Cases tried by Alberta’s last Chief Justice of Supreme Court

I wish to make some comments on your article in the issue of August 25, 2010 under the headline Murder memories still fresh.

I wish to make some comments on your article in the issue of August 25, 2010 under the headline Murder memories still fresh.

As Robert Billyard has died, there is no reason why I should not make the following comments:

I defended Billyard on a charge of capital murder. He was tried for it but convicted of a lesser charge.

Capital murder meant that had he been convicted of it, he would have been sentenced to death. Parliament had at the time passed a resolution upholding the death penalty. There was, therefore, a good chance had he been convicted of capital murder, he might have been hanged.

The killing was never an issue, as apart from a confession to the police, he wrote a letter to a family member setting out the same facts and gave it to the police to mail. It did not reach its destination.

Billyard was an epileptic and his defence was epileptic automatism. Excellent evidence was given for the defence by Dr. Phillips, the Clinical Director at Ponoka Mental Institution and Dr. Moncton, Neurologist from the University of Alberta.

The Billyard case was the second capital murder case in Canada tried by a judge without a jury. At the time, Alberta was the only province where it could be done.

The first case, the “Layden” case in Edmonton was also tried, some months earlier by the same Judge, the late Mr. Justice J.VH. Milvain, appointed Chief Justice in 1969.

He was the last Chief Justice of the Trial Division of the Supreme Court of Alberta which was abolished in 1979 and replaced by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.

Herbert Fielding

Red Deer