Judge instructs jury to be cautious of key witnesses in Halifax murder retrial

Judge instructs jury to be cautious of key witnesses in Halifax murder retrial

HALIFAX — A Nova Scotia judge cautioned a jury Wednesday against relying on the shifting evidence of key Crown witnesses in the retrial of a man accused of murdering a pizza delivery worker.

Justice Joshua Arnold made the comments in Nova Scotia Supreme Court as he instructed the jury in the second-degree murder trial of Randy Riley.

Riley is charged in the death of Chad Smith, who was killed by a single gunshot on the evening of Oct. 23, 2010.

The judge told jurors to carefully consider the truthfulness of several witnesses, including Paul Smith — no relation to the victim — who drove the accused on the day of the killing.

The judge reminded jurors that Smith has said key elements of his original story weren't true. He noted Smith claimed in a 2018 trial that Riley told him that he had been in an earlier fight with the victim, that he knew the victim worked at a pizzeria and that, "He was just going to deal with it.''

In this trial, Arnold noted, Smith said none of his original statements were true.

Similarly, the judge observed that Smith is now denying his 2018 testimony that on the night of the killing he had seen Riley with a long object in his pants, which prosecutors argued during the trial was a gun.

"There is a danger in convicting a person based on unconfirmed evidence of someone like Paul Smith, unless it is confirmed by another witness or other evidence," the judge said.

The prosecution argued in its closing statement Tuesday that some of the 2018 testimony from Smith could still be interpreted as "pieces of a puzzle," especially when supported by cellphone records that confirmed the location of some events in Smith's original story.

The defence has argued that another Crown witness, Kaitlin Fuller, wasn't telling the truth about Riley in the current trial when she testified that he threatened to kill her and her brother when they met the day after Smith was killed.

The judge reminded the jury that the trial heard that on three prior occasions, in two earlier trials, Fuller provided sworn testimony that she had not spoken to Riley after the killing.

He also noted her testimony in the current trial that she had been struggling financially before being readmitted into a witness protection program in 2021. The defence has argued that Fuller had financial motives to invent her recent story, as she wanted to re-enter witness protection after being out of the program for several years.

The judge noted the court heard evidence that since 2010, Fuller has received benefits totalling $634,000 from the program, including $270,000 in the last 15 months since being readmitted.

The jury is set to begin deliberations Thursday morning. In addition to determining if Riley is guilty of second-degree murder, they are being asked to determine if he is guilty of illegal possession of a firearm.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 4, 2023.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press