Calgary

New murder trial ordered for friend of man shot 5 times in the head in 2007

A Calgary man convicted of murdering his friend will get a new trial, after the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled a police interview given by the accused to RCMP should not have gone before the jury.

Russell Tessier convicted of 1st-degree murder in 2018 in shooting death of Allan Gerald Berdahl

Allan Gerald Berdahl was shot in the head five times in 2007. In 2018, his friend Russell Tessier was convicted of murder, but this week, the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

A Calgary man convicted of murdering his friend will get a new trial, after the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled a police interview given by the accused to the RCMP should not have gone before the jury.

Russell Tessier was convicted of first-degree murder in 2018, more than a decade after the shooting death of his friend Allan Gerald Berdahl, 36. 

The province's top court sided with defence lawyer Pawel Milczarek in ruling the trial judge erred when he allowed a statement made by Tessier to RCMP to be admitted as evidence because he was never read his charter rights or told he could call a lawyer.

Berdahl's body was found on March 16, 2007, in a ditch near Carstairs. Near his body, there were tire tracks, footprints, blood spatter and two cigarette butts.

Tessier wasn't arrested and charged with first-degree murder until December 2015, when DNA from one of the butts came back as a match to the accused.

The 2018 murder trial began with the prosecutor describing the victim as "a bit of a drifter, a liar and a con artist."

Jurors heard Tessier was the last person to see Berdahl alive and that the two had fought over a shared vehicle. 

The day after the body was found, Tessier was interviewed by RCMP. At that time, police did not consider him a suspect; rather, he was there to help investigators learn more about Berdahl as the two were friends and business associates.

Tessier was not cautioned by police, meaning he was never advised of his right to a lawyer, that he had the right to stay silent and that his statements to police could be used against him.

After asking some background questions, the RCMP officer began asking questions suggesting Tessier had been involved in the murder.

Eventually, the interview ended and Tessier went home. He did not confess to shooting Berdahl.

But the next day, he contacted RCMP to tell them that Berdahl had been staying with him and that he had stored a gun in the bedroom used by his friend. Police escorted Tessier home, where they discovered the weapon was missing. 

"A new trial is required to consider whether, in the absence of a caution, Mr. Tessier made a meaningful choice to speak to the police, as that concept is properly understood," wrote the panel of appeal court judges.

A date for Tessier's second murder trial has not yet been set.

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