Saskatchewan

Court of Appeal orders new trial for couple accused in plot to kill one another's spouses

The convictions of Curtis Vey and Angela Nicholson have been set aside and a new trial has been ordered by Saskatchewan's highest court. They were convicted in 2016 of conspiracy to commit murder, and were each sentenced to three years.

Appeal judge found the trial judge erred in 2 ways

The convictions of Curtis Vey and Angela Nicholson have been set aside by Saskatchewan's highest court. They were convicted in 2016 of conspiracy to commit murder, and were each sentenced to three years. (Dan Zakreski/CBC)

A Saskatchewan judge has thrown out the convictions of small-town lovers who were charged with plotting to murder their spouses.

Justice Georgina Jackson's decision was released Wednesday at Saskatchewan's Court of Appeal in Regina. It said the trial judge erred in two ways to merit a new trial.

Curtis Vey, of Wakaw, and Angela Nicholson, of Melfort, were charged in 2013 with conspiring to murder their spouses.

Court heard the pair was having an affair when Vey's wife made secret audio recording of the two with an iPod. She went to the police after she heard the two discuss killing her in a house fire.

On a recording made July 1, 2013, Nicholson expressed worry that people would see the fire from the highway.

"Oh, it will go up fast. It will. It's old," Vey said to her.  

"You promise?" Nicholson said.

Nicholson then talked about about putting oil on the stove to help what was supposed to be a grease fire spread. 

Court also heard the two allegedly planned to drug Nicholson's husband and make him disappear. Both maintained they never actually intended to commit murder. 

Both were sentenced to three years behind bars in 2016 after a trial by jury.  The sentences were put on hold after they filed appeals against the verdicts.

According to Nicholson's lawyer, the two are no longer lovers. 

New trial ordered 

Jackson concluded in the 64-page decision that the "trial judge erred in two ways that merit a new trial."

The decision says the judge did not make it clear the jurors must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that both accused intended to commit murder. It also notes that, in order to have a conspiracy, at least two people must be involved.

"...it must be acknowledged that charging a jury with respect to conspiracy is a difficult task," Jackson wrote.

Nicholson's defence lawyer Ron Piche said the majority of appeal grounds focused on the charge (instructions) the judge gave to the jury for the case that he considers close to unprecedented.

Jackson found the trial judge had, in fact, made mistakes while delivering the charge.

In conversations with an undercover officer, Vey maintained that he had the murder conversation because he was frustrated by his wife's surveillance and upset his children were siding with his wife.

"He was going to teach his wife and children a lesson, but it backfired...." the decision said.

He denied ever intending to follow through with the plan.  

Piche said the appeal judge found the charge didn't properly explain that the jury could conclude the conversation was simply "vile banter."

Furthermore, Piche said "the court of appeal judge felt that the trial judge didn't adequately explain the laws as it relates to circumstantial evidence."

Either finding would have resulted in a new trial. The Crown can take the case to the Supreme Court, proceed with the new trial or drop the case.

Piche said he's hopeful the matter is over.

He said it seemed like it hadn't sunk in for Nicholson when he spoke with her Wednesday.

"She's had this cloud hanging over her for like four years now," he said, adding she served time before her sentence was put on hold as they waited for the appeal decision. 

"She's had a taste of custody, and of course for someone like Angela — who's never ever had that situation before — it's a lot more difficult."

Vey's defence lawyer Aaron Fox declined to comment on Vey's reaction, but said he was pleased with the decision.