Court hears Christopher Garnier's appeal of murder conviction and sentence

Justice

An appeal hearing for a Halifax man convicted of killing an off-duty police officer was heard in Nova Scotia Supreme Court Tuesday.

Christopher Garnier did not appear in court. His lawyer, Roger Burrill, appeared on his behalf.

A panel of three judges heard the appeal of Garnier’s second-degree murder conviction and sentence.

The appeal deals with complex legal issues, many of which stem from a lengthy interview between Garnier and police after he was arrested.

“There was not enough information provided to this court in respect to if the statement was admissible, the concern over the risk of false confessions,” Burrill told the judges.

During the trial, the jury was shown the lengthy video of Garnier being questioned by police. Burrill said the police that questioned Garnier used moral inducements and presented a false circumstance of urgency.

Burrill also said Garnier told the police more than 40 times that he wanted to exercise his right to silence during the interview.

“In the eight-and-a-half hour interview, there’s much more going on here than tit-for-tat,” he told the court. “There’s a beating down of the detainee’s will such that he doesn’t make a meaningful choice at the time in which he speaks to the officers.”

The Crown argued otherwise, saying Garnier’s statement was voluntary.

“For this case, if the statement is ruled to have been involuntary, then I imagine there would be an order for a new trial and the Crown would not be able to rely on that statement at that new trial,” said Crown attorney Mark Scott.

Members of Garnier’s family were in court for Tuesday’s appeal hearing, along with members of Catherine Campbell’s family.

Campbell, a 36-year-old officer with the Truro Police Service, was off-duty when she met Garnier at a bar in downtown Halifax in the early hours of Sept. 11, 2015.

During Garnier’s trial, the court heard that Campbell and Garnier went to an apartment on McCully Street and that Garnier lost control during a sexual encounter with Campbell.

The prosecution told the jury that Garnier punched and strangled Campbell before stuffing her lifeless body into a compost bin, and dumping her remains near the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge.

During his trial, Garnier repeatedly told the jury he did not remember using the large green compost bin to dispose of Campbell’s body near the bridge.

Garnier had also argued that Campbell died accidentally during rough sex that she initiated.

However, the jury rejected the defence’s arguments, and found Garnier guilty in December 2017 of second-degree murder and interfering with a dead body in Campbell’s death.

The conviction carries an automatic life sentence, but Justice Joshua Arnold decided in August 2018 that Garnier would be able to apply for parole after serving 13 and a half years -- less 699 days for time served.

In his notice of appeal, Garnier called the sentence “manifestly excessive.”

The appeal hearing wrapped up Tuesday afternoon, with the judges deciding to reserve their decision until a later date.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Natasha Pace and The Canadian Press