A man serving a life sentence for a deadly sword attack in a Yellowknife apartment has failed to get his second-degree murder and aggravated assault convictions overturned.
Denecho King was convicted of murdering one man and leaving another clinging to life in what appeared to be a random attack at the Sunridge Place apartments in the early morning hours of Dec. 14, 2014. King, now 27, was sentenced in November 2018 to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 12 years.
King was tried by Justice Andrew Mahar. In his appeal, King argued that some of the evidence at his trial should not have been allowed. He also said the judge relied too much on the testimony of an expert who talked about King's DNA being found on the handles of two decorative Japanese-style swords used in the bloody attack.
King argued Mahar should not have allowed testimony about him getting angry and attacking a woman in the back of a cab and, at another point, punching a door.
In a written decision released July 6, the appeal court judges noted that Mahar said in his verdict he was not placing a lot of weight on that evidence. Mahar said he was only considering those events as part of the narrative of that night.
King's lawyer argued during the trial that the DNA found on the swords was transferred there by the victims themselves, John Wifladt, who was killed, and Colin Digness.
Defence lawyer Jay Bran said the two men touched banisters and other surfaces in the apartment building that King, who had cut his hand when he punched the door, had touched. Bran theorized the two victims — who were best friends — then got into a drunken argument and attacked each other with the swords.
But in their decision, the appeal court judges said the expert testified that King's DNA was found in such quantities on the handles of two of the swords that it was highly unlikely that it was transferred to the handles by someone other than King.
There was only one witness to the attack: Digness, the surviving victim. He testified he has no memory of it, having blacked out earlier due to excessive drinking. King was caught on surveillance video entering the apartment building where the attack occurred roughly 30 minutes before it. He was also seen walking downtown shortly after.
Another video showed him making slashing motions to an acquaintance who was the night clerk at a downtown hotel. The acquaintance said King told him of defending himself against two men who tried to attack him.
Another person he spoke to that night testified King told him he killed two men. In his appeal, King also argued the judge gave too much weight to that man's testimony, considering the man rated himself a nine out of 10 on the scale of intoxication. The appeal court judges said Justice Mahar noted the man's intoxication in his decision and admitted he had some doubt about the reliability of the man's memory.
The appeal judges said even if they had excluded all of the evidence King wanted excluded, they still would not have overturned the guilty verdicts.