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Supreme Court throws out Red Deer man’s robbery convictions

Man was charged in connection with 2017 home invasion near Morningside

A Red Deer man’s robbery convictions in connection with a 2017 home invasion have been thrown out by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Supreme Court Justice Suzanne Cote delivered the ruling on Tuesday morning in Ottawa.

“A majority of the court is of the view to allow the appeal,” said Cote, who with Justice Michelle O’Bonsawin would have dismissed the appeal. Three justices allowed the appeal.

Shawn Metzger’s convictions, including two counts of robbery, breaking and entering to steal a firearm, robbery to steal a firearm were set aside and acquittals substituted, said Cote, adding reasons for the decision will be released soon.

Metzger was convicted in September 2020 for his alleged role in a home invasion robbery in Morningside near Ponoka on the night of June 23, 2017.

The trial court heard that three or four men wearing black masks and gloves and hit the victim in the head with a baseball bat and then forced him to open his home safe before he was bound and gagged. RCMP said the suspects made off with five firearms, coins, and the victim’s 1995 maroon Dodge Ram pickup.

In written arguments filed with the Supreme Court by Metzger’s Calgary lawyer, Jennifer Ruttan, says the key issues at trial were identity and possession of a stolen truck.

Metzger was not present during the robbery, nor was he identified as being involved by the occupants of the home. As well, no stolen property was found in his possession by police, she argues.

Ruttan said evidence the Crown relied on was DNA from Metzger found on a cigarette in the stolen truck, which was found parked outside a bar in Red Deer 11 hours later.

One of the victims testified that he may have heard the name Metzger uttered during the robbery “but was uncertain whether it was a true memory or false memory due to childhood trauma.”

Metzger, 27 at the time, and another man were arrested in connection with the incident in September 2019 and each charged with more than two dozen offences, including: two counts each of pointing a firearm, assault with a weapon and forcible confinement plus robbery and possession of a dangerous weapon.

Metzger was later convicted, although a number of charges, including unlawful confinement and theft were stayed by the Crown prosecutor.

Metzger appealed to the Alberta Court of Appeal on the grounds of an unreasonable verdict, misapprehension of the evidence and other issues. The conviction was upheld on a majority decision by the three-judge panel.

Ruttan argues the majority appeal court justices erred.

“The majority’s finding the verdicts were not unreasonable relied on the lower court’s impermissible speculation, improper shifting of the burden onto Mr. Metzger to explain how the cigarette butt got into the truck, and impermissible application of the doctrine of recent possession,” says Ruttan in her arguments.

The filing concludes: “Mr. Metzger’s convictions are unreasonable and require appellate intervention. They were based on two weak pieces of circumstantial evidence; one of tenuous connection and the other of seriously suspect reliability.

“The prosecution’s case, replete with frailties and gaps, could not support the inferences necessary to prove identity and possession beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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