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

Alberni Valley Kennel Club brings back Canine Classic dog show

55th annual Dog Show weekend takes place Oct. 18-20

Take a chance on the Portal Players in Mamma Mia!

Hit musical headed to Port Alberni on Oct. 17

Culturally safe space opens at West Coast General Hospital

New amenity welcomes Indigenous cultural approach to healing

Well-known Port Alberni politician, philanthropist Gillian Trumper has died

Community remembers Trumper as generous to her community, and a groundbreaking politician

Port Alberni cancer patients get new ride to appointments

Qualicum Beach woman donates van to Freemasons’ transportation program

VIDEO: #MeToo leader launches new hashtag to mobilize U.S. voters

Tarana Burke hopes to prompt moderators to ask about sexual violence at next debate

Potent power play paces Canucks to 5-1 win over Detroit

Miller nets a pair as Vancouver wins third straight

UPDATE: British couple vacationing in Vancouver detained in U.S. after crossing border

CBP claims individuals were denied travel authorization, crossing was deliberate

After losing two baby boys, B.C. parents hope to cut through the taboo of infant death

Oct. 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in B.C.

Cheating husband sues mistress for gifted ring after wife learns about affair

The husband gave his mistress $1,000 to buy herself a ring in December 2017

B.C. massage therapist reprimanded, fined for exposing patients’ breasts

Registered massage therapist admits professional misconduct

B.C. boosts legal aid funding in new payment contract

‘Duty counsel’ service restored in some communities, David Eby says

Rugby Canada helps recovery efforts in Japan after typhoon cancels final match

Canadian players wanted to “give back in whatever small way they could”

VIDEO: Bear spies on cyclists riding by on Campbell River street

Riders seem unaware the bruin is mere feet away on the side of the road

Most Read