Iqaluit man Daniel Hodgson, who was acquitted of second-degree murder last year, should not have been able to claim he acted in self-defence when he choked and killed a 23-year-old man in 2017, a Crown lawyer argued Tuesday.
The Crown is appealing Hodgson’s acquittal in the death of Bradley Winsor, who died after Hodgson put him in a chokehold at a house party in May 2017.
Nunavut Judge Susan Charlesworth acquitted Hodgson of second-degree murder on May 12, 2021. The Crown filed an appeal of that decision about a month later, on June 17, 2021.
At the appeal hearing Tuesday morning in Iqaluit, Crown lawyer Julie Laborde recounted the events of the night Winsor died.
She said there was a house party in Apex where, according to trial witnesses, Winsor began getting violent and was asked to leave.
Witnesses said after Winsor grabbed a woman at the party, Hodgson grabbed hold of Winsor.
Winsor’s elbow hit Hodgson on the head, and Hodgson put him in a chokehold.
They both fell to the ground and Hodgson held on until Winsor started turning blue.
Laborde said Charlesworth, in acquitting Hodgson, failed to recognize how dangerous a chokehold is and that Hodgson should not have been able to claim self-defence because a chokehold isn’t the equivalent to an elbow to the head.
“She conflated a chokehold with a hold of the neck,” Laborde said. “This was not a neck hold, this was not a simple grab.”
Laborde also argued the trial judge did not assess Hodgson’s intent in holding on so hard and for so long that Winsor died and suffered an internal bruise to his neck bone.
Laborde said Winsor’s poor health and use of drugs and alcohol that night doesn’t matter, as Hodgson’s goal was to hang on to the chokehold until Winsor stopped struggling.
“He held on long enough to cause someone to faint and then die,” Laborde said. “When he let go of Mr. Winsor, he was unresponsive, not breathing and he had peed himself.”
Hodgson’s lawyer, Maija Martin, said the Crown doesn’t have grounds to appeal the acquittal.
The Crown isn’t arguing that the judge made a mistake in understanding the law and the judge didn’t leave out any factors in her decision, Martin said.
Martin addressed Laborde’s argument that Hodgson used too much force, noting that during the trial Crown lawyers didn’t argue against the chokehold being used in response to an elbow to the head.
Also, she said, Hodgson’s chokehold was not only in defence of himself, but a response to everything else that had happened earlier that night, such as Winsor grabbing a woman, pushing someone else and not leaving they party when asked.
“The Crown has to disprove self-defence beyond a reasonable doubt and … that’s not a proper ground of appeal here,” Martin said.
“Other issues with respect to self-defence are not errors of law, and a Crown appeal simply is not available in those circumstances.”
Nunavut Court of Appeal justices Frederica Schutz, Dawn Pentelechuk and Edith Campbell presided over the one-day hearing and did not offer a timeline for returning their decision.
David Venn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News