VANCOUVER â€” A new trial has been ordered for a British Columbia man convicted of first-degree murder in the death of an 18-year-old woman on Halloween night in 2011.
A panel of B.C. Court of Appeal justices unanimously agreed Tuesday that two of five issues raised by for Mathew Foerster’s lawyers were enough to require a second trial.
Foerster, who is now in his 30s, was convicted nearly three years ago in the killing Taylor Van Diest, from Armstrong, B.C.
Van Diest’s family was devastated by the ruling.
“We feel that the system has failed terribly,” said Paul Albert, the brother of the victim’s mother. “All the onus of the rights are for him, there was no rights for the victim at all.”
B.C.’s high court said the original jury should have been told Foerster’s disposal of a shoelace and flashlight had no bearing on whether he was guilty of murder or manslaughter.
Crown counsel had raised the issue in court during the trial, asking that the instructions to the jury be modified with that in mind.
The judge agreed, but the modified instructions never made it into the official copy given to the jury.
The Court of Appeal also said the jury was incorrectly instructed on how it could interpret Van Diest’s last text message before her death, which said she was “being creeped” as she took a shortcut on her way to a Halloween event.
At trial, Van Diest’s boyfriend testified that the phrase was one she typically used to mean someone was looking at her in a sexual way.
However, the Court of Appeal said the judge failed to instruct the jury on how to use the evidence of the text or explain the text was a reflection of the victim’s perspective, not the accused.
The Crown referred to the text message seven times in its closing augments at trial, suggesting it was evidence that Van Diest was being menacingly stalked and Foerster intended to commit sexual assault.
The higher court said despite other evidence suggesting a sexual motive for assault, “the inappropriate submissions” regarding the text could have affected the jury’s verdict.
At trial, Foerster admitted he was responsible for the injuries to Van Diest, but contended he was only guilty of manslaughter or second-degree murder.
â€” With files from CKIZ
The Canadian Press