3 men convicted in Reno Lee murder await decision of appeal court

Three Regina men are waiting on a decision from a panel of three judges after appealing their first-degree murder convictions.

Jury 'not properly instructed on the possibility of a manslaughter verdict,' lawyer for Bronson Gordon argues

Bronson Gordon, Daniel Theodore and Andrew Bellegarde are appealing their convictions of first-degree murder in the death of Reno Lee. (Micki Cowan/CBC)

Three Regina men are waiting on a decision from a panel of three judges after appealing their first-degree murder convictions. 

Andrew Bellegarde, Daniel Theodore and Bronson Gordon all received life sentences in 2018 with no eligibility of parole for 25 years for the 2015 shooting and dismemberment of Reno Lee, whose remains were found buried on Starblanket First Nation. 

All appealed their convictions. 

Justices Robert Leurer, Jerome Tholl and Jeffery Kalmakoff reserved their decision in the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal hearing Tuesday afternoon, which was held by video conference.

Gordon's lawyer was the last to speak at the two-day appeal. On Tuesday, Christopher Funt argued that the trial judge, Justice Catherine Dawson, wasn't clear enough when she laid out her charge to the jury. 

He complained that her summary of the evidence was both unhelpful and unbalanced.

"The jury was not properly instructed on the possibility of a manslaughter verdict," said Funt.

The charge to the jury asked them to consider whether Gordon shot Lee, if the shooting caused the death, if Gordon foresaw the shooting would cause death, and if his role in the murder was planned and deliberate. 

He said there was only space for a manslaughter verdict if the jury thought Gordon was party to the shooting without knowing that his co-accused intended to shoot Lee, or that it would be a fatal shooting.

Prosecutor Dean Sinclair said that Dawson didn't have a duty to specify the pathway to a manslaughter finding.

He said Gordon's legal counsel at the time suggested they find Gordon guilty of manslaughter if they believed he was party to kidnapping Lee, but didn't intend to kill him. 

During the initial trial, the court heard that Lee was taken hostage at Gordon's apartment and that Gordon was in frequent communication with the people who held Lee hostage in another Regina home and later shot him.

Court also heard that Gordon gave Bellegarde a flatscreen TV when he returned later that night from "disposing of the evidence and the body," according to Sinclair.  

"The theory of the Crown's case and the evidence strongly supported the notion that Mr. Gordon was at least one of the directing minds, if not the directing mind, of the entire operation," said Sinclair.

Reno Lee was Regina's third homicide victim of 2015. (Regina Court of Queen's Bench)

The prosecutor said the trial judge comprehensively summarized more than 900 pages of trial testimony into about 30 pages for the jury, and Gordon's own testimony was included.

"I found nothing objectionable with anything that she said," said Sinclair. 

There was no indication that the jury was confused by the charge, as Dawson was not asked to repeat herself, Sinclair said.

Gordon denied his involvement in Lee's murder when he testified in 2018.