Cowichan RCMP officer wins new trial in shooting

A new trial has been ordered in the 2009 shooting of William Gillespie by RCMP officer Const. David Pompeo.

Pompeo was convicted of aggravated assault in the case in February 2013. For shooting the unarmed Gillespie, he was sentenced to two years probation and 240 hours of community service. He was also allowed to keep his firearm.

Gillespie was stunned to hear the news Friday.

"I don’t know what to say," he stated.

"I think they should have just kept the conviction. I can’t believe they would do that to Judge [Josiah] Wood," Gillespie added, referring to the trial judge.

Pompeo filed an appeal of the conviction in February of 2013. The appeal, heard by Justice Harvey M. Groberman, Chief Justice Robert James Bauman and Justice Nicole J. Garson, concluded that Judge Wood erred in excluding the evidence of an expert witness who said the use of lethal force was in accordance with police protocols and training and so the shooting was necessary.

The appeal court also found that Judge Wood "went beyond his proper role when he made requests that evidence be tendered and when he engaged in lengthy questioning of witnesses."

"The trial judge’s interventions in the case before us were extensive and frequent," reads the written reasons submitted by Groberman. "While I do not call into question the impartiality of the judge, his active participation in the trial went well beyond the norm. Given that both the Crown and defence were well-represented by counsel, there was no need for any departure from usual adversarial practices, and the judge’s active role is, to say the least, curious.

"Given that the judge, himself, developed theories that were detrimental to the defence, and that he elicited considerable evidence that he used to support the conviction, the appearance of trial fairness was, in my opinion, compromised. "A new trial must be ordered, in any event, on the basis of the trial judge’s refusal to hear potentially important and admissible expert evidence. It is, therefore, not necessary to say more on this last issue on appeal."

Gillespie said he doesn’t think the new trial will work out in Pompeo’s favour.

"This time he’s going to definitely be found guilty," he said. "This is a bad thing for him."

However, he dreads the thought of a new trial.

"God, that would be absolutely just terrible. I couldn’t imagine. Unbelievable," Gillespie said.