Convicted murderer's new lawyer launches appeal

The new Toronto-based lawyer for Chris Bishop, convicted in a 2007 triple homicide in Cambridge Bay, hopes an appeal will go ahead early next year.

The new lawyer of a Nunavut man convicted of murder and attempted murder hopes an appeal of the verdict will go ahead next year.

Chris Bishop, being escorted into the Iqaluit courthouse in May 2010, is appealing his murder convictions in three fatal shootings. (CBC)

Toronto attorney James Morton, who has pleaded dozens of appeals, has taken over the case of Chris Bishop, sentenced last year to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 16 years.

In January 2007, a group of men broke in to Bishop's apartment in the Western Nunavut hamlet of Cambridge Bay. He called police twice while the break-in was in progress, but officers did not arrive until well after he had shot and killed three men and injured a man and a woman.

Bishop argued at his trial that he fired his semi-automatic assault rifle in self-defence, but the jury did not agree.   

Cambridge Bay is in western Nunavut.

His new lawyer says the convictions should be thrown out and a new trial ordered. Morton said the defence lawyers at Bishop’s trial wanted to question witnesses about some of the victims’ past behavior, to try to explain why Bishop defended himself with lethal force.

The judge’s decision on that point is at the centre of the appeal, Morton said.

"Chris Bishop's defence was basically one of self-defence, and he needed to be able to tell the jury the full story about the people he says were attacking him," Morton said. "The trial judge declined that, saying that it wasn’t helpful to the jury [and] would be, and I’m a little bit oversimplifying, but basically it would be more confusing than useful."

The case will be spoken to in December, Morton said, and if the Nunavut Court of Appeal agrees to a full hearing, he hopes that would happen as early as next spring.