A man seeking bail while awaiting the possibility of a new trial had a “she is leaving me motive” to kill his common-law wife in B.C. in 1994 and his confession to an undercover officer should stand, a Crown counsel says.
Hank Reiner told a B.C. Supreme Court judge on Wednesday that Wade Skiffington was angry and jealous and feared he would lose his spouse and his young son.
Reiner said a supposed crime boss did not threaten Skiffington, whose confession about killing Wanda Martin in Richmond was recorded on a hidden video camera and shown in court.
The Newfoundland and Labrador resident is being defended by lawyers from Innocence Canada, which works to exonerate people believed to be wrongly convicted. They maintain police used a so-called Mr. Big operation to coerce a confession that was not credible.
Skiffington was found guilty of second-degree murder in 2001 and is serving a life sentence.
Last year, Innocence Canada asked the federal Justice Department to review the conviction, which is ongoing, while it helps Skiffington apply for bail in hopes the case goes to the B.C. Court of Appeal and a new trial is ordered.
Reiner said that while defence lawyer Philip Campbell argued his client would not have lied to the fictitious crime boss who used violence as an intimidation tactic, the evidence shows Skiffington is repeatedly caught lying to the head of the fake criminal gang that recruited him.
“To Mr. Big, he vacillated between saying he was innocent, he hired a hit man, to again being innocent and to finally confessing. Can anyone seriously argue that Mr. Big would have to express anger and frustration in that context?”
Reiner said Skiffington’s demeanour in the video recording should also be noted, adding he appears to be searching his memory and seems nervous.
“It is a small wonder that Mr. Campbell would like you not to consider demeanour,” Reiner told Justice Michael Tammen.
Mr. Big stings typically involve police setting up elaborate scenarios designed to extract confessions from suspects who are told trust, loyalty and honesty are prized above everything by a group that becomes a family and promises inducements.
A Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2014 involved a Newfoundland and Labrador man convicted of drowning his twin daughters after such a sting by the RCMP.
The top court ruled Nelson Hart’s confession to undercover police was inadmissible and two first-degree murder charges against him were withdrawn.
Camille Bains, The Canadian Press