A Whitehorse jury convicted Chris Cornell of eight criminal charges in October 2013. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Appeal dismissed for Yukon man with ‘fuck the police’ tattoo

Christopher Cornell was found guilty of robbing a Haines Junction store, shooting at a police truck

A Yukon man convicted of robbery and the attempted murder of a Haines Junction RCMP officer in 2013 did not have his right to a fair trial compromised because, among other things, the jury discovered he had a tattoo that reads “fuck the police,” the Court of Appeal ruled Aug. 3.

A Whitehorse jury convicted Chris Cornell of eight criminal charges in October 2013 after, according to court documents, Cornell and an accomplice robbed Madley’s General Store in Haines Junction in 2011.

During the high-speed chase that followed, Cornell fired a bullet out the back of his getaway vehicle, striking the windshield and dashboard of the pursuing police truck and seriously injuring RCMP Cpl. Kim MacKeller with shrapnel. Cornell was sentenced to 11 and a half years in jail and a 10-year probation.

Cornell and his lawyer, David Tarnow, filed an appeal, accusing the Crown of purposely excluding Indigenous people from the jury. They also claimed the trial was invalid because Cornell had not been present for an informal meeting between the Crown, defence and judge, and claiming that the jury was prejudiced after learning, during the Crown’s cross-examination of Cornell, that he had a “fuck the police” tattoo.

However, in a written reasoning filed Thursday, Justice Ian Donald dismissed the appeal, stating Cornell and Tarnow did not have proof for any of their claims. The dismissal was supported by Chief Justice Robert Bauman and Justice Bonnie Tulloch.

In a point-by-point breakdown, Donald outlined the lack of evidence for each of Tarnow and Cornell’s points, starting with the alleged exclusion of potential Indigenous jurors.

“It must be said that there is no credible evidence that the jury selection was unfair or produced an unrepresentative jury,” Donald wrote, noting that Tarnow and the junior Crown counsel for the trial both said they didn’t actually know who on the panel was Indigenous.

“Unless that is known, it is impossible to establish that the jury was unfairly constituted as to race. The point is that there is no basis for the premise that the appellant had an unfair jury,” Donald wrote, adding that Tarnow “offers impressions and suppositions without any concrete facts” and “failed to produce any cogent evidence of improper prosecutorial conduct.”

The meeting Cornell wasn’t present for was an in-chambers meeting where Tarnow complained that the Crown was challenging all potential jurors who were Indigenous. The judge listened to the complaint but did not make a ruling or give direction, nor did Tarnow “request any remedy,” and jury selection resumed after about 10 minutes.

The meeting was not a crucial part of the trial, Donald wrote, a view supported by the “very informal way in which Mr. Tarnow approached the meeting,” neither arranging for his client nor a court reporter to be present.

“Mr. Tarnow was not looking for a remedy; he was… venting his feelings and drawing attention to what could emerge as a pattern of conduct,” the ruling said.

Finally, Donald addressed the claim that the jury was biased after learning of Cornell’s tattoo, which came up during the Crown’s cross-examination of Cornell during which he was asked about his feelings towards the police.

“You don’t dislike the police in any way?” the Crown asked.

“I don’t know,” Cornell replied.

“Isn’t a more accurate sentiment about how you feel about the police is something along the lines of ‘fuck the police?’” the Crown responded.

“Why, because I have a tattoo that says ‘fuck the police?’” Cornell countered.

“I don’t know. Do you?” the Crown asked.

“Yes,” Cornell responded.

The defence moved for a mistrial, but the trial judge dismissed the application, instead telling the jury twice that they must “disregard (the tattoo) evidence entirely and not consider it further.”

The trial judge found that knowledge of Cornell’s tattoo was not “a fatal blow to the fairness of this trial,” which Donald agreed with.

“It cannot be said that no jury could put the evidence out of their minds after hearing the judge tell them twice to ignore it in the clearest of language.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

RCMPYukon courts

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two people walk up the stairs past an advance polling sign at the Canda Games Centre on April 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
April 12 is polling day: Here’s how to vote

If in doubt, electionsyukon.ca has an address-to-riding tool

Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon addressing media at a press conference on April 8. The territorial election is on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Currie Dixon and the Yukon Party platform

A closer look at the party leader and promises on the campaign trail

Yukon NDP leader Kate White, surrounded by socially distanced candidates, announces her platform in Whitehorse on March 29. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Kate White and the Yukon NDP Platform

A detailed look at the NDP platform and Kate White’s leadership campaign this election

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Sandy Silver announces the territorial election in Whitehorse. Silver is seeking a second term as premier and third term as Klondike MLA. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Getting to know Sandy Silver and the Yukon Liberal platform

Yukon Liberal Leader Sandy Silver is vying for a second term as… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks to media in Whitehorse on October 30, 2020. Hanley is now encouraging Yukon to continue following health regulations, noting it could still be some time before changes to restrictions are made. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
No active COVID cases in Yukon

Hanley highlights concerns over variants, encourages vaccinations

Most Read