Ryan David Clark v. His Majesty the King
(Saskatchewan) (Criminal) (As of Right)
Criminal law - Charge to jury - Criminal law — Charge to jury — Eyewitness evidence — Identification — In-court identification — Caution — Whether the trial judge erred in not providing an adequate jury instruction or caution alerting jurors that a witness’s testimony had limited value for the purposes of identifying the assailant who killed the victim, and that this witness’s in court identification of the appellant had no evidentiary value — Whether the trial judge erred in not providing an adequate jury instruction or caution on the problematic nature of another witness’s in-court identification of the appellant, and that it would be dangerous to attribute to this identification any degree of certainty greater than what she had communicated to police prior — Whether the majority of the Court of Appeal erred in law by concluding the instructions on eyewitness identification evidence did not give rise to reversible legal error.
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Before the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench, the appellant, Ryan David Clark, was convicted by a jury of second degree murder. The main issue at trial was the identity of the person who had beaten the deceased to death.
On appeal, Mr. Clark argued that the trial judge erred by failing to address the frailties of eyewitness evidence in his instructions to the jury, particularly with regard to in-court identification by two witnesses. He also argued that the trial judge erred by allowing other witnesses to provide bad character and post-offence conduct evidence and by failing to adequately caution the jury in relation to that testimony and that the verdict was unreasonable. A majority of the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. The jury instructions properly equipped the jury to understand its task in evaluating all of the eyewitness identification evidence, including the in-court identification. It was adequately prepared to examine the frailties of the evidence of the two particular witnesses and to determine if it would accept their testimony as credible and reliable in accordance with the law. The trial judge also did not err in regard to post-offence conduct and bad character evidence and the verdict was not unreasonable.
In dissent, Leurer J.A. would have allowed Mr. Clark’s appeal and ordered a new trial. In his view, the jury charge did not adequately equip the jurors to deal with the frailties of the in-court eyewitness identification evidence in this case.
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