Nova Scotia

N.S. man whose aggravated assault conviction was overturned says he lost everything

It started as a trip to a birthday party. It almost ended with a conviction for aggravated assault and a five-year prison term, until John Arthur Borden was able to get that conviction overturned.

John Borden was convicted in the stabbing of another man outside a party in 2013

John Borden's assault conviction was overturned in 2017. (Pat Callaghan/CBC)

It started as a trip to a birthday party. It almost ended with a conviction for aggravated assault and a five-year prison term, until John Arthur Borden was able to get that conviction overturned.

The whole experience has left him bitter and distrustful of the Nova Scotia justice system.

"I've been mad a lot because I know exactly what happened with me in my life and what I've been through," Borden said.

He said the ordeal cost him his job, his life savings and what he described as the "perfect" life.

He wants to tell his side of the story.

Party gone wrong

It was June 28, 2013. Borden had accompanied friends to a birthday party at a home in Sunnyville, Guysborough County, that was also attended by Richard (Ricky) Borden.

At some point, the two men — who are distantly related — began arguing inside the home and Ricky Borden left.

That's where the stories change. 

According to the Crown at John Borden's 2015 jury trial, he followed Ricky Borden outside and attacked him.

According to John Borden, he was the one who was attacked when Ricky Borden came after him outside the home. The two men ended up on the ground, with the larger Ricky Borden on top, hitting John Borden.

Stabbed during altercation

The smaller Borden said he pulled out a knife, which he said had a blade about five centimetres long.

"I told him to get off me about three or four times. He didn't get off me, so I stuck it in there," said John Borden, gesturing toward his ribs. He said he put his hand around the blade, to keep the knife from going too deep.

"I didn't want to hurt him bad," he said, explaining that if he'd really hurt Ricky Borden, there would be trouble with the family.

Jury told about convictions

But it wasn't trouble with the family that would complicate things for John Borden.

At his trial, the jury was told about 10 prior convictions — offences that resulted in short jail terms, fines or probation. Jurors did not get to hear about Ricky Borden's lengthy prior record because the judge limited how much of it could be discussed.

In 2017, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal overturned John Borden's conviction, saying his trial was unfair because he had been unable to properly advance his argument of self-defence.

The court left it up to the Crown whether to try again. The Crown decided a new trial wasn't warranted because it was unlikely that John Borden, if found guilty again, would face additional time given how long he'd already been in custody.

'I lost everything'

Borden no longer lives in Guysborough, in part because he kept running into the people he clashed with that night and he doesn't want any more trouble.

He's trying to rebuild a life for himself in the Halifax area.

"I lost everything — my job, my home. I lost everything. That's OK?" he said.

"Some day, I'd like to see the system ... say, 'You know, Mr. Borden, we did take your life away from you, you did lose everything."

MORE TOP STORIES

now