Favourable ruling could open way to retrial in Mountie case

Supreme Court hears appeal of Jaw's murder conviction


The Supreme Court of Canada reserved decision Jan. 14 on Salomonie Jaw's 2004 conviction for the first-degree murder of RCMP Cst. Jurgen Seewald, already once upheld by the Nunavut Court of Appeal.

The Nunavut Court of Appeal rejected Jaw's appeal in a ruling issued this past May. Justices Earl Johnson and Jack Watson upheld the original verdict.

But Justice Peter Martin sided with the defence argument that trial judge Justice John Vertes made an error in law when he told the 2004 jury that Jaw's behaviour after the shooting could be considered proof that Jaw intended to murder Seewald.

Martin's dissenting opinion gave Jaw the automatic right to appeal to the Supreme Court.

"We argued for the Crown that the trial judge did not err in his instructions, and that if he did, it was not a serious error that would have influenced the verdict," said Crown lawyer Susanne Boucher in an email message. "We also argued that even if the error was serious, the case was so overwhelming that different jury instructions on that point would not have resulted in a different verdict."

Marvin Bloos, Jaw's lawyer, wasn't available for comment.

Seewald died in March, 2001, while responding to a domestic dispute between Jaw and his ex-common law partner Barbara Ettinger.

Jaw and Seewald became engaged in a struggle and Jaw's shotgun went off, mortally wounding the officer.

After the shot, Jaw twice threatened to commit suicide and did not check on Seewald's condition before fleeing the scene.

Jaw's appeal to the Supreme Court also argues that the jury should have allowed to consider whether Seewald provoked Jaw, or whether Seewald was not on duty at the time of the shooting.

If the Supreme Court sides with Jaw's argument, it could open the door to a new trial for Jaw.

It's not known when the Supreme Court will release its decision. Boucher said the court will release its decision when it's ready.

Jan. 14 also marked the first day of hearings for the court's newest judge, Justice Thomas Cromwell.

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