Her Majesty the Queen v. Paul Trevor Calnen

(Nova Scotia) (Criminal) (As of Right)


Criminal law - Charge to jury, Evidence - Criminal law - Charge to jury - Evidence - Post-offence conduct - Whether after-the-fact conduct evidence was capable of assisting jury in differentiating between murder and manslaughter - Whether directed verdict application should have been granted on second degree murder charge -Whether trial judge properly instructed jury in regard to after-the-fact conduct evidence - Whether jury charge was deficient in regard to circumstantial evidence generally - What, if any, finding did majority of Court of Appeal reach on issue of unreasonable verdict.


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Mr. Calnen was convicted by a jury of second degree murder in the death of his female partner, Reita Louise Jordan. He also pled guilty to two charges of indecently interfering with human remains. He denied causing Ms. Jordan’s death but admitted to burning her body and disposing of her ashes. The majority of the Crown’s evidence at trial consisted of circumstantial evidence, mainly related to Mr. Calnen’s after-the-fact conduct. Mr. Calnen appealed his murder conviction. The majority in the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and set aside the conviction. It was of the view that the trial judge failed to properly instruct the jury on the limitations as to the use of after-the-fact evidence, and that a proper application of the limitations in the use of that evidence left the Crown unable to prove the requisite intent for a conviction for murder in this case. MacDonald C.J.N.S., dissenting, would have dismissed the appeal. In his opinion, the trial judge’s charge to the jury was legally correct, and the trial judge’s handling of the respondent’s after-the-fact conduct was error free.