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

Police name second suspect, lay kidnapping and attempted murder charges in connection with Rudy Johnson Bridge incidents

Drynock is considered dangerous, do not approach him and call the local RCMP detachment immediately

Skeena-Bulkley Valley candidates react to finding Trudeau broke ethics law

The election campaign is heating up before the writ has even dropped

Links probable between homicide, missing persons investigation in Williams Lake

Rich ‘Savage’ Duncan the victim of Aug. 6 homicide

Heiltsuk challenges feds decision to award $67M contract to east coast towing company

Heiltsuk Horizon challenges decision to award emergency ship towing contract to Irving company

Jim Pattison takeover offer ‘non-binding,’ Canfor cautions investors

B.C. billionaire already big shareholder in forest industry

QUIZ: How much do you remember about Woodstock?

Weekend music festival in Bethel, New York, was held 50 years ago

‘It’s just the freedom:’ Paralyzed Broncos player pursuing life on the water

The former Humboldt Broncos goaltender, who started in the net when he was nine, was paralyzed last year

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

It’s snow joke: Up to 30 cm of snow expected to fall in northeastern B.C.

Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson to be hit with August snowstorm, according to Environment Canada

‘I’m just absolutely disgusted’: Husband furious after B.C. Mountie’s killer gets day parole

Kenneth Fenton was sentenced to prison after he fatally struck Const. Sarah Beckett’s cruiser

Sea-to-Sky Gondola in B.C. likely out of commission until 2020

Sea to Sky Gondola carries between 1,500 and 3,000 people every day during the summer season

Helicopter-riding dog Mr. Bentley now featured on cans of new B.C.-made beer

Partial proceeds from every pack go to Children’s Wish

PHOTOS: Weapons seized at Portland right-wing rally, counterprotests

Not all who gathered Saturday were with right-wing groups or antifa

Discussion on grief and loss between Stephen Colbert, Anderson Cooper goes viral

The exchange includes emotional question from Cooper, and outlook on grief as a child

Most Read