Brandon Phillips loses appeal of murder conviction

·2 min read
Brandon Phillips speaks with his lawyer Mark Gruchy during his sentencing hearing in St. John's in February 2018. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC - image credit)
Brandon Phillips speaks with his lawyer Mark Gruchy during his sentencing hearing in St. John's in February 2018. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC - image credit)

Brandon Phillips, a St. John's man who's been serving a federal sentence for second-degree murder, has lost his bid for a new trial.

Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal justices William Goodridge, Lois Hoegg and Deborah Fry dismissed the appeal Wednesday, concluding the jury verdict was reasonable and that the trial judge did not err in her handling of evidence provided by a key witness.

Phillips, now 33, was convicted in 2017 of shooting Larry Wellman during an armed robbery at the bar of the Captain's Quarters hotel in St. John's on the evening of Oct. 3, 2015. Wellman, a retired firefighter, was at the bar with his wife Linda McBay when the masked gunman entered the bar.

Wellman attempted to intervene and was shot. He died later in hospital.

Phillips's lawyer, Mark Gruchy, argued on appeal in March that the Crown was trying to impeach its own witness — eyewitness Shawn Deeley — when they re-examined him on the stand to clarify his location and vantage point in the bar during the shooting.

Gruchy argued Deeley's evidence was crucial and accurate, despite video evidence showing otherwise. Deeley testified that he saw the gun and a small table, which was wielded by Wellman, connect several times. That bolstered the defence's opinion that the gun went off when it connected with the table.

The video and audio surveillance at the bar captured the shooting, but it operated slower than the usual rate of one frame per second. Gruchy argued the video didn't accurately capture the entire event, including the table and gun connecting.

The panel did not accept either argument, nor did they agree that the jury was unreasonable when it concluded Phillips was guilty of second-degree murder.

On the issue of whether the Crown proved Phillips was in fact the masked gunman, the justices said, "The evidence respecting Mr. Phillips's identity was plenty."

Phillips is not eligible for parole until October 2027.

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