Triple-murderer Jason Klaus’s notice of appeal says the judge should not have allowed damning Mr. Big evidence.
“Justice Macklin erred in allowing the ‘Mr. Big’ evidence to be admitted in the trial,” wrote Klaus in his notice of appeal.
Klaus also contends a separate judge made a mistake by allowing the trial to go ahead at all.
“Justice Little erred in finding that my right to a speedy trial had not been violated,” Klaus printed in the reasons for appeal section of his notice.
He also added that his reasons include “such further grounds as my counsel may argue.”
In January, Klaus was convicted, along with accomplice Joshua Frank, of three counts of first-degree murder. Both men were sentenced earlier this month to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Justice Eric Macklin said he was convinced beyond any reasonable doubt the men plotted the murder of Klaus’s mother, father and sister and burned the family farmhouse down to destroy evidence in December 2013.
Confessions coaxed out of both men during a four-month RCMP Mr. Big sting operation in mid-2014 were central to the Crown prosecutors’ case.
Macklin addressed the Mr. Big evidence repeatedly in his written reasons for finding the men guilty.
Two confessions Klaus made to Mr. Big and another undercover police officer, and Frank’s single detailed confession to Mr. Big “met the test for threshold reliability and were admissable,” he says.
“It is important to note that no promises or inducements were made to Mr. Klaus to confess to Mr. Big his involvement in the murders.”
During their trial, both men testified that they were lying when they made their confessions to undercover police.
Mr. Big operations are carefully scrutinized by the courts in light of a 2014 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that sets the ground rules for admissibility. Assuming no police misconduct in the sting operation, the onus remains on Crown prosecutors to show confessions gathered are more reliable than prejudicial to the accused.
Interestingly, before the trial even got going last October defence lawyers for Klaus and Frank asked the judge for more time to prepare, arguing they found out only at the eleventh hour that Crown prosecutors planned to make Mr. Big evidence a key part of their case.
Macklin agreed to give defence lawyers two weeks to go through 100 hours of audio and video recordings gathered during the Mr. Big sting.
The other reason Klaus provides to back up his appeal related to an unsuccessful attempt last August by his lawyer Allan Fay to have the charges dropped on the grounds the case took too long to get to trial. Frank’s lawyers made the same argument.
Justice John Little denied the applications and the trial went ahead as planned.
The last-ditch effort to avoid trial hinged on a 2016 Supreme Court of Canada decision.
In it, the country’s highest court set a new benchmark of what is considered an unreasonable delay in court and that an accused rights to a timely trial were infringed.
Under the new framework, unreasonable delay was to be presumed if proceedings topped 18 months in provincial court or 30 months in superior court.