Ron­ald Ward’s con­vic­tion on sec­ond-de­gree mur­der re­duced to man­slaugh­ter

The Goderich Signal-Star - - HISTORY -

On­tario’s high­est court has over­turned the mur­der con­vic­tion of a Wing­ham man found guilty five years ago of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der, set­ting him free.

Ron­ald Ward was con­victed in­stead of man­slaugh­ter af­ter the On­tario Court of Ap­peal ruled that there were er­rors in the judge’s in­struc­tions to the jury at the trial in the death of Scott Hayes on Feb. 12, 2010.

His life sen­tence, with no chance of parole for 12 years, was re­duced to time served or about seven years when fac­tor­ing in his pre- trial cus­tody.

Ward, 33, was con­victed by a Lon­don jury in Septem­ber 2011 af­ter his case was moved from Huron County to the Mid­dle­sex County court­house be­cause of the dam­age caused to the town square and the court­house dur­ing the 2010 Goderich tor­nado.

Af­ter Ward’s trial, Hayes’ death was con­sid­ered to be the first­mur­der in Wing­ham since the po­lice depart­ment was es­tab­lished in 1879.

With the ap­peal, the Huron County town once again has a clean slate.

Ward had­main­tained through­out the trial that the death was ac­ci­den­tal, but it was clear there was bad blood be­tweenHayes and theWard brothers overHayes’ girl­friend­whois the mother of his chil­dren.

Hayes had gone to jail for a 2006 punch-up with­Ward’s brother over the woman.

In early 2010 and just weeks af­ter Hayes was out of jail, Ward’s brother had kissed the woman while driv­ing her home from a stag-and-doe. She had been at the party with Hayes even though they were un­der a court or­der not to as­so­ci­ate with each other.

The woman con­fessed to Hayes, who then chal­lenged Ward’s brother to meet in the park­ing lot be­hind a down­town busi­ness. Ward was asked by his brother to watch his back.

The fight was on when Ward showed up in the park­ing lot with two teenaged pas­sen­gers. He could see his brother was cow­er­ing and Hayes was punch­ing.

Ward fish­tailed on the slip­pery, snow-cov­ered sur­face in the park­ing lot, straight­ened, ac­cel­er­ated, and then braked. He struck Hayes, push­ing him into the wall of the busi­ness. Hayes died of skull fractures and a torn brain stem.

Af­ter pin­ning him to the wall, Ward got out of the truck and walked over to Hayes but didn’t of­fer any as­sis­tance. He drove off with his brother and two pas­sen­gers and pre­vented one of them from call­ing 911.

He was ar­rested sev­eral days later in­Thun­der Bay.

Ward had­main­tained dur­ing the trial that the whole in­ci­dent was an ac­ci­dent. Theap­peal court said that “there­was no re­al­is­tic prospect of a not guilty ver­dict” based on that as­ser­tion.

How­ever, the judge’s in­struc­tions “did not ad­e­quately equip the jury to de­ter­mine the na­ture and ex­tent of the ap­pel­lant’s li­a­bil­ity for the death of Scott Hayes,” the court said.

The jury was sup­posed to de­cide whether the un­law­ful killing was mur­der or­manslaugh­ter.

By law, an ac­ci­dent is an un­in­tended act. The ap­peal court said Ward com­mit­ted two un­law­ful acts by as­sault­ing Hayes with the truck and by driv­ing dan­ger­ously.

The judge, the court said, erred by not ex­plain­ing what an ac­ci­dent was un­der the law.

The jury also was told that it could use af­ter- the- fact con­duct when con­sid­er­ing if the death was an ac­ci­dent. A fur­ther er­ror was made when the judge in­structed the fault el­e­ment re­quired for a mur­der con­vic­tion.

All those er­rors stopped the jury de­cid­ing if the Crown “had es­tab­lished the fault el­e­ment re­quired for con­vic­tion of sec­ond- de­gree mur­der,” the court said.

“We are sat­is­fied that, al­though the ap­pel­lant was not prop­erly con­victed of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der, he was prop­erly con­victed of man­slaugh­ter.”

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