A lawyer for convicted killer William Sandeson has argued that a detective hired by the defence before the murder trial but who later talked to police was a “traitor” and that the judge did not address the issue fairly.
Dalhousie student Taylor Samson, 22, was killed in August 2015 in an apartment in south-end Halifax. His body has never been found.
A jury convicted Sandeson, 27, a former Dalhousie medical student, of first-degree murder following an eight-week trial that ended in June 2017.
He is appealing that conviction. A hearing in the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal got underway this morning in a Halifax courtroom with Sandeson’s lawyer Ian Smith asking for a new trial.
The CBC’s Blair Rhodes is live blogging from court:
He focused much of his arguments on the issue of retired RCMP Sgt. Bruce Webb, who worked for a private detective agency hired by Sandeson’s lawyers to help them prepare for the trial.
In the course of his work, Webb interviewed two men — Justin Blades and Pookiel McCabe — who were in the apartment across the hall from Sandeson and initially told police they didn’t see or hear anything the night Samson was killed.
But when Webb pressed them, the men changed their story. They told Webb they saw a bleeding man slumped over the kitchen table in Sandeson’s apartment.
Webb subsequently told a police officer that investigators should requestion Blades and McCabe, which they did.
It wasn’t until in the middle of the trial that Sandeson’s lawyers realized that Webb was the reason police reinterviewed Blades and McCabe.
The lawyers asked for a mistrial on the grounds that Webb’s actions breached Sandeson’s privileges as a client, but Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Josh Arnold refused.
Smith argued Arnold underestimated the seriousness of the detective’s actions and its impact on the fairness of the legal process.
He said Arnold failed to ask himself whether Canadians would be shocked to learn a member of the defence became a “state agent” in the midst of an investigation.
“The defence had a traitor of the defence team . [Sandeson] was betrayed by someone with a duty to him,” Smith told the three-member Appeal Court panel. “It was incumbent on the trial judge to consider all the factors.”
Had police sought legal advice, Smith said they likely would have been told not to accept Webb’s information. He argued it was a violation of the police’s oath of office.
Two days have been set aside for the appeal hearing.
Sandeson is currently serving a life sentence with no parole eligibility for 25 years.