­man added that this shouldn’t have any bear­ing on whether they think Ri­ley is guilty of the same crime or not.

In a strange turn of events, the Crown then be­gan to cross-ex­am­ine its own wit­ness, at­tempt­ing to poke holes in his tes­ti­mony.

On the night of the mur­der, John­son told his girl­friend at the time—Kaitlin Fuller—that he was present for the crime but didn’t know it was go­ing to hap­pen and ran away to hide the gun after it was over.

In his con­ver­sa­tion that night, he put the blame solely on Ri­ley and an­other man who was present, Paul Smith.

“We were just chill­ing...and I just heard a bang, and it just hap­pened, and I was like, ‘Look at what I’m caught up in. We have to leave,’ like I was try­ing to get out of Nova Sco­tia,” John­son said he told Fuller. “I was scared I was go­ing to get caught for this.” John­son told the court he wanted to spread ru­mours that Smith and Ri­ley had com­mit­ted the mur­der so he could ex­on­er­ate him­self from the re­spon­si­bil­ity.

It wasn’t suc­cess­ful. He was charged in 2013 and con­victed two years later. John­son later tried to ap­peal the con­vic­tion, but that mo­tion was de­nied last year.

Dur­ing the de­fence’s ques­tion­ing on Mon­day, John­son said he was in shock at the time of the mur­der and rushed to spread the ru­mours.

“I was in shock,” he said. “I wasn’t plan­ning on shoot­ing him.”

Smith owed him some drug money, John­son claimed. He had called Smith that night try­ing to get the money back by rob­bing him.

John­son ex­plained to the court this week that dur­ing his own trial five years ago he was still try­ing to get away with the crime and didn’t want to ad­mit to the mur­der.

The only rea­son he has con­fessed now, he said, is be­cause the court com­pelled him to be there to tes­tify for the Crown lawyers pros­e­cut­ing Ri­ley.

“If I had a choice, I would get up right now and leave,” he said to the de­fence.

Dur­ing re­di­rect, the Crown sug­gested that John­son was try­ing to take the fall for his friend.

“If I wasn’t forced to be here I would have just let it go where it was go­ing,” he said about his de­ci­sion to come clean. “I could [not] care less. I’m just try­ing to for­get about this and move on.”

The Crown asked if it both­ered him that Ri­ley, his friend, was be­ing charged with a mur­der he wasn’t re­spon­si­ble for.

“I don’t care about Randy. Fuck was more of like a ben­e­fi­cial re­la­tion­ship, re­ally,” he said. “We were friends, but you know how there’re friends you can just use?”

After court let out for the day, Crown lawyer Melanie Perry said they weren’t ex­pect­ing John­son’s tes­ti­mony and they be­lieve he’s try­ing to cover for Ri­ley.

“It’s the Crown’s po­si­tion that Nathan John­son, at this stage, has noth­ing to lose,” she said dur­ing an in­ter­view.

The trial con­tin­ues all this week.


Crown at­tor­neys Steve De­gen and Me­lanie Perry leav­ing court on April 6.

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