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Aquittal upheld in fatal 2011 Surrey road-rage shooting

Trial judge’s exclusion of evidence was ‘within his discretion’: appeal court
BC Court of Appeal justices have upheld the 2021 acquittal of a man tried for second-degree murder in connection with the 2011 shooting death of Surrey’s Manbir Singh Kajla. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck photo)

The 2021 acquittal of a man charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder in connection with a 2011 road-rage incident that killed a Surrey man just hours after his wedding has been upheld by the BC Court of Appeal.

In a decision posted Monday (Feb. 26), Justices Harvey M. Groberman, Susan Griffin and Joyce DeWitt-Van Oosten agreed the trial judge “made no reversible error” in excluding evidence in the case against Samandeep Singh Gill, based on the fact police deliberately held onto the evidence – seized from the accused’s home during execution of a search warrant – for more than six years without proper authority.

Gill was charged in May 2018, in connection with the shooting death of Manbir Singh Kajla, 30, who was gunned down in front of his new wife (whose identity is protected by a publication ban) after confronting the driver of a white SUV that had clipped his Lexus on 128 Street near 68 Avenue.

Police searched Gill’s home on May 14 and 15, 2011.

While they later obtained authority to search one of several cellphones taken from the home – and discovered an audio recording of the killing, described as “crucial to the case” – the trial judge found both the seizure and detention of the cellphones, as well as that of a video surveillance system, unlawful.

READ MORE: B.C. murder cases in jeopardy as accused killer walks free, police slammed for ignoring law

Under the Criminal Code, items cannot be detained for more than three months unless an application is made for continued detention, or criminal proceedings commence, Groberman notes. IHIT did not apply for such an extension until 2018.

“The evidence indicates that the failure was deliberate, and that it was IHIT policy at the time not to apply for extensions, so as to avoid tipping off suspects as to the state of investigations,” Groberman writes.

In rendering the 2021 acquittal decision, BC Supreme Court Justice David Masuhara said the province’s homicide investigation team’s “systemic, flagrant disregard” for the charter rights of the accused could impact hundreds of murder cases.

Groberman said the court “must not” interfere with Masuhara’s decision, “even in the face of extremely serious offences that had tragic human consequences.”

In a response emailed to Peace Arch News Thursday night (Feb. 29), an IHIT spokesperson said the organization could not comment on decisions made previously by investigators, but “recognizes the impact of the ruling and respectfully accepts the Court’s decisions.”

A dedicated team has been established to monitor the handling and remediating of seized evidence, the spokesperson continued.

“What we can speak to is our current process of tracking and oversight for managing exhibits. Assessments are made on what needs to be retained, what can be returned, and importantly what technological and forensic tools are available to investigators. A methodical procedure is used and each case is assessed on its own merits and seizure circumstances (how it was seized).”

Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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