A Nova Scotia Court of Appeal judge called convicted murderer William Sandeson’s appeal “difficult and unique” before reserving a decision on whether he will be granted a new trial.
The former medical student is appealing his June 2017 first-degree murder conviction in the death of Taylor Samson, who was killed inside Sandeson’s south-end apartment.
Evidence presented during the trial revealed Samson went to Sandeson’s apartment to sell him nine kilograms of marijuana for $40,000. That was the last place Samson was seen alive.
Samson’s body has never been found.
Sandeson is serving a life sentence with no parole eligibility for 25 years.
The 27-year-old is appealing his conviction on four grounds, which include information police received from a private defence detective, the trial judge’s decision to not grant a mistrial, the interrogation of Sandeson, and the overall conviction of first-degree murder.
Two days were been set aside for the hearing. Sandeson is asking for a new trial on the lesser charge of second-degree murder.
Evidence shows Samson’s killing was premeditated, Crown argues
One of the grounds for Sandeson’s appeal claims the conviction of first-degree murder was “unreasonable.” On Monday, Smith claimed Sandeson could have been planning a drug deal or robbery, and not a homicide.
But Crown attorney Jennifer MacLellan said evidence presented at the trial indicated otherwise.
MacLellan also pointed to evidence of blood on the gun, which revealed that Samson was shot at close range.
“The facts just don’t point to that.”
Defence was given time to address issues surrounding Webb: MacLellan
Sgt. Bruce Webb was hired as a private detective by Sandeson’s lawyers prior to the trial. During the trial, it was learned that Webb interviewed two witnesses, Justin Blades and Pookiel McCabe, who lived in the apartment next to where Samson was killed.
It was found that Blades and McCabe had changed their stories during the interview with Webb, admitting to seeing a slumped-over man in a pool of blood in Sandeson’s apartment.
Webb testified that he brought that information forward to police, fearing that if he didn’t he would be obstructing justice. On Monday, Smith said Webb “betrayed” Sandeson and that he was a traitor for tipping of police.
He also claimed that accepting that information represented a “breach of their oath of office” on the part of police.
But MacLellan says the defence was given enough time during the trial to adequately address the issue and Sandeson’s rights to a fair trial were not altered as a result.
She noted that declaring a mistrial should be a remedy of last resort.
“We don’t take trials away from juries unless we absolutely have to, especially at the seven-week mark,” she said.
Search of Sandeson’s apartment
Smith argued that police never had authorization to search Sandeson’s apartment, and that doing so was a breach of Sandeson’s privacy.
Police testified during the trial that they searched Sandeson’s apartment in the days that followed Samson’s disappearance due to exigent circumstances – meaning there was not enough time to obtain a warrant.
Det.-Const. Roger Sayer, a member of the Halifax Regional Police, testified during the trial that police feared for Samson’s safety, believing he may be alive and inside the apartment.
MacLellan argued that Sandeson was arrested on charges of kidnapping, which along with a homicide investigation, would merit exigent circumstances.
Change in jeopardy
The appeal ground of “change of jeopardy” related to the interrogation of Sandeson following his arrest.
When Sandeson was originally taken into custody in August 2015, he was arrested on charges of kidnapping, drug trafficking, and misleading police.
The defence alleged that during the interrogations, the investigation changed from kidnapping to homicide and Sandeson was not made aware of that.
In response, MacLellan said that kidnapping “is not a bloodless crime,” and the officers were going to ask Sandeson about the blood in the apartment as part of a kidnapping investigation.
Outside of court, MacLellan told reporters that it could take as long as six months for the decision of the appeal to be released.
Justice David Farrar, Justice Jamie Saunders and Justice Edward Scanlan are presiding over the mater.