Convicted murderer asks Nunavut appeals judges for reduced conviction or new trial
“This makes this killing tragic, enigmatic, and horrifying. It does not make it first degree murder”
WARNING: This story contains details that some readers may find disturbing.
Jeffrey Salomonie, convicted in the brutal killing and rape of Daisy Curley in Iqaluit in 2009, has laid out his case to the Nunavut Court of Appeal in new documents filed at the Iqaluit courthouse.
Salomonie, 51, is asking appeal judges to reduce his conviction or order a new trial.
This murder was senseless chaos, but no evidence at trial pointed to a tangible motive, Salomonie’s lawyer, Scott Cowan, said in court documents.
“This makes this killing tragic, enigmatic, and horrifying. It does not make it first degree murder,” Cowan said.
Salomonie, from Cape Dorset, was convicted in 2016 of brutally beating Curley in the head with a hockey stick before sexually assaulting her.
Curley, 33 at the time, died in her Happy Valley home of blood loss caused by her head injuries. Salomonie told police in 2011 that he remembered waking up beside Curley’s lifeless body.
Chief Justice Neil Sharkey sentenced Salomonie to life in prison after a judge-alone trial in 2016.
In 2017, Salomonie lost his bid for a legal aid lawyer to mount an appeal for that conviction.
But court documents show that in August 2018 Salomonie won the right to a government-paid lawyer for his appeal.
And court documents filed in June this year lay out the grounds for that appeal.
Sharkey made mistakes in two areas of his conviction, Cowan argues in those documents.
First, Sharkey was wrong to reject Salomonie’s defence that he was too drunk to remember the violent acts. And second, Sharkey was wrong to convict Salomonie of first-degree murder.
On May 19, 2009—the night of Curley’s murder—Salomonie consumed 15 to 20 drinks and smoked marijuana twice, documents filed by Cowan said.
Sharkey accepted at trial that Salomonie was “9 or 10 out of 10 on the drunkenness spectrum at the time that he last testified to having a memory,” Cowan said.
But Sharkey found Salomonie’s testimony at trial unreliable and his memory “selective” because Salomonie remembered some events leading up to and after the violence, but not the violence itself.
“Jeffrey was drunk, to be sure. But he was certainly self-aware, and he acted knowingly when he ended the life of Daisy Curley … It would have been impossible for Jeffrey to repeatedly pummel Daisy … to the extent that he did … without knowing what he was doing was deadly,” Sharkey said in his judgment.
But Salomonie’s lawyer said there was no expert evidence connecting someone’s level of inebriation and their ability to commit violent acts.
“There was no evidence before the Chief Justice as to the effects of alcohol on a person’s body vis a vis their ability to inflict injury,” Cowan said.
Sharkey made an assumption and leap in logic in the absence of expert evidence, he added.
Sharkey’s finding that Salomonie’s drunken memory was “selective” is therefore wrong, Cowan said.
“When properly understood, [Salomonie] was saying something else: that he does not remember the time period in which he was the drunkest. This is in harmony with case law, the scientific findings supporting it and common sense.”
Similarly, Sharkey was wrong when he concluded Salomonie is guilty of first-degree murder, Cowan argued.
First-degree murder is usually understood as premediated murder.
But another type of first-degree murder is called constructive first-degree murder. That’s when a homicide occurs at the same time as some other serious violent crimes—such as sexual assault.
“Irrespective of whether a murder is planned and deliberate … murder is first-degree murder” when death occurs during a sexual assault, Canada’s Criminal Code says.
By finding Salomonie sexually assaulted Curley, Sharkey convicted Salomonie of first-degree murder.
But Salomonie’s appeal lawyer Cowan made the same argument Sharkey heard at trial: there isn’t enough evidence for a sexual assault conviction. The evidence suggests sex may have been consensual.
And a constructive first-degree murder conviction requires a “continuing domination” by the attacker over his victim that spans the two violent acts—in this case sexual assault and homicide, Cowan argued.
“There is no evidence of continuing domination. There is evidence of blackouts, a long time period of [Salomonie] and the victim being together, and consensual kissing and dancing following an invite back home to her house,” Cowan said.
Salomonie’s lawyer asked the appeal court to substitute the first-degree murder conviction with a conviction for manslaughter or second-degree murder, or to order a new trial. At his first trial, prosecutors had rejected Salomonie’s guilty plea to manslaughter.