B.C. Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

New trial ordered in B.C. murder after ‘confusing’ jury charge

Convictions wiped for Prince George-area men in the death of 22-year-old Jordan Reno in 2012

B.C.’s highest court has set aside murder convictions and ordered a new trial for three Prince George-area men after ruling the judge’s charge to the jury was disorganized and confusing.

In a unanimous decision released Thursday, a three-member panel of the B.C. Court of Appeal erased first-degree murder convictions for Lyle Baker and Dustin Lindgren, and a second-degree conviction for Kevin Zaporoski in the death of 22-year-old Jordan Reno in June 2012.

The decision says the victim’s bound body was found wrapped in plastic inside a box on Baker’s property north of Prince George.

The Crown alleged Reno was in conflict with several people involved in the Prince George drug scene.

The three men were arrested in 2015 and found guilty in June 2017.

In ordering the new trial, the Appeal Court says the trial judge’s final instructions to the jury were “defective” for failing to provide a “clear and logical” process for it to decide a verdict.

The Appeal Court decision also says the jury was incorrectly allowed to consider certain DNA and blood evidence when deciding the intent of the suspects.

Justice David Frankel says the jury had a “formidable task” as it considered multiple forms of mostly circumstantial evidence.

“There were eleven possible verdicts amongst the three accused,” he wrote on behalf of the panel.

“It was critical that the trial judge properly instruct the jury to enable them to discharge their task.”

He says the organization of the charge failed to provide the jury with a proper framework to assess each of the accused’s alleged part in Reno’s murder. The ruling also examines the judge’s refusal to provide the jury with a written copy of the more than 100-page charge.

“Given the number of accused, the number of possible verdicts, the alternate routes to liability, and the fact that the instructions were provided only orally, it was of the utmost importance that the charge provide the jury with a clear and logical step-by-step process it could apply during its deliberations,” Frankel wrote.

“This it did not do.”

Evidence presented during the trial showed Reno had been severely beaten but forensic experts could not determine if he died of multiple blows to the head or suffocated due to the layers of plastic wrapped around his head.

The Crown presented blood and DNA evidence on clothing and on the walls of the trailer where Reno was attacked.

While Frankel agrees the spatter evidence could suggest multiple blows and an inference of intention to kill, he says DNA on clothing can’t offer the same consideration.

Several other grounds for appeal were also raised, including a concern about how quickly the oral charge was delivered. Frankel agreed with a Crown assessment that the pace was “fairly brisk,” but he ruled out further consideration because the appeal was allowed on other grounds.

A date for a new trial has not been set.

Beth Leighton, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Houston homicide suspect remanded in custody

A Houston man accused of the second degree murder of Elija Dumont… Continue reading

Bulkley Valley Credit Union named Business of the Year

Awards gala sets new attendance record

Hazelton aces their way to gold at Grade 8 girls volleyball zones

Smithers schools grab silver and bronze at Prince Rupert Middle School tournament

William Griffin arrested in Houston homicide

RCMP have now arrested William Griffin, the man wanted in connection to… Continue reading

B.C. municipality wants ALC to reconsider their decision in regard to pipeline work camp

The ALC had rejected the construction of the Coastal GasLink work camp behind the Vanderhoof airport in October

Bye bye Bei Bei: Giant panda born in U.S. zoo heads to China

Panda heads back to China as part of cooperate breeding program

B.C. to more than double sales tax on vaping products

Tax up from 7 to 20 per cent, tobacco tax up two cents

29 B.C. students in Hong Kong amid tense protests, university siege

Eight UVic and 21 UBC students still in Hong Kong

‘Midget’ no more: Sweeping division name changes coming to minor hockey in Canada

Alpha-numeric division names will be used for the 2020-2021 season and beyond

Ottawa urges CN and union to continue talks as 3,200 workers go on strike

The rail workers began their strike after failing to reach a deal by a midnight deadline

Student tells B.C. Supreme Court she wasn’t allowed to leave Indigenous smudging ceremony

Girl cross-examined Monday in Nanaimo courtroom, case continues Tuesday

Trans Mountain received $320M in government subsidies in first half 2019: report

The money included $135.8 million in direct subsidies and $183.8 million in indirect subsidies

UPDATED: Vancouver Island’s Joe gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty case

Melissa Tooshley expected in court on Thursday in same case

Nineteen boats carrying invasive mussels stopped at B.C. borders

Waters of Columbia-Shuswap still test mussel-free

Most Read