Newfoundland and Labrador's Supreme Court of Appeal has overturned a second-degree murder conviction against a man who had insisted on defending himself at trial.
A panel of judges has also ordered a new trial for David John Ryan, who is accused of killing Richard Brace in July, 2005, at Ryan's home in Carbonear.
A jury convicted Ryan of second-degree murder following a 14-week trial in 2007. Two other people, including a young offender, have already been convicted of manslaughter in the case.
In a majority decision released Friday, Justice Derek Green wrote that trial judge Kendra Goulding had expressed concerns about Ryan's defence at the time, and that she should have declared a mistrial.
Slaying had been described as 'despicable'
Ryan had been sentenced to 16 years in prison, without parole, for what Goulding described as a "despicable" and "abhorrent" act.
The appeal court also found there were delays in disclosing all the evidence to Ryan.
"A common theme running through all of the submissions on appeal is that Mr. Ryan, a man with limited formal education and representing himself, was, although he did not fully appreciate it, in the words of his counsel 'out of his depth' and could not properly conduct his own defence," Green wrote.
St. John's lawyer Bob Buckingham filed the appeal on Ryan's behalf.
Brace had been beaten several times during the course of a party fuelled by alcohol and drugs. He later died of head injuries.
Ryan had always insisted on his innocence, "I didn't touch the man," Ryan said as he was being led away from a July, 2007, sentencing.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Malcolm Rowe said he would have dismissed the appeal.