PEI

Joel Clow to get new trial after appealing murder conviction

P.E.I.'s Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial for an Island man convicted of second degree murder after finding the judge failed to consider all the evidence presented at trial. Joel Clow was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for at least 17 years in the death Traci Lynch in July 2015.

Clow to be transported from prison to P.E.I. Friday

Joel Lawrence Clow, after his arrest in July 2015 for the killing of Traci Lynch. (CBC)

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  • Joel Clow later pleaded guilty to manslaughter after a previous murder conviction was overturned.

WARNING: Some details of this story contain violent descriptions

P.E.I.'s Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial for an Island man convicted of second degree murder. 

"The trial judge made errors of law that render it unsafe to allow the verdict to stand," said Justice John Mitchell in a written decision on Thursday.

In 2017, after a trial in P.E.I. Supreme Court, Joel Clow was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for at least 17 years in the death of his girlfriend Traci Lynch. 

Clow appealed the conviction in November 2018. 

Court officials told CBC News Thursday afternoon that Clow will be transported from federal prison in Nova Scotia to P.E.I. on Friday and that they will determine whether he'll continue to be held in custody until his new trial.

Lynch died from strangulation and blunt force injury.

During the trial in 2017, court heard Clow and Lynch got into a violent argument, that he tied a T-shirt around her neck, dragged her face down across the road to his property, hid her body in a wheelbarrow and covered it with a tarp and other fishing gear.

Although he didn't testify at his trial, Clow did tell police investigators after his arrest that he hadn't slept for several days.

Family described Traci Lynch as 'a quiet, private person,' at Clow's sentencing hearing. (Facebook)

While he admitted he must have killed Lynch, he said he remembered little of that night because he was so intoxicated by the alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamines he'd consumed.

In his decision, Mitchell said there's no doubt that Lynch was killed in a "brutal, vicious beating she suffered at the hands of Clow" outside his home in Pleasant Grove in July 2015.

The question for the courts, he said, is whether her death was murder or manslaughter.

The difference is intent, said Mitchell, and that even if Clow was capable of killing Lynch, that doesn't mean he realized what he was doing could kill her.

Conflicting evidence

Mitchell said the trial judge — Justice Nancy Key — fell short in considering all the evidence in a number of areas.

Severe intoxication, he wrote, "can lead to an inability to foresee the consequences of one's actions much less intend them."

Court heard Clow and Lynch had been to the liquor store that night and they'd bought drugs at the home of a "known drug dealer" just hours before Lynch died.

Lab tests on Lynch's blood after her death showed a "very high" level of methamphetamines.

Key, however, did not consider Clow may have been just as high, wrote Mitchell.

RCMP found the body of Traci Lynch on the property of Joel Clow in Pleasant Grove, P.E.I. (RCMP)

"The legal error is making findings of fact without considering conflicting evidence and not dealing with all relevant evidence when forming the critical inference on the issue of intent," Mitchell said.

Key also found that Clow's efforts to conceal Lynch's body, and the fact that he bagged many of her clothes and personal items and put them in the garbage showed he felt guilty for what he'd done.

Mitchell, however, pointed out that Clow may have felt guilty because he was aware he had committed manslaughter — not necessarily murder.

Victim's fear

Several witnesses testified at the trial that Lynch was afraid of Clow and that he acted like he intended to harm her — for example by hiding with his truck in her garage, hiding in the crawl space under her house, and trying to keep Lynch from talking to a friend.

Mitchell said that may have shown Clow's hostility to Lynch, but it was a mistake for Key to consider those statements as proof of Clow's intentions to kill her that night.

Mitchell also said the judge didn't properly consider the defence argument that Clow was in a jealous rage that night, believing Lynch had been across the road with two men — and the possible impact that intoxication might have on that rage.

"Neither the public nor the accused should be left in doubt about why a verdict was reached," said Mitchell, explaining his decision to order a new trial.

No date for a new trial has been determined.

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About the Author

Sally Pitt

Producer

Sally Pitt is a producer with CBC and has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years in online, TV, radio and print. She specializes in justice issues and also works with the CBC Atlantic Investigative Unit. You can reach her at sally.pitt@cbc.ca.