The three men convicted in the 2015 death and dismemberment of 34-year-old Reno Lee were back in court Monday, appealing their sentences and convictions.
The two-day hearing at the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal is being held via videoconference due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Daniel Theodore, Andrew Bellegard and Bronson Gordon were convicted of first-degree murder in 2018, after Lee’s dismembered remains were found buried on the Star Blanket First Nation, northeast of Regina.
Theodore and Bellegarde were also found guilty of an indignity to a body.
The lawyer representing Daniel Theodore, Christoper Murphy, argued that the brutal and execution-style killing of Lee was enough to inflame the emotions of the jurors and invoke biases.
He argued that the jurors likely harboured racial prejudice, given that two of the three convicted are Indigenous. He added that it’s “beyond dispute” that racism towards Indigenous peoples exists in the province and throughout Canada.
It’s because of this, Murphy argued, that both the judge and the Crown had an obligation to make sure any potential jurors were questioned on racial prejudices before being placed on the jury.
Even though Theodore is not described as Indigenous, Murphy argued that given the Crown’s theory that they worked together, there is no way to say Theodore got a fair trial if Gordon and Bellegard did not.
But the lawyer for the Crown, Dean Sinclair, said there is no evidence the jury was biased, pointing out that none of the men raised any concerns about the jurors sworn in.
Meanwhile, Bellegard’s lawyer, Brian Pfefferle, argued that the jury was not properly instructed and said the judge’s instructions were lengthy and confusing.
Pfefferle called it a “monster jury charge,” and said it was “convoluted” and “confusing,” leaving the jury to connect the dots.
In response to the argument, Sinclair said it had no merit. He said these concerns were not raised at trial and the jury had no questions regarding legal instruction.
Arguments will continue on Tuesday.
WATCH BELOW: 2018 coverage of the Reno Lee killing and dismemberment trial
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