Cambridge Bay triple-murderer appeals conviction

Chris Bishop challenges second-degree and attempted murder convictions


Convicted Cambridge Bay triple-murderer Chris Bishop is appealing his conviction.

The notice of appeal that Bishop’s lawyer, Scott Wheildon, filed on Oct. 7 lists four grounds of appeal, in which he says Justice John Vertes made errors that merit giving Bishop a new trial.

Vertes had ruled against lead defence lawyer Scott Cowan’s attempt to introduce evidence on the poor character of the deceased – the three men Bishop gunned down on Jan. 6, 2007, after they broke into his home intent on mayhem.

“The jury would be better to assess [Bishop’s] level of fear had they known of the level of intensity of violence they [the deceased] were capable of,” Cowan told Nunatsiaq News on Oct. 18.

On a May 27 voir dire – a discussion in court about whether to expose the jury to certain evidence – Vertes told Cowan he could not bring in witnesses from Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk to discuss the character of the men Bishop had killed.

One such witness would have been Susie Taptuna, to talk about when Keith Atatahak broke into her home after a package carrying $6,000 worth of marijuana did not arrive in Cambridge Bay.

Bishop shot Atatahak three times before Atatahak died in front of Bishop’s Kullik Road house.

At another voir dire on June 1, Vertes told Cowan he could not pursue a similar line of questioning as he cross-examined RCMP Staff Sergeant Louis Jeanvenne, commander of the Cambridge Bay detachment at the time of the murders.

Cowan wanted to ask Jeanvenne about threats Dean Costa had screamed at police while confined to a cell in the detachment over an unrelated matter.

Costa died on the steps of Bishop’s porch, his body riddled with nearly a dozen bullet wounds.

Cowan also said Vertes had admitted prejudicial evidence, such as when Brenda Ohokak testified on May 27 on the long simmering feud between Bishop and his later victims.

A week before the murders, Bishop sported a bruise on his face, showed her a photo of himself in “army gear” and said, “they’re going to pay. I don’t care who they are, they’re going to pay,” according to Ohokak’s testimony.

Ohokak said Bishop was referring to Costa and Kevin Komatsuit, the third man he later killed.

Cowan also said Vertes had not instructed jurors properly before sending them to begin their deliberations.

He said Vertes had not properly explained that if Bishop had been provoked into his shooting spree, the jury should reduce the murder charges to manslaughter.

“We feel the jury was not properly presented with proper instructions on the law and the facts,” Cowan told Nunatsiaq News.

A panel of three judges of the Nunavut Court of Appeals will hear the case and vote individually.

The judges on the Nunavut Court of Appeals are mostly from Nunavut, the NWT and Alberta, but there are a few from other jurisdictions.

If an appeal were granted it would mean a new trial.

If it fails, Bishop may then seek leave to take his appeal up to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The proceedings of voir dire hearings may not be published or broadcast until after a jury has reached a verdict.

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