Alberta Court of Appeal denies new trial for man in murders of woman, her daughter

·2 min read

CALGARY — A man convicted of killing a woman and her daughter will not be getting a new trial.

Edward Downey, 51, was appealing two convictions of first-degree murder in the 2016 deaths of Sara Baillie and her five-year-old daughter, Taliyah Marsman, to the Alberta Court of Appeal.

A trial in 2018 heard graphic evidence of how Baillie was found dead in her Calgary home in a laundry basket in her daughter's bedroom. Baillie had duct tape wrapped around her face, neck and wrists. Three days later, the child was found dead in some bushes east of the city.

Both died of asphyxiation.

A jury found Downey guilty and he was sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 50 years. The trial judge called him a "callous and remorseless individual."

At the appeal hearing, Downey's lawyer argued that the jury heard much about her client's "bad character conduct" which ended up setting the tone for the trial.

"Escorting was alleged to be the undercurrent of Mr. Downey's life. It was highly prejudicial evidence with propensity and character that undermined trial fairness," defence lawyer Kelsey Sitar told the Appeal Court judges in January.

Sitar also said the trial judge erred in her address to the jury and should have explained how to put the evidence in context.

The Court of Appeal disagreed.

"The jury was entitled to draw its own conclusions from the evidence that was properly before it. The instructions they received were accurate and free of error," wrote Justice Patricia Rowbotham in the decision released Tuesday.

"These instructions provided adequate guidance to the jury on the permissible and impermissible uses of all the character evidence adduced at trial. The ground of appeal is dismissed."

The Crown had argued that Downey killed Baillie because he blamed her for a breakdown of his relationship with her best friend, and because Baillie had dissuaded the woman from working for Downey as an escort.

The Crown also said Downey believed Baillie's daughter was a witness who needed silencing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2021.

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Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press