The convictions of two Melfort-area lovers for conspiring to murder their spouses have been set aside, and a new trial has been ordered.
Curtis Vey and Angela Nicholson were convicted in 2016 after a Prince Albert jury found they conspired to murder their spouses, Jim Taylor and Brigitte Vey. Both Vey and Nicholson were sentenced to three years in custody. After a lengthy process, however, Saskatchewan’s Court of Appeal set aside the lovers’ convictions due to two errors on the part of the trial judge.
In the court’s Aug. 8 decision, Justice Georgina Jackson said the errors came when Chief Justice Martel Popescul was issuing his instructions to the jury, before the jury retired to consider its verdict. The first error, she wrote, came when the trial judge’s jury instructions failed to properly acknowledge arguments by the defence that Vey knew he was being recorded by his wife and merely pretended to participate in the conspiracy.
“In my respectful view,” Jackson wrote, “the trial judge did not adequately charge the jury with respect to the appellants’ defence regarding a genuine intention to carry out the common purpose. This grounds of appeal merits a new trial.”
The second error the Court of Appeal found in the case was the trial judge’s failure to properly explain the complex relationship between “proof by circumstantial evidence” and “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” In the court’s decision, Jackson said the jury should have received special instructions regarding the circumstantial evidence in the case.
“There is a special concern inherent in circumstantial evidence in a case, such as this, that the jury may unconsciously ‘fill in the blanks,’” Jackson wrote. “I find the trial judge failed to caution the jury on how to infer guilt and the reasonable doubt instruction.”