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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Young farmers find a home through land-matching program

Young Agrarians links would-be farmers with landowners who have land to spare

Joanne Siderius wins 2020 Suzy Hamilton Legacy Award

The award is presented annually to a female-identified environmental activist in the West Kootenay

Trial date set in Castlegar RCMP shooting death

Constable Jason Tait has elected a jury trial.

RDCK recycling depots to join RecycleBC program

Some depots open, others close, and different materials will be accepted

B.C. records no new COVID-19 deaths for the first time in weeks

Good news comes despite 11 new test-positive cases in B.C. in the past 24 hours

Help the Nelson Star continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Black Press is now accepting donations to keep its papers operating

BC Corrections to expand list of eligible offenders for early release during pandemic

Non-violent offenders are being considered for early release through risk assessment process

Fraser Valley driver featured on ‘Highway Thru Hell’ TV show dies

Monkhouse died Sunday night of a heartattack, Jamie Davis towing confirmed

B.C. visitor centres get help with COVID-19 prevention measures

Destination B.C. gearing up for local, in-province tourism

36 soldiers test positive for COVID-19 after working in Ontario, Quebec care homes

Nearly 1,700 military members are working in long-term care homes overwhelmed by COVID-19

B.C. poison control sees spike in adults, children accidentally ingesting hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer sales and usage have gone up sharply amid COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. man with Alberta plates gets car keyed and aggressive note

Some out-of-province people are finding hostile reception due to COVID-19 worries

Most Read