TORONTO — An Ontario couple found guilty of first-degree murder in the brutal beating of the man's teenage daughter has lost a bid to have their convictions overturned.
Fedrick and Elizabeth Gayle had each appealed their June 2013 convictions in the killing of 15-year-old Tiffany Gayle, saying the judge overseeing their trial had made mistakes with respect to certain rulings and in her instructions to the jury.
Fedrick Gayle argued, among other things, that the jury should have been given limiting instructions on how to use testimony regarding his alleged belting of another daughter, and that a baseball bat allegedly used in the attack should not have been admitted as evidence.
Elizabeth Gayle, meanwhile, said in her appeal that the jury should not have been allowed to consider her behaviour after Tiffany's death to determine her level of involvement in the crime.
A three-member panel with the Court of Appeal for Ontario rejected the couple's arguments, finding the trial judge did not err in making those decisions.
Tiffany was 14 when she and two siblings came from Jamaica to live with their father and stepmother in Brampton, Ont. Just over a year later, she was found dead in the bathtub of their home.
During the couple's trial, court heard that Tiffany was afraid to be sent back to Jamaica, like her sister Samantha had been only five weeks after their arrival, the appeal court's ruling said.
Court heard the Tiffany told her teacher and a friend about arguments at home, mostly with her stepmother, and appeared depressed in the days before her death in June 2010.
Fedrick and Elizabeth Gayle pointed the finger at each other during trial, though neither testified, court documents show.
Elizabeth Gayle told police during their investigation that her husband had killed Tiffany after learning the teen had misbehaved, the documents show.
Gayle told investigators her husband "snapped" and ordered her out of the room, the documents show. She added that before taking refuge upstairs, she saw her husband hit Tiffany with a bat.
The next morning, Gayle found Tiffany in the bathtub but couldn't tell if the girl was dead or alive, she told police, according to the appeal court ruling.
A pathologist who testified at trial found Tiffany had suffered multiple blunt force injuries all over her body, including her head, and that there was evidence consistent with two weapons being used — a baseball bat and a barbecue tool.
A broken barbecue tool was found in the kitchen area of the couple's home and a bat was found on a property formerly owned by the couple, in a locked shed to which Fedrick Gayle controlled access at the time of the crime, court documents say.
Tiffany's DNA was not on the bat, court heard, but her blood was found on her father's jeans and on her stepmother's nightgown, as well as other clothing belonging to both.
First-degree murder carries an automatic sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press