The Supreme Court of Canada has ordered a new trial for an Ontario resident who was acquitted after shooting and killing a man from Six Nations of the Grand River in 2016.
Peter Khill, of Binbrook, Ont., was found not guilty in 2018 of second-degree murder in the death of Jon Styres.
Khill testified at trial that his training as a military reservist — he served from 2007 to 2011 — kicked in when he heard a noise outside his home in the early morning hours of Feb. 4, 2016. Peering out the window, he saw that his pickup truck lights were on and then grabbed his shotgun and loaded two shells.
Quietly stepping out of his house on a semi-rural property on the edge of Hamilton, about 30 km northeast of Six Nations, he walked out the back door in bare feet, saw a shadowy figure leaning into the front seat of his truck in the driveway and shouted: “Hey, hands up!”
He testified the man then began to rise and turn with his hands moving up to “gun-height,” which is when Khill shot him twice.
Styres, 29, a father of two, was hit in the chest. He died minutes later.
The ruling Thursday upheld an Ontario Court of Appeal decision last year that unanimously overturned Khill’s acquittal and ordered a new trial.
Khill’s appeal to the top court hinged on whether the trial judge failed to instruct the jury to weigh his “role in the incident.” The consideration is one of several Criminal Code criteria that play into determining if an act is reasonable as self-defence.
In an 8-1 decision, Justice Sheilah Martin wrote on behalf of the majority that Khill “had a central role in creating a highly risky scenario.”
“Where a person confronts a trespasser, thief or source of loud noises in a way that leaves little alternative for either party to kill or be killed, the accused’s role in the incident will be significant,” she stated.
“Without a clear direction to consider Mr. Khill’s role in the incident from beginning to end, the jury would not have known that it was a factor to be considered in assessing the reasonableness of the shooting itself.”
The judge gave no such instruction, Martin said.
Lindsay Hill, Styres’ partner and mother of their two daughters, said she was grateful for the decision.
“A new trial for Jon’s killer means new hope that Jon will get the justice he deserves. This news is bittersweet though. The last 5 and a half years have been an extremely difficult, emotional rollercoaster for my children and I,” she said in a statement.
“Indigenous people are all too familiar with the problems in the judicial system, in a time when it seems many in Canada are just starting to realize the systemic barriers that Indigenous people have faced, past and present. We await the court to set both the criminal and civil court dates.”
With files from the Canadian Press.