Nova Scotia

Supreme Court of Canada orders new trial in 2010 Dartmouth murder

The Supreme Court of Canada has ordered a new trial for Randy Desmond Riley in the death of Donald Chad Smith on Oct. 23, 2010.

Court overturns Randy Desmond Riley's conviction for 2nd-degree murder in death of Donald Chad Smith

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Tuesday in the case of Randy Desmond Riley. (Mike dePaul/CBC)

The Supreme Court of Canada has ordered a new trial for a Nova Scotia man convicted in the death of Donald Chad Smith 10 years ago in Dartmouth, N.S.

Randy Desmond Riley was found guilty of second-degree murder by a jury in 2018 following a trial. But that conviction was overturned Tuesday in a ruling from Canada's highest court.

Jurors heard that Smith was lured to an apartment in north-end Dartmouth. He had just started a job delivering pizzas for a restaurant in that area.

Riley was one of two men accused of killing Smith. The other, Nathan Johnson, was convicted of first-degree murder in a separate trial. Johnson also testified at Riley's trial and insisted that he, Johnson, had acted alone when he killed Smith.

The content of Johnson's testimony at Riley's trial was unexpected and prompted Justice James Chipman to issue a special caution to the jury, warning it was dangerous to rely on Johnson's evidence unless it was confirmed by other evidence.

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal subsequently ruled Chipman had made no errors in his instructions, but one of  the Appeal Court judges dissented, saying he would have ordered a new trial on a charge of second-degree murder.

That split decision opened the door to an appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled in Riley's favour.

Crown's main witness

A call ordering a pizza was placed from a payphone near where the murder occurred. Witnesses at both trials reported hearing a loud blast and discovered Smith lying on the ground. He had been struck by a single blast from a sawed-off shotgun.

Much of the Crown's case at Riley's trial was based on evidence from one of his associates, Paul Smith, who was no relation to the victim.

Paul Smith told the court that on the day of the murder, he drove Riley and Johnson to another Dartmouth address. Riley went inside and emerged a short time later with what appeared to be something concealed in the leg of his pants.

Paul Smith also testified that as they drove around Dartmouth, Riley talked about settling a score with someone who had assaulted him years before.

In preparing for the appeal, Riley's lawyers discovered new information relating to Paul Smith. It included an interview conducted by a private investigator in which Smith recanted much of the incriminating testimony he gave at the trial.

He told the investigator that he did not see Riley with something concealed in his clothing and did not recall the accused talking about revenge.

Smith also disclosed that he received $18,000 from police to help cover his expenses. He had been detained as part of the murder investigation and the money was to help him and his girlfriend relocate to Edmonton. While Riley's defence lawyer at trial later said he was not told about the payment to the witness, Riley's appeal lawyer said Wednesday that it turns out the Crown did disclose the payment.

While Riley's first trial was on a charge of first-degree murder, his new trial will be on second-degree and possession of a firearm.