Last week, the Ontario Attorney General declared its intent to appeal the not guilty verdict delivered last month that acquitted Peter Khill from second-degree murder charges for the death of Jon Styres. Styres, an Indigenous man, was allegedly stealing Khill’s truck when Khill claims he acted in self-defense in order to protect himself and his property, shooting and killing Styres. In the Notice of Appeal, the Crown contends that legal errors were made by the judge during the trial, including failing to properly instruct the jury on self-defence, and permitting an unqualified expert witness to testify for the defence about the potential impacts of Khill’s military training on his decision.
Since Khill’s acquittal, Indigenous leaders have been calling on the government to appeal the verdict, and have argued that the decision shows that “Canada’s justice system is broken and continues to fail Indigenous communities.” Unlike in the recent and controversial trial of Gerald Stanley, jurors in Khill’s trial were screened for racial bias, through asking each juror “whether the fact the accused was white and the victim Indigenous would affect how they viewed evidence.” This test eliminated three potential jurors, but some contest that simply asking potential jurors if they are racially biased is insufficient for “ensur[ing] Indigenous Canadians will be treated fairly.”
Although the grounds for the appeal do not discuss potential racial bias, news of the Crown’s appeal has been met with positive responses from Jon Styres’ family, as well as the broader Indigenous community. Barb General, the director of the Six Nations Justice Department, explained that the initial verdict “has left people feeling like it is open season for violence on Indigenous people,” and expressed relief over the decision to appeal. Styres’ family released a statement to The Globe and Mail supporting the decision to appeal, as well as further calling on the Canadian government “to implement actions reflecting the Truth and Reconciliation Report…addressing systemic discrimination within the Canadian judicial system.”
This blog post was written by a CCLA Volunteer. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA.
(Photo attribution: Nick Youngson – http://www.nyphotographic.com/)