A man convicted and sentenced to life in prison nearly four years ago for the murder of a young Indigenous woman in Winnipeg is only now stepping forward to appeal to Manitoba’s top court for a new trial.
Kyllan Ellis, sentenced in July 2018 for the murder of Simone Sanderson, 23, in 2012 is arguing mental illness caused him to not understand his arrest and prosecution or court rules setting out timelines to appeal the outcome of his case.
Ellis, who has schizophrenia, has been held at the secure Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon since shortly after his case concluded. He believes he’s the victim of a wrongful conviction and is asking Manitoba’s Court of Appeal to set aside its routine 30-day appeal-filing window after a sentence is imposed.
“Only in the last two [now three] years of being here at RPC have I begun to receive the better of my health back and am discovering what has happened in terms of my trial process,” Ellis said in a handwritten affidavit filed with the court.
The lengthy, rambling sworn statement raises questions about police conduct toward him during their long-term investigation of Sanderson’s killing, as well as his belief he wasn’t able to meaningfully participate in his own defence by testifying.
“Everything happened so fast it was over before I knew it had started and I was sentenced,” Ellis said.
According to a summary of facts by the judge overseeing Ellis’s jury trial and sentencing, Sanderson and Ellis were unknown to each other and got into a physical altercation over a set of keys in the late hours of Aug. 26, 2012.
Sanderson was strangled, attacked with a knife, then left beneath some cardboard and leaves in a vacant lot on Main Street until her body was found a week later. She had broken bones in her neck and jaw. A knife was found nearby, covered in blood.
The judge found there was no evidence that connected Ellis’s diagnosed schizophrenia with the murder.
Twice denied legal aid funding
Ellis has also filed documents showing Legal Aid Manitoba refused his request for appeal funding in May 2019, which was upheld by the agency’s executive director in a review of the denial.
Among the reasons were that “[Ellis] is well out of time to file an appeal and has demonstrated no intention of filing an appeal.”
That intention is one of several factors the court can consider when deciding whether to allow an offender more time to appeal. There also must be a reasonable explanation for the delay and a case with arguable grounds of appeal.
Manitoba prosecutors argue Ellis’s request should be tossed out.
“His claims are unclear and none is supported by evidence beyond his own assertions,” senior Crown attorney Melissa Carlson told the court in written filings. “He has failed to establish any validity to them and his request for an extension of time should be denied.”
A hearing is scheduled for July 7 to determine whether Ellis can have the court appoint a lawyer to act on his behalf.
Ellis has also filed a letter from a social worker appealing for legal help from Innocence Canada, which takes on cases where miscarriage of justice is suspected.
The letter says that aside from being denied legal aid funding, Ellis has unsuccessfully approached several lawyers and other agencies to take on his case pro bono.