A man who unsuccessfully appealed his first-degree murder conviction for his role in the 2008 slaying of Gordon Seybold to the Yukon Court of Appeal earlier this year has now filed both an application for leave to appeal and an appeal as of right to the Supreme Court of Canada.
A jury found Norman Larue guilty in 2013 for his part in Seybold’s murder, in which Larue and his then-girlfriend, Christina Asp, beat Seybold to death with a baseball bat in Seybold’s Ibex Valley cabin over a drug-related dispute. The couple then set the cabin on fire and left the scene, disposing of the bat at a rest stop. Asp was found guilty of second-degree murder in a separate trial in 2012.
Larue, who has long maintained his innocence, appealed his conviction to the Yukon Court of Appeal in 2016. The majority of the three-judge panel dismissed his appeal in a decision this June, with one judge offering a dissenting opinion and saying that she would order a new trial.
At the core of Larue’s appeal to the Yukon Court of Appeal, and now to the Supreme Court of Canada, was whether the trial judge should have allowed the Crown to enter secret recordings of Asp making incriminating statements into evidence.
Asp had made the statements during a “Mr. Big” operation, when undercover officers created a fake criminal organization they “recruited” Asp into. Asp told undercover officers about Seybold’s murder; she refused to testify at Larue’s trial, and the Crown successfully applied to have the recordings played to the jury.
Normally, the Supreme Court of Canada only hears cases that are granted leave, which are typically ones with national importance or raise serious legal questions. In his memorandum of argument filed Sept. 12, Larue’s lawyer, Vincent Larochelle, claims that hearing Larue’s case would address “two issues of national importance with far-ranging consequences on police conduct, trial procedure, and proper standard of review on criminal appeals.”
Those two issues, he argues, are of officers in Mr. Big operations testifying that the practice produces reliable and truthful confessions (which Larochelle says is “impermissible oath-helping and opinion evidence”) and of appeal judges “applying the wrong standard of review to questions of law.”
The latter happened in Larue’s case, Larochelle argues, when two Court of Appeal judges found the trial judge wrongly determined that certain pieces of evidence corroborated Asp’s statements, but, instead of allowing the appeal because of the error, also found that other evidence would have supported the statements.
Larue’s second application to the court, for an appeal as of right, does not require leave and is hinged on the fact that there was a dissenting opinion from one of the Court of Appeal judges. That appeal, based on the dissenting judge’s finding that the trial judge should not have allowed Asp’s statements into evidence, is scheduled to be heard in February.
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