'The ruling is one step closer to final closure on the matter.'

Nunavut court rejects Jaw cop murder appeal


Salamonie Jaw will continue to serve a life sentence for murdering RCMP Cst. Jurgen Seewald with a shotgun blast in Cape Dorset in 2001.

The Nunavut Court of Appeal, on May 20, rejected Jaw's appeal, which held that Justice John Vertes, who presided over Jaw's 2004 first-degree murder trial, gave incorrect instructions to the jury.

Justices Earl Johnson and Jack Watson ruled against Jaw's appeal, while Justice Peter Martin dissented.

"We're very pleased about the ruling because it is one step closer to final closure on the matter," said Suzanne Boucher, who argued the case for the Crown. "It's very hard on the family and on the community."

In instructions to the 2004 jury, Vertes did not tell jurors they could convict Jaw of second-degree murder if they found Seewald used excessive force or was not on duty at the time of the shooting, or whether Jaw was provoked or acting in self defence.

All three judges agreed those instructions to the jury were valid.

Marvin Bloos, Jaw's lawyer, also argued that Vertes was wrong to suggest to the jury that Jaw's behaviour after the shooting could be considered proof that Jaw intended to murder Seewald.

Seewald was fatally shot in the stomach with a shotgun in March, 2001, while responding to a domestic dispute between Jaw and Barbara Ettinger, his former common-law partner.

Jaw and Seewald struggled 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.

Johnson and Watson rejected Bloos' argument, but Martin ruled it was a critical error and that Jaw should have a new trial.

"The only serious issue was whether the gun discharged ‘accidentally' in the course of an unlawful act, or intentionally. If accidentally, the verdict would be manslaughter; if intentionally, the verdict would be murder." Martin wrote.

"That the appellant fled to commit suicide without checking on the officer's condition was equally consistent with either scenario."

Bloos said he's disappointed with the decision, but said Martin's dissenting opinion gives Jaw the right to have his appeal heard in the Supreme Court of Canada. Jaw may also ask the Supreme Court to rule on the grounds of appeal the Nunavut judges agreed upon.

A Supreme Court hearing on the matter could happen as early as December. But Bloos said a hearing likely won't take place until some time in 2009.

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