CALGARY — The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld a second-degree murder conviction against a man who killed a teen with a pickaxe at a house party.
Marko Miljevic was convicted by a jury more than two years ago for an attack in Calgary on Matt McKay, 17, in September 2007. Miljevic was sentenced to life in prison with no chance at parole for 10 years.
His lawyer argued the judge failed to provide jurors with a proper definition of manslaughter.
But the top court ruled in a 4-3 decision that there was no reasonable chance the jury misunderstood when the judge explained the difference between second-degree murder and manslaughter.
“The conviction was upheld — but barely,” said Noel O’Brien, who was not the trial lawyer but filed the appeal.
“It’s a 4-3 split. It’s not a ringing endorsement of what happened at the trial but . . . reveals the complications in jury trials and the legal complications that arise in jury discussions,” he said. “There’s no further appeals beyond this to allow him a new trial.”
Miljevic, who was 19 at the time, admitted he killed McKay when he hit him in the head with the pickaxe, but said he didn’t intend to kill him.
The jury had asked Justice Earl Wilson to explain the difference between manslaughter and second-degree murder, to provide examples and to give a specific definition of manslaughter. The trial judge responded to the questions but did not provide examples or a definition.
“The trial judge responded correctly to the jury’s questions. He explained that the difference between manslaughter and second-degree murder is in the accused’s mental state,” wrote Justice Thomas Cromwell on behalf of the majority.
“There is no reasonable possibility that the jury misunderstood what had to be proved for a conviction of second-degree murder or that they should find the accused guilty of manslaughter if murder was not proved.”
Justice Morris Fish, on behalf of the dissenting judges, said a new trial should have been ordered.