Chris Bishop’s fate rests with Supreme Court of Canada
Nunavut prosecutors contest Nunavut appeal court judgment
Nunavut Crown prosecutors will ask the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn a recent appeal court decision that ordered a new trial for Chris Bishop on three second degree murder and two attempted murder charges.
Bishop, 27, was convicted in June 2010 — following a jury trial held in Iqaluit — on three counts of second degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
Those charges flowed from a blood-soaked incident in Cambridge Bay on Jan. 6, 2007, in which three people died of gunshot wounds and two were wounded.
Following those convictions, Justice John Vertes sentenced Bishop to a mandatory term of life imprisonment with no parole eligibility for at least 16 years.
In a decision issued this past Jan. 28, two of three judges sitting on the Nunavut Court of Appeal ruled that Vertes made errors in fact and law that prevented Bishop from making a full defence.
The two judges who formed the majority said Vertes should not have admitted evidence from a Cambridge Bay woman who said in court that she heard Bishop brag that he “…shot a few people before when he was living in Yellowknife.”
And they also said Vertes erred when he didn’t let the jury hear evidence about the violent character of the three dead and two wounded complainants.
But the third appeal court judge, Justice Brian O’Ferrall, said he couldn’t agree with the other two members of the appeal court panel.
O’Ferrall said in a dissenting judgment that the “only issue” for the jury was whether Bishop believed that he could preserve his life without the amount of force that he ended up using.
That means even if Vertes made a mistake, that mistake would have no impact on the jury’s thinking, O’Ferrall said.
Because one of the appeal court judges dissented, the Crown is allowed to take the appeal to the Supreme Court “as of right.”
That means the Crown doesn’t have to first seek permission from the Supreme Court to file the appeal as called for in Sec. 693. 1 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
“They didn’t have to be persuaded,” said Dan Bryant, spokesperson for Public Prosecution Office in Ottawa.
Bryant could not say when the case is likely to reach the Supreme Court for consideration.