The father of a Quebec man who was stabbed to death in an apparent case of mistaken identity is praising a decision by the province's Crown to appeal a stay of proceedings against his son's accused killers.
'This is good news. All we've been asking for from the beginning – that justice be served.' —Raphael Ellis, father of victim Raymond Ellis
Quebec Superior Court Justice Sophie Bourque put an end to a second-degree murder trial for five men last week on the basis the prosecution tried to tamper with its key witness.
The Crown announced Friday it is challenging that ruling on points of law.
"This is good news," Raphael Ellis, father of victim Raymond Ellis, said moments after getting word of the new developments.
"My reaction is a positive one because that's all we've been asking for from the beginning – that justice be served."
Quebec's director of public prosecutions said in a statement it wants the Quebec Court of Appeal to order a new trial for John Tshiamala, Ernso Theobrun, Evens Belleville, Cleveland Alexander-Scott and McClee Charles.
The government department said it is "of the opinion that the court erred in law in concluding that if it didn't halt the procedures against the accused, the integrity of the justice system would suffer because of the conduct of the Crown and there would be no other way to ensure a fair trial."
Gang colours led to mistaken identity
Ellis, 25, had gone to a nightclub with friends in October 2005 to celebrate his decision to open a clothing store.
Several street gang members were also in the club to mark the death of one of their friends.
Testimony at the trial, which began last September, indicated Ellis was wearing a jacket that matched the colour of jackets worn by a rival gang.
That allegedly set off some of the street gang members, who yelled that Ellis was the man who killed their friend.
He was set upon by a mob of men, beaten and repeatedly knifed. His friends escaped unharmed.
Five men were arrested in June 2006.
Key witness recants statements, stalls trial
The case had been proceeding smoothly until the Crown's key witness suddenly refused to testify against the defendants, even though he had implicated three of the five accused and testified against them at a preliminary hearing.
The witness recanted his statement to police, which was shown on video to the jury. The Crown asked to have him declared a hostile witness.
The Crown then asked the judge to delay the trial for a few weeks but did not say why.
The prosecution asked police to investigate the witness and to look into allegations he had been bribed.
The defence learned of the plan and accused the prosecution of trying to tamper with a witness.
The Crown acknowledged it had made mistakes and asked for a mistrial, but Bourque admonished them and ordered an indefinite stay of proceedings, setting the five men free.
Raphael Ellis said Friday the way the trial was handled was "totally unacceptable, not just to us but to the public in general."
"We cling to hope that justice will finally be served," he said. "All we wanted was for it [the trial] to do its full course . . . and the result of the trial would be what we accept."