Our client was approached by a friend, who forced him at gunpoint to help him rob our client’s workplace by being the getaway driver. The friend and another man entered the store while our client waited in the car. An innocent bystander was shot and killed. Our client drove away without waiting for the other two men, who were apprehended and who pled guilty to first-degree murder.
In law, a person who forms a “common intention” to commit an offence is equally guilty as the main perpetrator. At the time, the Criminal Code stated that a person who killed someone in the course of a robbery was deemed to have committed first-degree murder. Furthermore, under the Criminal Code, the defence of duress – being forced to commit an offence by threats of violence – does not apply to murder. Our client was charged with first-degree murder on the basis that he formed a common intention with the robbers to commit the robbery and that the defence of duress did not apply to the resulting homicide.
RESULT: Our client was acquitted at trial. However, the prosecution successfully appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal, who substituted a conviction. Defence counsel further appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, who restored the acquittal, in part because they were persuaded that the “common law” provided our client with a defence, even if the Criminal Code did not.