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Supreme Court orders new trial in shooting death of Six Nations man

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OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada has ordered a new trial for a Hamilton-area man who was acquitted after shooting and killing a man from Six Nations of the Grand River in 2016.

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Peter Khill, of Binbrook, Ont., was found not guilty in 2018 of second-degree murder in the death of 29-year-old Jon Styres.

Khill testified at trial that his training as a military reservist — he served from 2007 to 2011 with Brantford’s 56th Field Regiment — kicked in when he heard a noise outside his home in the early morning hours of Feb. 4, 2016. Peering out the window, he saw that his pickup truck lights were on and then grabbed his shotgun and loaded two shells.

Quietly stepping out of his house on a semi-rural property on the edge of Hamilton, he walked out the back door in bare feet, saw a shadowy figure leaning into the front seat of his truck in the driveway and shouted: “Hey, hands up!”

He testified the man then began to rise and turn with his hands moving up to “gun-height,” which is when Khill, who was 26 at the time, shot him twice.

Styres was hit in the chest. He died minutes later.

The ruling Thursday upheld an Ontario Court of Appeal decision last year that unanimously overturned Khill’s acquittal and ordered a new trial.

Khill’s appeal to the top court hinged on whether the trial judge failed to instruct the jury to weigh his “role in the incident.” The consideration is one of several Criminal Code criteria that play into determining if an act is reasonable as self-defence.

In an 8-1 decision, Justice Sheilah Martin wrote on behalf of the majority that Khill “had a central role in creating a highly risky scenario.”

“Where a person confronts a trespasser, thief or source of loud noises in a way that leaves little alternative for either party to kill or be killed, the accused’s role in the incident will be significant,” she stated.

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“Without a clear direction to consider Mr. Khill’s role in the incident from beginning to end, the jury would not have known that it was a factor to be considered in assessing the reasonableness of the shooting itself.”

The judge gave no such instruction, Martin said.

Debbie Hill, Styres’s mother, told CBC the family had been “waiting and waiting” for a decision from Canada’s highest court.

His aunt, Rhonda Johns, agreed it was a long wait, but said the family was encouraged by the outcome.

“I’m relieved and I’m glad to hear that we’re going into trial,” she said. “Hopefully we have justice for Jonathan once this is all over and for others who may be in the same situation.”

Johns said she believes the Supreme Court’s decision shows Khill could have called 911, rather than confronting Styres with a shotgun, a suggestion the Crown raised during the initial trial.

She added that first trial was hard for the family, but they’re prepared to go through it again.

“This time we’re stronger.”

Khill is a graduate of Waterford District High School.

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