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Court rejects Indo-Canadians bid for new trials
( Feb 20 2009 )
 

Observer News Service

Ottawa

 

Four Indo-Canadians convicted of first-degree murder in gang-style shootings failed to convince the Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday that their convictions should be overturned because the judges in their cases did not properly warn their juries about evidence from unsavoury witnesses.

 

In two separate rulings, the unanimous court clarified the amount of information judges must give jurors when dealing with untrustworthy witnesses, who are often accomplices who have struck deals with the Crown.

 

The first of the two appeals dealt with Gurkirpal Singh Khela and Jodh Singh Sahota, who were convicted in the death of newlywed teacher Gurjinder Singh Sidhu outside his Delta, B.C., home in 2002.

 

The Crown alleged that Khela recruited two other men and paid them to murder Sidhu, and that Sahota assisted him in organizing and co-ordinating the event. Sidhu was wearing a bulletproof vest when he was killed and evidence at trial suggested there was some sort of a "blood feud" at play.

 

The two main witnesses at trial had serious criminal records and were members of a prison gang.

 

The Supreme Court ruled 7-0 that the judge's warning to the jury was not ideal, but that it was good enough.

 

"Although the Vetrovec caution in this case is not a model to be followed in other cases, it did convey the degree of special scrutiny to be applied in weighing the testimony of the two unsavoury witnesses," wrote Justice Morris Fish.

 

The court outlined four main elements of a proper warning, but stressed that judges must be given discretion to tailor their cautions to the circumstances of a case.

 


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