Decision reserved in David Woods first-degree murder appeal
David Woods was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2014 death of his wife, Dorothy.
She had disappeared from her Saskatoon home in November, 2011. Her body was found in a culvert near Blackstrap Lake nearly two months later.
Details heard at Woods’ trial outlined Dorothy had been strangled, her body wrapped in poly, and bound with a rope.
Police were led to her body after Woods drove to the area, not knowing law enforcement had hidden a GPS tracking device on his vehicle.
Woods was sentenced to life in prison, with no chance of parole for 25 years.
The Oct. 2 appeal was presided over by a panel of three judges: Justice Peter Whitmore, Chief Justice Robert Richards and Justice Lian Schwann
David Woods’ defence attorney, James Streeton, said the original trial was “fundamentally flawed”. Among his reasonings: the jury received improper instruction, bad character evidence was admitted and Woods received poor representation.
For the areas involving improper jury instruction, Streeton argued Chief Justice Martel Popescul should not have allowed text messages from October and November, to two men Dorothy Woods was having affairs with, to be allowed as evidence.
WATCH BELOW: Coverage of David Woods’ murder trial
October texts were sent by Woods and Nov. 15 texts were sent from Dorothy’s phone. It is believed Dorothy disappeared around Nov. 12.
Streeton said while they do show Woods was angry and could have violent thoughts, they do not show that he committed murder.
Crown prosecutor Dean Sinclair countered that they show motive and help identify Woods. Wording in the October and November texts are similar, and the author of the texts from Dorothy’s phone say they were sent by “her husband”.
Sinclair also used the text messages to poke holes in Streeton’s argument that there was not enough evidence to support the first degree murder conviction. Sinclair said that the texts show Woods knew his marriage was coming to an end, and there was the potential for anger and violence.
Connected to the text messages, Streeton’s assertion that bad character evidence should not have been admissible in the trial.
In addition to the texts being used to show anger and potential violent tendencies in Woods, Streeton argued that Woods’ original attorney, Michael Nolin, should have disputed Crown arguments that his client is racist.
Sinclair said that does play into the evidence against Woods. Dorothy was kicked out of the home on Nov. 10 after Woods became aware of a second affair involving a “black man.” There is evidence that Dorothy bought the morning after pill on Nov. 11 – one day before she disappeared – and Woods testified that he found out about the pill that day too.
That also ties into Streeton’s argument that Woods had incompetent representation in Nolin. Chief Justice Robert Richards said if Woods was not properly represented it would be a “miscarriage of justice”.
A key portion of this was the lack of using a report from John Van Tassel, a court recognized expert on knots. A report Van Tassel wrote said that he could not definitively say knots used to tie up Dorothy were tied by the same person who tied pool ties at the Woods’ residence.
Sinclair countered that this is not relevant evidence. He argued Van Tassel’s report can’t prove one way or another the Woods did or did not tie the knots associated with Dorothy’s body. The report also could not provide evidence someone else tied the knots.
Streeton also put forward the argument that while evidence points to David Woods disposing of Dorothy’s body, Popescul erred in his instruction to the jury when it comes to considering post-offence conduct.
He argued that the instruction given to the jury suggests that they first draw a conclusion based post-offence conduct that Woods murdered his wife, and then use evidence to back up this conclusion. Streeton added this is the inverse of how the system is supposed to work – evidence is considered to prove that a murder took place beyond a reasonable doubt.
Streeton also pointed to no evidence of a murder weapon, blood or sign of blood being cleaned up at the Woods’ residence.
Sinclair said that Streeton was playing word games, and Popescul did provide proper instruction. He said that post-offense evidence can be used if it proves consciousness of guilt evidence, for example driving out to a site where a body was hidden.
Sinclair pointed to specific lines in the court transcript where Popescul told the jury three items the must consider with this evidence: you may consider consciousness of guilt evidence in determining a verdict, you must consider innocent applications of the conduct and they should reserve final judgement until all evidence is considered.
The panel of judges will now consider these arguments. They have reserved their decision and will provide a written ruling at a yet to be determined date. Woods remains in custody.
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