The Manitoba Court of Appeal has rejected the appeal of the man found guilty of murder in the 2012 killing of a young man in a Salisbury House restaurant.
Devin Kingsley Hall was convicted in 2016 of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Jeffrey Lau, 23.
Hall’s lawyer, Martin Glazer, told CBC earlier this year the appeal request argued that DNA evidence and testimony from a witness who was deceased meant there were errors during the jury trial. Glazer said in January his client has always maintained his innocence.
In a decision delivered on Monday, three Appeal Court justices dismissed Hall’s appeal.
Writing for the court, Justice Christopher J. Mainella said that many of the 12 grounds argued in the appeal were “repetitive or of no merit.” He found the trial judge had efficiently and succinctly instructed the jury on how to approach the DNA evidence.
Just after 3 a.m. on Sept. 27, 2012, Lau and five friends were sitting in a restaurant booth when a shooter with his shirt pulled over his face came into the building and opened fire.
Lau was shot five times and died a short time later, while another man was shot and survived.
DNA expert finds a match
During the trial, an officer testified that a total of 19 rounds had been fired by the gunman, seven through the window from outside the restaurant, another 12 from inside.
Seventy-two exhibits were documented as part of the crime scene, including samples of clothing worn by the shooter and recovered by police shortly afterward. An RCMP expert told court she found a match to Hall’s DNA in the seven clothing samples that were adequate for such testing.
The appeal called that evidence “meaningless” because the clothing had a mixed DNA profile, but Mainella disputed some of its arguments.
“The accused went so far as to argue that it is impossible for a properly instructed jury to ever convict when there is a mixed DNA profile because one cannot tell which of the contributors may have perpetrated the crime,” Mainella wrote in the court’s decision. “This logic is faulty.”
The jury also heard videotaped police interviews with Justin Latinecz, one of the men who was at the table with Lau during the shooting. Latinecz was slain in 2013, almost to the exact day when Lau was killed the year before, so Glazer wasn’t able to cross-examine him. Glazer also argued Latinecz was intoxicated while making his statement to police.
However, Justice Mainella wrote, it was “not a situation of gross intoxication,” and found the trial judge had not erred in his decision to allow the jury to consider Latinecz’s statements.
“In conclusion, I reject the accused’s submission that the verdicts are unreasonable. Taking into account the factual matrix of the case viewed through the lens of judicial experience, the jury was entitled to conclude that the only reasonable conclusion was that the accused was the shooter,” Mainella wrote.
“I am satisfied that the verdicts were ones that a properly instructed jury, acting judicially, could reasonably have rendered.”