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Supreme Court restores Leinen conviction

A second trial will not be held for a Calgary man convicted of second-degree murder after mowing down an Olds College student with his truck outside a bar in 2010.

The Supreme Court of Canada restored the conviction of Jeffrey Leinen that had been overturned by the Alberta Court of Appeals last August. A new trial was ordered, but was put on hold, when the Alberta Crown took the case to the Supreme Court.

A jury found Leinen guilty of second-degree murder for running over Nicholas Baier, 18, outside the Texas Mickey bar in Olds. Baier was standing outside the bar with a group of others when Leinen, then 24 years old, gunned his pickup truck into the crowd.

Baier was killed and a 19-year-old man, Dan Scocdopole, was seriously injured. Baier, who was from the small agricultural community of Altario, around 270 km east of Red Deer, was taking agricultural management at the college.

Witnesses testified at Leinen’s trial that he had been kicked out of the bar for fighting.

Leinen was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 14 years. He was also convicted at trial of aggravated assault on Scocdopole, then 19, and received three and a half years concurrently to his life sentence. He also got a 15-year driving prohibition to start after his release.

Leinen, who had more than 40 previous Criminal Code convictions, became the first driver in Canada to be convicted of murder using a vehicle as a weapon.

In a two-to-one decision, the high court said that the judge in the original case failed to properly instruct the jury on the legal implications of the panic attack defence in reaching a verdict.

Specifically, the Alberta Court of Appeal said the judge’s instructions did not make it clear an acquittal could be considered if the jury had reasonable doubt as to the “voluntariness” of Leinen’s actions.

The defence argued he accelerated into the crowd as a panic response and did not intend to injure or kill anyone.

However, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court disagreed the original judge had erred.

“We are all of the view that the charge to the jury, read as a whole, contained no reversible error in relation to either voluntariness or intent,” says the court.

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