Nova Scotia Crown seeks removal of defence lawyer before new murder trial

Donald Chad Smith was fatally shot while attempting to deliver a pizza to an apartment building in Dartmouth in 2010. Global News

HALIFAX – The Nova Scotia Crown says it will apply to have the defence lawyer removed for a Nova Scotia man who faces a new trial on a charge of second-degree murder.

Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered a new trial for Randy Riley, who was convicted in 2018 of killing 27-year-old Donald Chad Smith on Oct. 23, 2010.

Smith was found with a gunshot wound to the upper right side of his body and his red pizza delivery bag nearby.

Read more: Supreme Court orders new trial for Halifax man convicted in pizza delivery death

Crown spokeswoman Chris Hansen said prosecutor Peter Craig told a Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice Thursday that he wants Riley’s lawyer removed from the case.

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Halifax defence lawyer Trevor McGuigan represented Riley at his original trial and had been engaged to represent him in the upcoming hearing.

Hansen declined to comment on the reasons the Crown is seeking the removal of McGuigan from the case, and she said the Crown expects to seek a publication ban for proceedings set for Dec. 14.

Hansen says Riley was also scheduled to appear on Dec. 18 for a hearing to set a new trial date.

During the Nova Scotia Supreme Court trial in 2018, the Crown called a witness who admitted to pulling the trigger and who said Riley wasn’t involved, but the trial judge warned jurors against considering the evidence.

Click to play video: 'Childhood friend of Randy Desmond Riley testifies at first-degree murder trial' Childhood friend of Randy Desmond Riley testifies at first-degree murder trial
Childhood friend of Randy Desmond Riley testifies at first-degree murder trial – Mar 29, 2018

The caution is referred to in legal terminology as a “Vetrovec warning,” where a judge suggests to a jury that evidence comes from a witness who is unsavoury and disreputable.

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Riley appealed his case to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, arguing that the warning was inappropriate and damaged the defence case. A majority of the Appeal Court judges upheld his conviction, while a dissenting judge said he would have ordered a new trial.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously last month to uphold Riley’s appeal and order a new trial.

Riley has been in jail since his arrest in July 2013.

His original trial followed the Dec. 4, 2015, conviction of Nathan Johnson for first-degree murder in Smith’s death. Court heard in the original trials that the two men were together on the night of the killing.

Read more: Randy Desmond Riley to appeal second-degree murder conviction

According to the appellant’s submission to the Supreme Court, Johnson testified during Riley’s trial that he was a drug dealer and was looking to collect on a debt from Smith on the night of the murder.

Both the Crown and defence agreed in their submissions to the high court that Johnson said during cross-examination he was the one who shot the victim and Riley had nothing to do with the murder.

However, this evidence was in contrast to Johnson’s earlier testimony that he told his girlfriend Riley had been involved in the killing, the Crown noted in its submissions.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.

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