WARNING: This story contains graphic details. Discretion is advised.
Butcher was convicted in April 2018 after a jury found he stabbed Johnston to death on March 26, 2016.
The conviction carries an automatic life sentence, and Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Joshua Arnold ruled Butchers would be eligible for parole after serving 15 years, less 880 days for time served.
Shortly after his conviction, Butcher appealed citing several grounds, including that Arnold erred in allowing evidence of bad character, and hearsay statements of the deceased.
Butcher also claimed Arnold’s instructions to the jury were too complicated to follow, and that the period of parole ineligibility was too harsh.
In a written decision released Thursday, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.
“The particularly aggravating circumstances of Ms. Johnston’s murder were appropriately recognized by the significant period of parole ineligibility imposed on Mr. Butcher,” said Justice Anne Derrick in the decision. “The trial judge’s sentence is entitled to deference.
“I have found no basis in law or principle for interfering with it.”
Johnston, 32, was originally from Montreal and a popular yoga instructor in Halifax. At one point she was operating her own studio before it closed down about a month before her death.
Johnston’s body was found on a blood-soaked mattress in the bedroom at her home in Purcells Cove on March 26, 2016.
The same morning, Butcher called 911 and told the dispatcher he had killed his girlfriend and tried to kill himself by cutting off his hand.
During the trial, the court heard that after returning from a vacation away from Butcher, Johnston expressed a desire to end the relationship.
Within days of getting back to Halifax, Johnston went out to meet friends for the evening and Butcher wasn’t invited. The court heard that Butcher used Johnston’s computer to read Facebook and instant messages, in which she had told friends she wanted to break up with him.
Later in the evening of March 26, 2016, Butcher accessed Johnston’s computer again and learned she was at an apartment with a male friend.
He drove to the apartment, entered uninvited and tried to get Johnston to leave with him. When she declined, the court heard he waited outside the home for two hours, then re-entered to find Johnston in bed with her male friend.
Johnston eventually ended up leaving the apartment with Butcher and returned home to the apartment they had been living at in Purcells Cove.
While Johnston was sleeping, the Crown said Butcher retrieved a knife from the kitchen and stabbed her to death. He then tried to end his own life by cutting off his own hand with a mitre saw, but reconsidered, the Crown told court. He then called police.
Butcher claimed he killed Johnston in self-defence, but that claim was rejected by the 14-member jury.
In the decision, Justice Derrick noted that Johnston was rendered “particularly vulnerable” by seeking to end the relationship with Butcher and she “paid for that decision with her life.”
“It is women who are the primary victims of domestic violence, perpetrated by their male intimate partners,” the decision concludes.
“Sentencing law plays an essential role in ensuring that the gravity of intimate partner homicide, domestic violence’s ultimate expression, is not under-emphasized.”