Canada’s highest court has unanimously upheld the first-degree murder conviction of a man found guilty of a January 2015 slaying near Prince George, B.C.
The Supreme Court of Canada decision released Thursday agrees with a B.C. Court of Appeal ruling last year that raised the conviction of Darren Sundman from second-degree murder to first-degree and imposed a minimum 25-year prison term before being eligible for parole.
Sundman was originally convicted and sentenced in 2018 for the murder of 24-year-old Jordan McLeod, with both men described in the high court judgment as “drug dealers with a mutual animosity.”
The lower court was told Sundman confined McLeod in a moving vehicle and when McLeod jumped out of the truck and ran, Sundman chased and shot him, before an accomplice fired the fatal shot.
The Crown appealed to B.C.’s high court after the trial judge ruled Sundman could not be convicted of first-degree murder because McLeod was no longer being held against his will when he was killed.
In his decision, concurred by the other eight Supreme Court of Canada judges, Justice Mahmud Jamal upholds Sundman’s first-degree conviction, writing that “even though (McLeod) was not physically restrained outside the truck, he continued to be coercively restrained through violence, fear, and intimidation.”
When a killing is not planned or deliberate, it becomes first-degree murder if committed at the same time as one of several “listed crimes of domination,” Jamal says.
“Parliament has treated murder committed in relation to these crimes of domination as especially serious and as warranting the exceptional punishment for first-degree murder,” the judgment says.
McLeod was still unlawfully confined when he was chased and shot, says Jamal.
“The unlawful confinement and the murder were close in time, and involved an ongoing course of domination. As a result, the accused’s first-degree murder conviction is justified,” he says.
Two other men convicted in the homicide were not involved in the high court appeal.
Sebastian Martin, who turned 40 this year, fired the shot that killed McLeod but the court ruled he was not involved in the victim’s unlawful confinement.
Sundman’s younger brother, Kurtis, was also sentenced in July 2018 to a prison term of just under eight years for manslaughter.
—The Canadian Press