The Crown is appealing the not guilty verdict for Peter Khill in the killing of Jon Styres, saying the trial judge failed to properly instruct the jury about self-defence and let an unqualified witness give opinion evidence on military training.
“I can confirm that today, the Crown filed a Notice of Appeal in the matter of R. v. Khill with the Ontario Court of Appeal,” wrote Brian Gray, spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General, in an email to CBC News on Thursday.
“As the matter is currently before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
Khill, a Hamilton-area homeowner, admitted he fired two shotgun blasts that killed Styres, who appeared to be trying to steal his truck on the night of Feb. 4, 2016. The 28-year-old pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, saying he was following his training as a former military reservist and that he fired in self-defence.
Prosecutors argued he could have stayed in his house and called 911, but a jury acquitted Khill on June 27.
The 12-day trial was held in Hamilton Superior Court. The Crown is asking for the acquittal to be set aside and for a new trial to be held.
Four grounds for appeal
Court documents lay out four grounds for the appeal:
- That Superior Court Justice Stephen Glithero erred in his instruction of self-defence by failing to instruct the jury that they must consider Khill’s role in the incident.
- That Glithero erred in his instruction on self-defence by failing to instruct the jury that they have to consider whether anyone involved in the incident used or threatened to use a weapon and by only directing the jury to consider whether the victim used a weapon.
- That Glithero erred in his instruction on self-defence by directing the jury to consider Khill’s military training as one of the factors relevant to their assessment of the reasonableness of his actions.
- That Glithero erred by allowing psychologist Dr. Laurence Miller to testify that the effect of Khill’s military training could continue be operative in his actions on the night of the shooting, even though it was a non-military situation, because Miller was not qualified to give that opinion.
Hamilton criminal lawyer Jeff Manishen defended Khill during the criminal trial and said his client is “disappointed” that “after all of the attention his case has received” he will have to retain a lawyer and respond to the Crown’s appeal.
“He believes that the trial was conducted with fairness for all concerned and without error on the part of the trial judge or the jury,” said Manishen, adding Khill wants the appeal to be heard as soon as possible.
Indigenous leaders criticized verdict
Styres was from Ohsweken, Ont., on the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve. Elected-chief Ava Hill was among those calling for an appeal and spoke with newly elected Attorney General Caroline Mulroney, asking her to challenge the not-guilty verdict, which was criticized by Indigenous leaders across the province.
Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald issued a statement describing Styres as “another victim of senseless violence” and said Indigenous people across Canada still face prejudice and racism that shakes their confidence in the justice system.
“This sort of extreme violence — shooting an unarmed man — is not acceptable in Canada,” she said. “No one should place the value of a possession over the sacred life of a human being.”